Monday, August 15, 2005

Security scam

This is a letter that was never published in the Daily Tribune, but one that I believe Lincoln High School Principal Gus Mancuso was allowed to screen. I still can't imagine what Editor Mark Treinen's reasoning for allowing Mancuso to read this letter prior to publication would be, but you can see for yourself what I mean:

In April of 2001, on the second anniversary of the Columbine shootings, an incident happened here, in our school district. While the incident did not end in tragedy, it very well could have. The greatest tragedy is that violence in our schools could be prevented if only school administrators took the time to assess what the real cause of such violence is. But instead, we see stop-gap, PR solutions.
When a school shooting happens, and I can tell you that the environment at LHS is rife for this, the geeks or the outsiders are always the ones who get blamed. But have you ever lived life as a geek? Even if you have, you would be out of touch because the situation has only worsened over the years. Not only are you an outcast among your peers, being constantly harassed, taunted and beaten, but you are shunned by most of the teachers and administrators as well. In a middle class community where sports are so prized, because let’s face it, they earn money for the financially strapped schools in a district such as Rapids, you have two school systems: one for the jocks and one for everyone else. To make matters worse, when it comes time to cut co-curriculars, while sports are seldom cut, programs that offered refuge to geeks, such as debate, are.
Instead of punishing bullies who are often popular jocks, school administrators crack down on the geeks, the outsiders, who are the subject of torment. This is often the tipping point that leads to a bloody massacre such as what happened in Littleton, CO.
When I was a student a Lincoln, I was told that I just didn’t have school spirit even though I was an active volunteer in my community, a member of art honor society, debate and forensics. I have written this letter because I have school spirit, and more than that, I happen to love this community… too much to stand by and let it be forever stained with the blood of school children.
I realize that LHS is looking at having security cameras installed. I agree that something needs to be done to heighten security, but installing cameras with visible shields and no one watching the footage during the day will not heighten security but rather only alienate teachers and service workers. When there is a school shooting, and I say when not if because if this administration keeps on this same road that they have been on for the past 17 years this will indeed happen, all of these cameras will prove no use in saving lives and will only provide footage for the nightly news. What a sorry state.
Gus Mancuso used to tell us LHS students every morning over the intercom to make all the right choices. Wisconsin Rapids School Board and LHS administrators need to make the right choices for the district. The district demands a real solution for heightening security, one that is more complex than spending $25,000 of the budget to install cameras that look good on the surface but provide no real protection. Cameras themselves are not a bad idea, but with no one watching them, they are utterly useless. Perhaps the district could save a little money by hiring some of their technically inclined students to install the cameras in exchange for class credit. Perhaps they would save enough money to hire someone to monitor the cameras. But even with someone watching, school violence will not be prevented unless a major paradigm shift occurs.

Since the letter was never published and I was not allowed to speak at a meeting last month, I brought the following questions to the school board on August 8th. I only asked the first six questions aloud and instructed school board members to get back to me on the seventh. The only question that I received an answer to that night was #7, as school board members, Superintendent Dean Ryerson and Gus Mancuso dodged my questions and replied with a familiar line about seven weeks of research. No one backed up any claim with evidence and Jim Geise committed numerous logical fallacies, most troubling of which was his slippery slope that $25,000 is peanuts if lives can be saved (remember, no one answered whether research shows that security cameras save lives or make schools safer, rather emphasis was placed on preventing theft and vandalism). Here are the questions:

To WR School Board and School Administrators

1) Mr. Ryerson mentioned at the last meeting that seven weeks of research was conducted regarding installation of security cameras at LHS, but was any research conducted to see whether or not security cameras actually make schools safer?
2) Has the School Board and LHS School Administration considered saving money by hiring some of your more technically inclined students to install cameras and/or software? If you are concerned with students using the system, you could hire only second semester seniors to work on this project in exchange for class credit.
3) If the camera footage is on a Web site or an FTP (file transfer protocol) site, couldn’t it be easily hacked into?
4) If the cameras have visible shields, wouldn’t that make them easy targets for destruction, particularly if there was a school shooting?
5) Have other means of making the school a more secure environment been explored by the district? If so, what are they?
6) How will a swipe card system enhance the security of LHS? Aside from the cost of the (I’m assuming Kronos) system, what will the cost of installation and upkeep be? What will be the cost for the replacement of lost or stolen swipe cards?
7) If debate was cut from the co-curricular budget because it was “basically the same” as forensics, why hasn’t cross country been cut when it is basically the same as track?

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