Central Otago school to install cameras in toilets in vaping crackdown

by Kim Bowden - Jun 25, 2024

Cameras are being installed in toilets at Cromwell College in a bid to crack down on vaping and vandalism.

The school has reported pupils feeling unsafe entering bathrooms at the school, which have become a gathering place for other pupils who are vaping.

The school is also facing "continued and costly vandalism", with soap dispensers, toilet doors and hand dryers all targets of antisocial behaviour over several years.

In a notice to families, school board presiding member Terry Davis says security cameras are being used in other schools around the country to address these sorts of problems - and now the college will follow suit.

He reassures pupils and their parents no cameras will have a view inside any toilet cubicle.

"Cameras will only record the common corridor area of the bathroom including basins, dryers, soap dispensers."

The board is aiming to have the cameras in place by the beginning of term three, which is less than four weeks away.

It is not the only local school grappling with a growing vaping problem - at Mount Aspiring College in Wānaka the school board has this week sought to reassure its community attempts are being made to stamp out vape use on school grounds.

School board presiding member Niamh Shaw has told parents in a newsletter teachers are patrolling toilets in an attempt at ensure "free access" to them throughout the day, particularly for younger pupils.

On Friday, in his fortnightly Kōrero newsletter, Cromwell College principal Mason Stretch said he also has staff on duty at break times monitoring toilet areas.

But vaping remains a problem.

"Vaping is a major challenge in kura throughout Aotearoa and it is now the number one reason for stand downs in schools," Mr Mason says.

"Vaping rates across New Zealand are the highest in the world."

He says he spoke last week to pupils at a school assembly about the harm vaping causes in schools.

At Mount Aspiring College, research shows more than half of year ten pupils in 2022 had tried vaping and half of those reported vaping regularly.

Late last year, Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster issued advice for schools considering installing security cameras in toilets after receiving an increasing number of enquiries on the topic.

He said "bathrooms are highly sensitive zones for privacy" and schools need to be open with their communities about camera use in them, including having clear signage.

He also advised cameras should steer clear of "intimate activity" and cautioned the recording of any audio that could pick up private conversations.

Main image (Unsplash)


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