Hidden Cameras Spy on Your Kids!!!!
School children get videotaped in their locker rooms. Parents protest that hidden cameras should be prohibited in locker rooms, showers, restrooms and other areas that could violate students' rights

LIVINGSTON, Tenn. â Melinda Dishman's 13-year-old daughter rarely talks about the hidden cameras that reportedly took pictures of her changing clothes in a school locker room.

''She's embarrassed. Her big concern is who has looked at them. She just knows it's not right,'' said Dishman, adding that her daughter is now acutely aware of her surroundings and wonders who might be watching. ''She doesn't take her privacy for granted.''

Dishman's daughter wasn't alone. At least 15 other girls and a boy reportedly were taped. Now their parents are taking steps they hope will prevent it from happening to other students.

They recently filed suit against Overton County school officials and board members, arguing that they allowed installation of the surveillance cameras and then failed to secure the images. They are asking for $4.2 million in damages and eventually want a ruling that hidden cameras should be prohibited in locker rooms, showers, restrooms and other areas that could violate students' rights.

''We'd like to see policies and procedures in place to make sure this never happens again,'' said Michelle Meadows, whose 11-year-old daughter was filmed in the locker room.

The lawsuit contends that the district violated students' rights by filming students, ages 10-14, in various stages of undress and then not securing the images. The images were reportedly accessible through the Internet. ''You think these are the people who have your child's best interest at heart,'' Meadows said.

Chuck Cagle, a lawyer for Overton County Schools, said he wouldn't answer questions about the case until he files an official response in the next month.

''At an appropriate time, my clients do look forward to their side of the story being told,'' Cagle said. ''There are always two sides to a lawsuit.'' Cagle confirmed that the system is still gathering information, is looking into the allegations and has hired a Memphis private investigator to help.

In January, Dishman and other parents â from an elementary school in nearby Allons, Tenn. â were at Livingston Middle School to watch their children play an interscholastic basketball game. During the visit a student noticed a ''suspicious device'' and news quickly spread that cameras were found in the visitors' boys and girls locker rooms.

''Shock was my initial reaction and then concern. Who is looking at it, and why is it there? It was more disbelief at first. You think your kids are safe,'' Dishman said. ''They have broken a trust that they can never get back. It's gone.''

Mark Chalos, a lawyer representing the parents of 16 girls and a boy from Allons Elementary, said the parents spent months trying to get answers from school officials.

Dishman and Meadows said that after months of getting too few details and answers from Overton County school officials and school board members, they decided to take action.

''The obvious questions were what happened, how did it happen, who has access and what is the board going to do to make sure it doesn't happen again,'' Chalos said. ''We have attempted to get answers. The parents felt they had no other option but to file a lawsuit.''

The lawsuit contends that images captured by the cameras were stored on a hard drive in the office of Livingston's assistant principal, Robert Jolley, and were accessible through remote computer Internet connection.

The images were reportedly accessed 98 times between July 2002 and January 2003 â sometimes late at night and early in the morning â and through Internet providers in Clarksville and Gainesboro, Tenn., and Rock Hill, S.C. Chalos said he is still looking into who was viewing the images ''well outside of school hours.''

In June 2002, the 3,200-student Overton County school system paid a Dyersburg, Tenn., company $131,590 to install digital closed-circuit surveillance equipment in each of its seven schools. Officials with Edutech Inc. also reportedly trained school officials on how to use the system on-site and from remote locations, including through the Internet.

An invoice shows that 16 high-resolution cameras, at 30 frames per second, were installed, with the digital images to be stored on a hard drive. District officials refused to release information about each camera's location.

Chalos said a computer forensic specialist has examined the hard drive, but parents contend no one should look at the images. The original hard drive is being kept at the Overton County Sheriff's Office, Chalos said.

Dishman and Meadows wouldn't say whether they knew security cameras had been installed in the schools or whether they support having cameras in commons areas.

''None of these parents expected cameras to be in the locker rooms,'' Chalos said.

Claudette Riley, USA

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