Many Portland Schools Lack Security Cameras, Report Reveals

Only one high school in Portland Public Schools is equipped with video surveillance cameras.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Following a deadly school shooting last year at Reynolds High School, located here, local television station KATU conducted an investigation “to uncover the truth about the safety of local schools,” reports.

The station began checking into inspection and maintenance records on security cameras at Portland schools and found there’s not much to review in terms of documentation because there are no regular inspection and maintenance schedules. The district only addresses problems with security cameras when it discovers one is malfunctioning, reports. In fact, only one high school in the Portland Public Schools district that does.

“If money were not an issue, there’d be lots of things I’d want to take care of,” Tony Magliano, COO for Portland Public Schools, told KATU.

Magliano said in a perfect world every school would have security cameras. In fact, he said the system was designed for a perfect world scenario. But this is no perfect world.

“In terms of security, our current system could hold up to 32 cameras (per school). We could go back and add cameras to our system,” he said.

Right now, there are no schools in the district maximizing their camera capacity.
Ideally, Magliano would have a security system that’s integrated with the key card entries used at schools; cameras would automatically focus on an image of the person swiping a card to enter a building, reports.

The elementary and middle schools that do have cameras are monitored from a room at district headquarters. The security team can call up individual angles, zoom in, pan and tilt. Often, the video catches kids in the act.

In one case, the surveillance video recording helped Boise-Eliot school figure out why one of its windows was damaged. A boy was captured on video kicking it several times.  In another case, the recording helped police identify kids throwing snowballs through the windows to break into another school.

Former Portland Police Detective George Weatheroy is the director of security for the school district.

“Just because we don’t have all the money to put cameras everywhere doesn’t mean we can’t still do something to reduce our vulnerability,” Weatheroy told KATU.

Weatheroy said the district was able to avoid a potential school shooting in 2013 when a student came forward saying his friend wanted his help committing one. A visit by authorities to the friend’s home revealed his capacity to carry it out.

“They had shotguns, rifles, pistols, machetes and about a thousand rounds of ammunition,” said Weatheroy.

“Cameras wouldn’t have done anything but record that massacre. It was that student, saw something, heard something suspicious, reported it, which allowed the training and everything to take place.”

John Michael Keyes founded the “I love u guys” foundation after his daughter was killed in a Colorado school shooting in 2006. “I love u guys” is what she texted to her parents before the gunman murdered her right there in her classroom.

He now consults with schools across the country about campus security. Oregon administrators recently paid for him to speak to superintendents here about revising security procedures.

“How do we find some of these kids, if it’s kids, insiders, and intervene before action is taken?” asks Keyes.

He tells KATU the real challenge in preventing school violence is changing the climate of secrecy in our schools and giving kids a safe way to speak up.

“Can we talk to kids and break the code of silence? Is there a tip line that can support that if you see it, say it, but more so I don’t want my friend getting in trouble,” poses Keyes.

A code of silence that’s resulted in troubles with deadly consequences.

Portland Public Schools doesn’t have a tip line that students can use to report security concerns anonymously, but district spokeswoman Christine Miles told KATU that’s what school resource officers and campus monitors are for.

Right now, all elementary and middle schools in the district have access control and at least one security camera. Grant and Roosevelt are the only additional high schools currently slated to receive security cameras. District officials say new buildings will all have them but with huge old structures with multiple entrances like the current high schools, it’s simply not cost efficient to install security cameras.

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