A hidden camera secretly taped the classroom of a controversial Cascade High School teacher to find out if she was helping students work on an underground newspaper, Everett School District officials acknowledged Friday.
The video has since disappeared. And administrators have created rules for any future surveillance deemed necessary in the 18,000-student public school district.
The admission by Superintendent Carol Whitehead proves that the teachers union was right last month when it accused the district of spying on Kay Powers before she was fired. At the time, a lawyer for the school district denied the allegation.
On Friday, Whitehead told the district's 2,500 employees in a two-page letter that Deputy Superintendent Karst Brandsma authorized the taping.
"I was not aware that there was any video," she said in an interview. There was no audio taken by the camera, she added. To do so without prior consent from those being spied upon is illegal in Washington.
Whitehead did not say whether any taxpayer money went to pay for the surveillance company that set up and monitored the camera.
After the teachers union made its allegations public in April, Whitehead hired another lawyer to determine if her district did in fact spy on Powers.
Whitehead said she wanted an "independent investigator" who could question district leaders.
That report, by Seattle lawyer Mike Patterson, concluded that a video camera was installed in the classroom between May 10 and June 11 of last year. It was unclear Friday how much the district spent to employ Patterson.
"Deputy Superintendent Brandsma authorized video monitoring from the hallway looking at the door to Kay Powers' classroom to determine if students were frequenting her classroom late at night or on weekends in violation of school policies and the district directives to Kay Powers," the report said.
Powers and her students were banned from using district equipment to publish an alternative newspaper. Powers' firing followed the district's discovery that a student had used a classroom computer to copy files from an e-mail account to his personal laptop for use in an alternative student newspaper.
It was unclear whether Brandsma would be disciplined; he could not be reached for comment on Friday.
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By Eric Stevick
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You don't think it can happen in Edmonds? Guardian Security installed one at Martha Lake Elementary.
As a former substitute teacher for the Everett School District, and a three-time guest teacher in Kay Powers's classroom, this coming-to-light of the district's intrusion into the privacy of not only Kay Powers, but her students (and potentially myself) is inconscionable. And that the district is now framing this argument under the rubric of the students' personal safety is reprehensible and legal posturing. How is spying on Ms. Powers and her students ensuring their safety? Ensure this tactic is met with the utmost in logical resistance. Thank you for your attention to this horrible act committed by Dr. Whitehead and her associates.
Funny how when the Edmonds School District installs a camera to spy on a member of staff, it happens without opposition. If another district does the same thing, there are calls for a hearing.
People in Everett must still believe in accountability.
Yeah. And the union is awake and doing it's job.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. When someone starts turning over the rocks at Everett, a lot of ugly things are going to come crawling out.
Carefully crafted words are like honey- look good, smell good but are very sticky when you get too close. If you lie or are dishonest, you need to carefully craft your explanation of your actions. We can see this in Everett as well as Edmonds.
What a web we weave when we first learn to deceive.
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