Students discovering a hidden camera in mid-March at Saul Martinez Elementary School could soon turn into a legal battle. The Coachella Valley Unified School District said the camera was “mistakenly” placed in that classroom and were intended to be at another school. Now, the Coachella Valley Teacher’s Association claims it will sue if the district doesn’t turn over a full report on its internal investigation.
“It doesn’t matter why it was there, the teacher was not aware of the placement of the camera and that is a misdemeanor according to Ed Code,” Carissa Carrera, CVTA President, said.
According to Education Code 51512, schools are allowed to have hidden cameras in classrooms only with consent of the teacher and the principal of the school. In Saul Martinez Elementary’s hidden camera case, it did, but allegedly with a “different school”.
Carrera said the topic of hidden cameras in classrooms is troublesome on its own.
“The parents in that classroom did not know that there was a camera supposed to have been put in that classroom,” she said. “The teacher’s association did not know that there was a camera that was going to be put into one of our member’s classrooms.”
There are specific privacy laid out for certain settings, according to Robert Gilliland, an attorney at Guralnick and Gilliland.
“When you’re talking about cameras in classrooms, the first analysis: is there a reasonable expectation of privacy? The answer is generally, no,” he said. “There is not a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public schoolroom setting.”
Gilliland said in the state of California you cannot record a confidential conversation without consent but that conversations in a busy classroom generally are not confidential. However, he said school districts typically have their own rules on what’s allowed and what isn’t allowed when it comes to cameras and privacy.
“The question is, is there a compelling reason to put the cameras in place?” he said. “The other analysis, is there a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
“This has made everyone in our district very uneasy, all employees, not just the teacher’s union members,” Carrea said. “We want to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”.
When NBC Palm Springs reached out to CVUSD about the potential lawsuit and its investigation, the district declined to comment. Carerra said the district’s “lack of transparency” is what will continue to push the teacher’s association forward in its search for answers.