Schools Under Surveillance: Cultures of Control in Public Education
School safety has become a particularly compelling issue in this country over the past decade or so. Many schools—urban and suburban—have installed surveillance equipment to monitor student behavior. These installations inevitably create ethical dilemmas. Everyone wants schools to be safe, but how much surveillance should be permissible in a democratic society? At what point do security systems infringe on students’ constitutionally protected privacy?
This issue made the national news in February of this year when it was reported that a school in Pennsylvania issued laptop computers with built in webcams (that could be switched on by the school) to students. This technology enabled school officials to conduct secret observations of students’ households.
Schools under Surveillance gathers together 14 researchers studying surveillance and discipline in contemporary public schools. Surveillance is not simply about monitoring or tracking individuals and their data—it is about the structuring of power relations through human, technical, or hybrid control mechanisms. Essays cover a broad range of topics including police and military recruiters on campus, testing and accountability regimes such as No Child Left Behind, and efforts by students and teachers to circumvent the most egregious forms of surveillance in public education.