Outrage as secret cameras found in kindergarten classroom

Ashtonfield public school exterior.
Ashtonfield public school exterior.

A FURORE has erupted over the discovery of secret surveillance cameras in a kindergarten classroom that parents fear were used to spy on their children while doing lessons.

One mum has claimed cameras were found "hidden in a clock and game console" as outraged parents took to social media to complain.

Another furious parent posted to a community page: "There's no excuse for this crap."

The government primary school has confirmed cameras were placed in the classroom "to assist with identifying a perpetrator of repeated acts of vandalism and victimisation at the school".

Police said last night they had been investigating a "series of incidents relating to the harassment and intimidation of a staff member" since November last year at Ashtonfield Public School at Maitland in the Hunter Valley.

"Police are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry in relation to the matter but police have not placed a camera in a classroom as part of the investigation.

"Police were informed of this matter after the camera was located and none of the reported incidents indicate there has been any risk to any children attending the school."

A NSW Department of Education spokesperson said the school had put "a camera in plain sight in a classroom as part of a response to a police matter".

Principal Deb Healey has written to parents telling them acts of vandalism and victimisation were occurring when children and the class teacher were not in the classroom.

"The classroom concerned was KS (kindergarten). Mrs Shaunessy (the class teacher) was aware of the presence of the camera," she said.

"On a day that Mrs Shaunessy was absent a casual teacher noticed the camera which was on the teacher's desk and made comment of its presence in the staffroom. The camera was removed.

"There is no danger to any students or teachers at the school. I am unable to comment any further due to ongoing investigations."

It is understood that Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison (Lib) has received a number of calls from parents around concerns that children were being "monitored in their classrooms by secret cameras".

Some concerns centred on fears for children who may be "under Family Court or other orders not to be photographed or filmed".

Other parents were angry that different explanations had been given by the school and department about why cameras were in the classroom, confusion over whether there was more than one camera and whether they were hidden.

The department spokesman said no students were put at risk.

"CCTV cameras can support the school as a safe environment," he said.

"The school has signage throughout advising that CCTV can be used outdoors and indoors in general-use areas and classrooms."

CCTV could also be used to monitor "sick bays and student time-out rooms or other specific areas in schools".

"Student wellbeing is Ashtonfield Public School's highest priority," the spokesman said.

"The school has given parents as much advice as it can at the moment given the police investigation: it had no calls about the matter from parents today."

Maitland mayor Peter Blackmore said parents and the community had every right to be outraged and disgusted.

"I think it's absolutely disgusting that someone would be going to that extent to have cameras installed in the school," Mr Blackmore said.

"I imagine that all parents would be naturally concerned, but not satisfied with just a letter. I have every faith the police are investigating and the police will find who has been behind it.

"As a parent, I certainly would not be happy about that situation."

Topics:  cameras editors picks kindergarten police

News Corp Australia

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