Locker Room Cameras Expose School to Suit

"It's devastating," Meadows said. "You worry about who has seen this, where the images have gotten and what someone was able to do with them. My whole world revolves around my kids and you do everything you can to protect them, and then something like this happens."

No Criminal Intent Alleged

One school board member allegedly told parents and children that the camera was either a "dummy" camera, or was pointed in such a direction that it would not actually film children undressing, according to the complaint.

A former student at the school told ABC affiliate WKRN in Nashville that despite what officials said, he and other students who were aware of the cameras took precautions.

"I don't know if they were turned on or turned off or what," John Michael Stephens said. "We'd hang a piece of clothing over it so they couldn't see us."

Jack Lowery Jr., one of the lawyers handling the suit for the plaintiffs, said that there is no allegation that the school board or any other school administrators did anything with criminal intent.

"What we are stating is that this was grossly negligent," he said. "There is no conceivable reason for placing a camera in a locker room where children were undressing. Why would anybody allow anything like this to be done?"

Lowery said the discovery process of the suit was not complete, and it was not clear whether there was ever any kind of public announcement that cameras would be installed in the school.

"What is certain is that there were no signs indicating that the locker room was under surveillance," he said.

The camera in the locker room looked more like a motion detector than a typical video surveillance camera, Lowery said.

Protection or Invasion?

The case recalls a suit filed in 1993 against the Sheraton Boston Hotel by two workers who accused the hotel of illegally videotaping them in a men's changing room. The hotel eventually acknowledged installing the camera, claiming it was seeking evidence against a busboy who was suspected of dealing cocaine.

Security at schools has been a growing concern, and the advances in surveillance technology have provided some answers for administrators worried about violence in the wake of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 and other high-profile school shooting incidents.

Schools have turned to technology such as surveillance cameras and metal detectors to keep weapons out of schools and to deal with problems such as drug dealing, graffiti and smoking.

"People who use this technology have a responsibility to use it in a way where it can't be accessed over the Internet and where children's privacy will not be violated," Lowery said.

The question of how far schools can go in trying to rid campuses of crime or other problems has been raised repeatedly, not only with regard to technology, but also over locker searches, testing students for drugs and even pregnancy and infection with sexually transmitted diseases.

A Total Approach

Professionals in the security industry said school administrators are right to explore every option to increase security, but just installing new technology is not the answer.

"I think too often we say putting a camera somewhere will solve the problem," said Dave Saddler, the director of the Security Industry Association, a trade group of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of security technology. "What's really needed is a total policy approach."

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