High school sophomore Justine Betti videotaped an unexpected culprit on her cell phone while hiding in a locker at Linden High School in California. Fed up after money had repeatedly been stolen from students’ backpacks while they were at gym class, Betti hid inside a locker in early February. To her shock, she saw one of her teachers was the thief.
Betti told others but no one believed her. So on February 13, she again hid in a locker with her cell phone video camera ready. She also set another camera in a second locker. Both cameras caught the teacher rifling through backpacks and, in one instance, appearing to take money from a pink backpack.
As Betti herself said to ABC News 10 in Sacramento, “I didn’t want to believe that she would do something like that because she was so nice, but then she did it.”
When Betti took the video to the principal, she was told there would be an investigation; the teacher has been placed on administrative leave. But the principal also told Betti to delete the video, though she had already sent it to her father.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the case, along with the Linden School District, and no criminal charges have yet been filed.
Betti told ABC News 10 that the teacher was one of the most popular at the school and that she had felt hesitant to report what she had seen. “We feel like we did the right thing, but it’s still kinda hard,” she says. Another student, Kellie Martinez, noted that the discovery of who was stealing from students’ backpacks “makes you feel like your privacy was invaded, but you know, you can’t help but feel bad for her, either…she was a great teacher.”
Schools Increasing Use of Computer Chips To Track Students
CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk points out an additional irony: “Some… might find a certain inadvertent poignancy in a story in which technology allegedly catches a teacher out, when schools seems increasingly keen on using technology to keep tabs on kids.”
Back in October, schools in San Antonio, Texas announced a plan to put radio-frequency identification into students’ identification cards, as Care2 blogger Kevin Matthews has written. Students and their parents protested in defense of their privacy (those chips reveal everywhere a student is), but the plan is for the chips to be used at more than 100 schools with more than 100,000 students. The district invoked the language of “it’s all for the students’ safety” to justify infringing on students’ liberties. As it is, students without their IDs cannot participate in afterschool activities, or enter the cafeteria or library.
School districts in Baltimore, Dallas, Anaheim and Illinois also have similar programs. U.S. universities such as Northern Arizona University have also started to implant computer chips, the better to keep tabs on their undergraduates and yet another case of in loco parentis carried out in extremis (and of some surveillance technology company feeling very pleased at winning new clients).
Without Betti’s catching a Linden High School teacher in the act, it seems, of stealing from students, it’s less likely that anyone would have believed her discovery. It’s notable that the high school principal requested that Betti delete the video. Schools seem to want to know everything about students, but they may not always be the culprits.
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