School security cameras zero in on bullies
ACROSS NSW, public schools are bringing in big brother to curb bad behaviour - a move welcomed by parents and anti-bullying experts.
A Saturday Telegraph investigation can reveal multiple public schools statewide have installed surveillance cameras with the assistance of the Department of Education's Safety and Security Unit.
The department won't reveal exact numbers but says the cameras are allocated according to "a security risk assessment".
A Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of NSW spokesman said parents supported the push.
"Schools have a duty to ensure the safety of their students, and using CCTV is one way of doing this," he said.
A ReachOut Australia study showed 23 per cent of young people had experienced bullying in the 12 months prior, half of it at school.
Louise Hedges' 16-year-old Castle Hill High School student daughter Georgina was among them.
Jealous of her large Instagram following, students harassed and threw food at Georgina, who could not get help from teachers.
"I think it is easy for teachers to turn a blind eye," Ms Hedges said.
"She went to one of the deputies at the time, and he said it was her problem and didn't do anything."
The school now has CCTV and Ms Hedges believes it would have helped. Manager of National Centre Against Bullying Sandra Craig agreed.
"If the camera is there outside and the kids know it is, it might be exercising some deterring effect," she said.
School security expert Leon Harris, who installs cameras for schools, said parents were driving it.
"A lot of schools have them covering playgrounds … if there is a fight, they can identify someone."
At Lake Heights Public School near Wollongong, principal Peter Heddles told parents the cameras had worked.
"The monitoring of previous high-risk areas has reduced the incidence of bully behaviour dramatically," he said.
Sylvania High School told parents its cameras will be used to investigate incidents in the playground while at Carlingford Primary School the cameras are also used to monitor parents at the school gate.
But University of Canberra Law Professor Bruce Baer Arnold warned that footage could also be used to sue schools.
"NSW is the leading state for students taking action over bullying and … getting substantial compensation," he said.