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When can parents view school surveillance photos and videos?

Rick Wagner • Sep 2, 2019 at 9:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Should a parent have the right to view a public school surveillance photo or video of their child taken on a school bus or school property?

According to a new state law, the answer if yes if the photo or video is on a bus, but only if viewing it doesn’t violate other students’ federal privacy rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Kingsport City Schools is amending a policy to reflect the new law but doesn’t have a policy addressing other images or videos made by the school system.

During recent discussion of proposed policy changes to meet state law changes, Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True summarized a pending new policy about school bus videos and photographs being viewable by parents on demand.

Board member Todd Golden wanted to know the policy on KCS video and photos taken inside schools, and Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said there was a procedure or practice of granting parents access unless it violated privacy rights of other students.

However, Golden said he had a different experience a couple of years ago when he was not allowed to view a video involving one of his children at a city school by simply being told that would violate federal law. He requested that KCS amend the new policy on images or videos from buses to all school property or make a new policy mirroring the bus policy, and True said he would check with the Tennessee School Boards Association to see if such a model policy existed.

That way, Golden said, parents would have a specific policy to review.

“If we have a policy over the bus, why don’t we have a policy for our schools?” Golden said.

However, even the state’s new bus video and photo viewing policy can be blocked if it violates student privacy under federal law, which Moorhouse said could include anything that happened on a special education bus, since other students might be identifiable. In these cases, Moorhouse said, the images or video are considered part of a student record protected by federal law.

Other policies to be updated in coming months include putting automatic defibrillators in all schools, not just high schools; requiring students to take and pass a civics exam to graduate high school, not just take one, as in the past; give career assessments in seventh and eighth grades rather than middle school or high school, although True said the system makes those available in grades 6-12; and making teacher separation notices and family and medical leave notices go to the state school board instead of the commissioner of education.

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