Ashland weighs school cameras

ASHLAND — A burglary at Helman Elementary School has prompted the school district to consider surveillance cameras on campus.

Burglars forced a window at Helman over the May 15-17 weekend and stole six computers valued at $7,500, two digital cameras valued at $400 and $100 worth of cables, Ashland police said.

The Ashland School Board on Monday directed Superintendent Juli Di Chiro to increase security at Helman, which Chairman Mat Marr said could include a security guard, increased police patrol or use of surveillance cameras — as long as they were "pointed outward" and not at students during school.

Board members said they would hold a community discussion in July to determine whether surveillance cameras are appropriate for Ashland schools.

"We didn't feel it matched our values "¦ but a school is an easy mark if there are no cameras," Di Chiro said.

She said police believe thieves have been rattling doors and measuring the time it takes police to respond.

School board member Heidi Parker questioned the expense of cameras during the present budget crisis, but Di Chiro said they could be bought with a grant from the Safe & Drug-Free Schools Program under the U.S. Department of Education. If grants are won, the only cost would be installation, she said.

Board member Ruth Alexander predicted it would be a "big community issue."

Marr described Helman as a "California-style" campus, with many areas not visible from the surrounding streets. He added that cameras are a "value-based decision."

The remodel of Ashland High School will include cables that could be used for video cameras should a surveillance system be adopted by the district, he said.

Di Chiro produced a letter from the district's risk management firm, Beecher Carlson of Portland, which strongly advised surveillance cameras because they deter both outsiders and students and employees from engaging in wrongdoing on campus.

Video of wrongdoing can be shown to parents so they may come to grips with their child's role in incidents, wrote Scott Moss of Beecher Carlson.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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