HONOLULU (KHON2) — KHON first told you about surveillance cameras outside of bathroom stalls at Kea’au High School Monday, Sept. 18, after receiving a Report-It from a frustrated parent. The story shined a light on privacy and safety concerns of students using the restroom, forcing the Department of Education (DOE) to take a second look at the issue.
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Monday the DOE confirmed the cameras were moved away from the bathroom stalls.
A video taken by a student showed one of the surveillance cameras at Kea’au High School just outside of bathroom stalls. In the video, you can see the footage is taken from, inside the stall itself, with the camera clearly visible.
Concerned and upset parents said their children felt unsafe using the restroom.
Chantel Perrin’s child is a student at Kea’au High School.
“When my daughter told me there were cameras in the girls restrooms I was furious,” Perrin said. “Who’d want to invade the privacy of our young children?”
When KHON questioned the DOE last week about the camera placement, in a statement they explained the cameras were in a “breezeway” thus considered a “public area where users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
The Kea’au High School Principal had even sent out a letter to parents on Sept. 12, telling them cameras were installed but none were put inside “restrooms, classrooms, offices and locker rooms” and that the surveillance system was being put in to “enhance the safety and security of our campus.”
After seeing the story on KHON, Representative Jeanne Kapela said she was outraged.
“There’s no reason ever that would would rise the level of taking away someone’s safety, someone’s privacy and someone’s security in a restroom setting,” Kapela said. “You can very clearly, from the video that the students sent, although they’re in place in a breezeway, they are still within the scope of a bathroom. So however you put it, it was wrong. And the reality is that it needed to be rectified.”
Kapela said parents were considering filing lawsuits and she too was looking into legal action.
“We’ve had actually a number of conversations with the ACLU, this was something that they had even said, might rise to the level of where they would need to get involved,” Kapela explained. “But thankfully, I think the DOE recognizes the mistake that they made.”
A spokesperson for the DOE confirmed: “the cameras you are referring to were removed.”
Kapela said she spoke to the DOE assistant Superintendent who assured her the cameras were moved out of view of the bathroom stalls to lessen the anxiety of the students.
“I think this is something that we can all learn from. And the most important thing is that we know that this is a major mistake that will never be made again,” Kapela said. “It’s important that when community members speak, and specifically when students speak, we listen.”
“I’m hoping that this is a step in the right direction,” Perrin said. “I understand they want to monitor, I understand they want to keep our children safe, but there’s got to be a better solution than invading their privacy.”
Since the DOE said the surveillance system was installed for security and safety reasons, KHON asked specifically what kind of security and safety issues were occurring in the bathrooms, how often these types of incidents were happening, and what alternative methods the DOE planned to use to protect the students. KHON is still waiting for the DOE to answer those questions.