Security And Privacy In Schools

In the aftermath of incident whereby a young child lost his precious life in the school, emotions have run high. Kids are the future of any family. Ask any parent who has lost a child – it is the worst nightmare come true. So, it is not surprising to see emotions running high.

The need of the hour is definitely to review the entire subject of Security and Privacy as it relates to students in a school to identify the areas of improvements and the roadmap for execution on the same. In that context, the focus of this article is to bring certain aspects relating to Security and Privacy that can assist school management in this exercise as they charter the changed territory.

Let me start by saying that while this is about the Security of children, as the staff and the management of the impacted school found to their horror, it is equally about the Security of the staff and management. And in that context, the stakes have changed considerably and the cost being a Principal or CEO or the Board Member of a School or a School-chain is now much higher as compared to what it was in the past.

In the context of the impacted school, do we think it would have still gotten the staff and management of the school in the trouble had the incident still happened despite having all the security arrangements in place? In the scenario of school being able to demonstrate the adequacy of arrangements made by it, it is highly envisaged that the school staff and school management would have ensured its own security in the aftermath of the incident.

But to what an extent can you go to in order to ensure the security of a child? What is adequate enough?

Most of it is common sense but one can easily miss the aspects related to Privacy of all the stakeholders and go overboard with the security aspects and create a different set of problems related to security.

Complete segregation of Primary, Middle and Higher classes is one aspect of common sense that is being seen getting violated with such brazen commonality that it is no longer even considered a requirement. But come to think of it, as to why there needs to be total segregation of the staff and management and one shall find ample reasons around the likelihood of physical and psychological abuse that one shall wonder as to why there is no such enforcement and why the primary, middle, and higher education wings with shared facilities are being allowed.

Pick and drop for kids is another aspect that has several security consequences. And requisite parking arrangements for the buses is the least of it. Shall the buses be allowed to drop the kids on the roads outside the school and run the risk of being run over by the flowing traffic on the road?

While all of those aspects are around the security of the children, how about their privacy? What is Privacy and why shall one be concerned about paying due consideration to it while planning for the security measures?

In simple terms, privacy is all about keeping the specific details about a child restricted. Every individual is unique and hence has a set of strengths and weaknesses which can possibly be exploited to the detrimental of the individual concerned.

For example, a child while being exceptional academically may not be socially active and hence may be open to a vulnerable situation looking for social acceptance even to her own detrimental outcome. Now if this happens in the normal course of her day to day engagement then it is unlikely that anyone will get blamed for it. However, if this information about her seeking the social acceptance is identifiable through the security measures (say, CCTV feed) then the very security measure put in place would be a tool to breach of her privacy and a tool to perpetrating a crime against her.

That being said, it is important for the school management to carefully consider answers to following questions –

  • Should the CCTV feed itself be secured against unrestricted access?
  • Should the CCTV feed access be logged?
  • Can the CCTV feed identify the individuals?
  • Should the CCTV cameras be restricted to shared spaces only or should those be installed in class-rooms as well?
  • Is there a way of keeping the feed low quality for live tracking by the persons watching over the feed but the same feed going high-quality if it is to be retrieved at a later stage in case of an incident?
  • Shall the storage of feed be encrypted to avoid any leakage of any kind of video that may show any of the students in their vulnerable moments?

In conclusion, as unfortunate as the incident itself has been, it will be a lost opportunity if entire education ecosystem doesn’t come out of it as being stronger in terms of security as well as privacy. As is the case with everything else it is not a one-time exercise and has to be tackled on ongoing basis and also has to be considered and reviewed from the perspective of people, processes, and technology.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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