Public school students in the city of Boston return to class today.  If they’re taking the school bus, they’ll be seen on more than 650 newly-installed surveillance cameras.

But they won’t be heard.

The School Department has decided not to activate the microphones on the cameras, after complaints from some parents and civil liberties groups who claim audio recordings are a violation of privacy.  School officials say the video-only recordings will be used to investigate accidents or safety allegations, but will only be stored for a short time.  Notices will be placed on all buses to remind students they are being recorded.

Audio recordings can draw attention to incidents that might otherwise go unreported, as in the case of an upstate New York bus monitor bullied to tears by four middle school students.  The video went viral, the students were forced to apologize, and donations poured in to send the now-retired monitor on a vacation.

What do you think? Does recording audio cross the line? Or is it a useful tool in preventing bullying and other safety issues? Should the cameras be there at all?


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