Spaces of surveillance: a study of newspaper articles on school surveillance cameras from 2002-2012

Year: 2013

Author: Grannäs, Jan, Frelin, Anneli

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In several European countries, the number of surveillance cameras in schools has risen dramatically during the last decade. For example, in Sweden, the development has gone from only one school with surveillance cameras in 1997 to 20% of all schools in 2008. In 2012 a survey showed that more than half of these schools had a higher number of cameras than permitted by the National Data Inspection Board, and/or used them longer hours than permitted. In the UK, the instalment of CCTV  cameras have spread, from placements outdoors aimed at protection against intruders to corridors and other indoor spaces aimed at monitoring bad behaviour (Hope, 2009). According to Monahan (2009) one profound effect of surveillance in schools is the integration of law enforcement that may displace other social and educational missions of the everyday school activities. There is interplay between how media describes adolescents and increased camera surveillance in schools. Media contributes to a culture of fear in which schools produce so-called "victims" and "criminals" (Giroux, 2004; Monahan, 2009).
This paper uses newspaper coverage to map 1) the occurrence of articles regarding surveillance cameras in schools over time, and 2) the stated arguments for using them.
The articles forming the basis for the analysis were selected using a national data base (Retriever)[1] covering the absolute majority of Swedish newspaper press, including trade press. The selected articles were published spanning the years 2002­­‑2012 and contained the key words "surveillance" and "school". The search yielded a total amount of 1600 articles. This paper is based on an analysis of the 120 most relevant articles. Data has been analysed using thematic analysis (Boyatzis, 1998).
The number of articles on camera surveillance in schools rose from 22 in 2002 to 323 in 2010, after which there is a decline. The larger part of the newspapers was located in areas marked by marginalization and segregation.
The arguments given for placing camera surveillance in schools are (in order from the most common to the least): to 1) reduce vandalism, 2) reduce costs, 3) prevent criminal acts, and 4) improve the work environment for the students and the staff.
Discussions of underlying causes of problems are rare, and the developments seem to be part of the risk discourse where a wider range of behaviours are criminalized. An overall result of the article analysis is a trend that is in line with the development of surveillance in schools that already have taken place in United States and Great Britain.