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Schools asked if they want surveillance cameras

Globe And Mail | May 30, 2007 
CAROLINE ALPHONSO

Toronto's public schools are being asked if they want surveillance cameras in their buildings after concerns were raised about security measures in the wake of last week's shooting death of a teenage student at C. W. Jeffreys Collegiate Institute.

Donna Quan, central superintendent of safe schools at the Toronto District School Board, sent an e-mail to principals this week, asking them to respond by today. Usually schools come to the board requesting cameras, not the other way around.

"I have ... a responsibility in my leadership role to seek the input and this time be proactive. Instead of the principals coming to me, I'm going to them," Ms. Quan said in an interview yesterday.

"In general, we do have a sense that people feel that there is a need for some sort of surveillance in the schools."

The call for increased school security measures comes after Jordan Manners, 15, was shot and killed at C. W. Jefferys during school hours last Wednesday. Jordan's funeral will be held tomorrow.

Two young men have been charged with first-degree murder. Both 17, their identities are protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. One of them is a student at the school; the other is a former student.

After Jordan's death, it came to light that C. W. Jefferys was on a list of schools to receive as many as 16 security cameras this summer.

Now the board is fast-tracking the school's request and plans to install cameras within the next few weeks. But not all schools that want surveillance cameras will get them right away, Ms. Quan said.

Of the 109 secondary and adult schools in the country's largest school board, 66 have surveillance cameras. About 180 of the 451 elementary schools have either video cameras or buzzer systems at the front door.

"I think that after any incident ... there's a comfort that some have with monitoring [systems]. But I need to emphasize cameras are not the solution," she added, noting the board also has summer and after-school programs.

Karl Sprogis, chair of the Toronto School Administrators' Association, which represents principals and vice-principals, said cameras are valuable tools. While principal at North Albion Collegiate Institute a few years back, he doubled the number of cameras.

"It helps [principals] do their jobs. If I was in the school system at this point, I would say 'yes, put me on the list,' " he said.

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