There has been a push within the administration for the installation of security cameras in the building in order to increase school safety. The cameras would be a preventative measure to keep intruders from entering and endangering the welfare of students.
Principal Anthony Barbetta has been pushing to have cameras installed in the building since 2012, but the Department of Education has repeatedly rejected the idea.
“Townsend Harris has very little, if any, incidents in this school. So they don’t have a justification for why we need cameras,” commented Mr. Barbetta on these refusals.
Mr. Barbetta wants the security cameras installed as an extra line of defense in case of intruders. As of now, THHS has three exits and three school safety officers. If there was to be an intruder in the building, it would be difficult to track him or her when moving through the school.
Mr. Barbetta acknowledges that security cameras obviously cannot be placed inside areas such as locker rooms and bathrooms, but said, “If I had my wish list I would have cameras in stairways outside of locker rooms, at the exits and entries [of the] cafeteria… just in spots where things could happen.”
Although one might expect cameras and scanners to be located in schools with high incident rates, Mr. Barbetta noted that “great schools like Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science…all have cameras.” This argument does not concern the school’s ranking, but rather its safety.
The money for the cameras does not come out of the THHS budget, but rather from the DOE central budget. However, the DOE persists to push the idea aside.
“Our Parent Teacher Association at various times has volunteered to help pay for a few cameras that would not cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the DOE has also rejected that,” said Mr. Barbetta.
Mr. Barbetta added that a school he used to work at had access to fifty cameras, which he felt was beneficial.
“But thank goodness it was a good school,” he said. “There were some incidents where we saw things and find evidence which we wouldn’t have had without those cameras.”
The recent abundance of thefts in the locker rooms during physical education classes worry many students and incite a communal desire to acquire cameras.
“Honestly, I think we need cameras in the school,” stated junior Ashley Sealy. “I got forty dollars taken from me.”
DOE officials aren’t the only people who think security cameras at THHS are unnecessary, however.
“We don’t have enough security but I don’t like cameras,” stated Security Agent Paulette Ramsey. “Just to know that you are being watched all the time is not good.”
Senior Nicholas Cheng agrees, saying, “The money could go to better things.”
Junior Priya Phagoo, however, doesn’t believe the cameras would invade privacy, but believes they are unnecessary.
Physical Education and Health teacher Maria Assante agrees that THHS is a safe building and understands why students claim that cameras are unnecessary.
“…but on the other hand I think sometimes a camera can deter somebody who thinks they might want to do something,” she said. “It’s a deterrent. I think it’s just sad that we’ve gotten to the point where we have to think about cameras in school, but I don’t think it’s…because of the students behavior.”
She said the reason for these cameras, however, would be to catch people from outside the building who don’t belong at THHS.
“I think it’s to protect [students]” she said.
The DOE did not return requests for comment by press time. See the online edition for updates.