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Spy Games?

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Where's George Orwell when you need him? Teachers at Cascade High School in Everett, Wash., are raising suspicions that their district may have used a surveillance camera to spy on a colleague who was fired last year.

English and journalism teacher Kay Powers was terminated in June 2008 for allegedly helping students publish an underground newspaper using school equipment, in opposition to school orders, according to Everett's Daily Herald. Powers' attorneys believe that, in actuality, the district was retaliating against her for siding with students in a legal dispute concerning administrators’ oversight of the official student paper.

Around the time she was fired—and was under investigation by the district—several of Powers’ colleagues noticed a mechanical object with a glass rectangle at the bottom affixed between the light fixtures in her classroom, according to the Herald. The device then mysteriously disappeared.

Some teachers were reportedly planning to testify on the suspicious device at a public hearing on Powers’ case that was to be held earlier this month. However, the district rehired Powers under a settlement agreed to a few days before the scheduled hearing—a development her attorneys suggest was no coincidence.

The district’s attorney, however, has categorically denied that any surveillance equipment was placed in Powers’ classroom, and the investigator who was hired by the district in Powers’ case claimed in a deposition that she had no knowledge of any recording devices being used.

Even so, for teachers, a number of unanswered questions remain. “There are some puzzling pieces to this mystery,” said English teacher Steve Garmanian. “Why was this [object] installed? What was it? And why was it removed?”

And it gets even more disturbing: In a development that may or may not be related, the Everett district’s superintendent, Carole Whitehead, received what police called a credible death threat late last week.

4 Comments

There are two frightening things here: official spying, which is obvious, and speaking of the "thing" in the ceiling as though it were a recording device with no convincing evidence.

"Who controls the present controls the past; who controls the past controls the future." 1984

I'm pretty certain a school district or other public building may monitor public areas (excluding restrooms and locker rooms) without explicitly stating so. The question here is how may they use the information gathered.

Melody: I didn't have space to mention it above, but (for what it's worth) according to the original article in the Daily Herald, Powers' attorneys believe the district's use of a recording device in her classroom would be a violation of state and federal law.

As of May 26, the district has admitted to using video surveillance to watch the classroom over the weekend, with apparently no one else but superintendent officers in the know. Dr. Whitehead expressly allowed her deputy, Karst Brandsma, to install the device. The district will not release device vendor information. Audio surveillance is not allowed without permission, and video surveillance in the classroom is insofar NOT allowed.

As a former substitute teacher for the Everett School District, and a three-time guest teacher in Kay Powers's classroom, this coming-to-light of the district's intrusion into the privacy of not only Kay Powers, but her students (and potentially myself) is inconscionable. And that the district is now framing this argument under the rubric of the students' personal safety is reprehensible and legal posturing. How is spying on Ms. Powers and her students ensuring their safety? Ensure this tactic is met with the utmost in logical resistance. Thank you for your attention to this horrible act committed by Dr. Whitehead and her associates.

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Recent Comments

  • Jason: As of May 26, the district has admitted to using read more
  • Anthony Rebora, teachermagazine.org: Melody: I didn't have space to mention it above, but read more
  • Melody: I'm pretty certain a school district or other public building read more
  • tim: There are two frightening things here: official spying, which is read more

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