THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Recorders violated law, say schools

Salem students allegedly taped others secretly

By David Abel
Globe Staff / April 12, 2011

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Two students in recent weeks brought voice recorders to their schools in Salem and surreptitiously taped their teachers and classmates, in violation of the law, school officials said.

School Superintendent William Cameron described the incidents as “serious matters’’ and has alerted colleagues and members of the community that such behavior will not be tolerated and could be prosecuted. State law requires consent before anyone is recorded.

“Unauthorized recordings compromise the privacy of employees at the school and compromise the confidentiality of other students,’’ Cameron said in a phone interview. “Those are serious matters for me, and that’s why I felt I needed to make this public.’’

He said he does not think the students or their parents knew that they were committing a felony and said he has no evidence that the recordings were distributed.

“That being the case, there was a great feeling at the school that there was a betrayal of trust,’’ he said.

The students were in elementary school, and one of their parents said his son brought the recorder to school because he was being bullied, said Lieutenant Conrad Prosniewski, a spokesman for Salem police.

“I don’t think they understood the legal implications in that,’’ he said. “But we aren’t taking any action. In a matter like this, discretion is important about whether to prosecute.’’

Neither officials in the Salem Teachers Union nor on the Salem School Committee returned calls.

Cameron declined to identify the students or the schools where the recordings allegedly were made. He said that they were separated by several weeks and that it is unlikely the parents or the students involved knew each other.

He said he learned of the first case, which occurred in early March, from the school’s principal, who was informed by the student’s teacher. Cameron said he heard part of the recording and said it was mainly inaudible, without any compromising information.

“It was very difficult to understand what was being said,’’ he said. He would not say how he obtained the recording.

“I don’t want to discuss the circumstances, but I can say there was nothing in the content of the recording that made me uncomfortable,’’ Cameron said.

Several weeks later, he learned of the second case from another school principal. He would not say how the principal learned of it.

Cameron declined to say whether the students were punished. “All I’ll say is that we dealt with it administratively,’’ he said.

In a district of 4,600 students, Cameron said he was not worried that this was a trend.

“Two incidents do not make an epidemic,’’ Cameron said. “But the actions we’re talking about are quite serious, and in the future, we will consider dealing with them as criminal matters.’’

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com.

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