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School Security Cameras & Video Surveillance Systems: Pros and Cons

April 06, 2021

One of the biggest debates today is whether or not schools should be allowed to use security cameras on campus. Security cameras have been proven effective in enhancing campus safety, but improper use of video surveillance can lead to negative sentiments and concerns about privacy invasion.

This post will lay out the pros and cons to understand both sides of this hot button issue. Here are the topics that we'll cover:

  1. The benefits of using security cameras in schools
  2. The drawbacks of school security cameras
  3. A graphic of the pros and cons of school security cameras
  4. Recommendations for the best school security cameras for different campus locations

The Benefits of Using Security Cameras in Schools (Pros)

School administrators and staff have many responsibilities, and student safety is a top priority for most. Schools are expected to keep students safe and to have appropriate systems to protect them from everything from bullying, to vaping, to emergencies like natural disasters or active shooter situations. It's a tall order, and parental and societal concern and pressure have increased over the years.

This is where video security comes in. Video surveillance is a large part of many school districts' overall security plan, and most schools consider installing security cameras to help keep students and faculty safe. There are many benefits to this, which we'll discuss below.

Improve emergency preparedness and response

Video surveillance is on the front line of defense when protecting a school. With modern security cameras, a school can be more proactive with campus safety and know when suspicious activities are happening in real-time. Video surveillance improves emergency response for schools and provides a clear indication that the school values safety. For these reasons, most parents tend to support security cameras as long as they are installed responsibly.

It's crucial to have reliable, up-to-date information during an emergency, and video security helps provide this. Modern systems improve emergency preparedness by helping schools: 

  1. Respond to incidents more quickly with automatic real-time alerts
  2. Easily share live footage with emergency responders
  3. Proactively detect suspicious behavior with AI Analytics

Explore how to enhance campus safety with: 3 Ways Modern Video Surveillance Improves School Emergency Response

Decrease theft, mischief, vandalism, car theft, and potential threats

When security cameras are installed in plain sight, this can deter potential crimes from happening. More often than not, when a camera is visible, a person will think twice before committing a crime since the possibility of facing negative legal repercussions increases dramatically with security cameras.

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University Area CDC has Rhombus cameras deployed for real-time visibility across their 28-acre campus.

Create safer environments for teachers and students

In some instances, teachers can harass students and vice-versa. Harassment can be highly detrimental to a child’s well-being and academic development, while false accusations damage a teacher's career and reputation. Having security cameras installed in classrooms or public places provides some objective truth when allegations of harassment occur. If an incident happens, video footage can provide leadership with accurate information to act on. Birch Tree Academy has used its security cameras to successfully clear up incidents like this.

Monitor and control school building access

Surveillance cameras can keep track of who is coming in and out of the school and monitor student and teacher behavior. During normal school hours, knowing who is on-premises is crucial for campus safety. Security cameras make it easier for security staff to keep track of students and teachers and better understand who should or should not be on school property.

Learn how video surveillance can increase safety by integrating with your access control system or how to prevent student vaping with smart environmental sensors.

The Drawbacks of School Security Cameras (Cons)

While there are numerous benefits to installing security cameras, there are other reasons why some believe schools should not use them. Below are the main points on why some are against the use of video surveillance.

Legality and privacy

Those against video surveillance in schools consider the use of security cameras to be an invasion of privacy. Video surveillance in schools is legal and fairly common, but if security cameras are installed irresponsibly (i.e., hidden cameras or cameras that are not clearly visible), this can cause concern from students, staff, and parents.

Cameras should never be used in places where privacy is required, such as restrooms, locker rooms, and employee lounges in some states. Schools can still protect these areas with alternatives like motion sensors or vape sensors, which provide insight while also preserving privacy.

Cost of school security cameras and systems

Some commercial and enterprise security camera systems are cost-prohibitive for many schools. Enterprise video surveillance solutions tend to be incredibly expensive for schools that are conscious of budget, which puts them in a challenging position.

Schools shouldn’t have to compromise on safety and security—that’s why Rhombus provides a high-performance enterprise solution at a cost-effective price. Rhombus’ solution is consistently more advanced and affordable than traditional on-premise options and can help schools save an enormous amount of time and money with automatic firmware updates and fully transparent pricing with no surprise costs. Lastly, Rhombus offers generous EDU discounts so schools of any size can leverage a modern solution at a price that just makes sense. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.

Mistrust from teachers and students

When a school installs security cameras, teachers and students may feel like they are being spied on or like the school doesn't trust them. This can create feelings of apprehension and resentment.

When deploying security cameras, it is best to have clear policies and to educate teachers and students on why cameras are being used. Make it clear that the school’s priority is the protection and safety of all students, teachers, and staff.

With a modern tool like Rhombus, you can easily extend limited/permission-based access to individual teachers if needed. This can increase feelings of ownership and trust from faculty rather than resentment.  

Inability to prevent an active crime from happening

Traditional video security systems are not proactive and are used only after an incident has already occurred. Those against the use of security cameras in schools believe that even if you install cameras, it won’t stop a crime from happening.

It’s true that video security cannot physically prevent crime. However, with some AI-powered options, smart video security solutions can proactively scan its surroundings and notify the appropriate personnel for things like suspicious behavior, unidentified people, specific license plates, motion and more.

Graphic of the Pros & Cons of School Security Cameras

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The Best School Security Camera Recommendations

After weighing the pros and cons, if you believe that video security would benefit your school, we recommend starting a free trial with Rhombus.

The Rhombus platform is reliable and designed to be easy for anyone to use—no technical experience required. Unlike traditional on-premise systems, updates happen automatically, meaning your system is always up to date with no work on your part.

Additionally, Rhombus uses powerful AI analytics to help keep your campus safe. The system automatically recognizes different types of activity and sends real-time alerts with synchronized video so you can quickly respond to urgent security events.

Rhombus camera recommendations for different campus locations

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Most schools have a wide variety of environments, and different areas are best served by different types of cameras. Here are five real-world Rhombus camera recommendations for different campus locations:

  • General Coverage & Visibility: The R100 is the best all-purpose camera for schools. It's great for increasing visibility, camera density, and delivering top-tier performance while keeping costs low.
  • Classrooms & Entryways: Faster and more powerful than the R100, the R2 is great for covering high-traffic, frequently-used areas like classrooms and entryways.
  • Hallways & Corridors: The R2-180 uses a fisheye camera used to capture a panoramic 180° view of the environment. This lets you cover long, narrow spaces like hallways with just one camera.
  • Gyms, Cafeterias, & Auditoriums: The R360 is ideal for large, open spaces. It provides a complete 360° view of your environment with multiple viewing options so that you can cover a massive area with just one camera.
  • Parking Lots & Sports Fields: The R400 is a 4K camera with 3X manual zoom that’s built for performance and maximum video clarity. It provides the best performance for license plate recognition and facial recognition, making it perfect for outdoor areas and parking lot pickup zones.

For more detail on which cameras best serve different campus environments, check out Guide to the Best Security Cameras for Every School Campus Location.

If you’re interested in video security for your school, don’t hesitate to contact us at sales@rhombussystems.com or request a free trial to see just how easy and stress-free video security can be with Rhombus!


To learn about evaluating school video security solutions, read: How to Choose the Right Video Surveillance System for Education

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