San Rafael City Schools Upgrading Security with Surveillance Cameras

Terra Linda High School is getting hip to the digital age and installing security cameras.

Numerous schools across the county already have security cameras, including several in the San Rafael City Schools. But starting this weekend, Terra Linda officials will begin installing the first of what will be 31 cameras in hallways and outdoor areas.

"The school wants to do everything it can to protect against vandalism, graffiti and anything else," spokeswoman Leah Reich said.

Security cameras are in place at schools in the Novato and Tamalpais Union high school districts. The San Rafael school system has them at San Rafael High School, Madrone High School and Glenwood School.

They are intended to deter petty crime such as vandalism and theft.

In the Tam district, the cameras are turned on after school, on weekends and during holidays. Superintendent Bob Ferguson said they've worked.

"We've already had two incidents of vandalism where we've tracked them down," he said.

Administrators say they don't watch the videos on a regular basis, but they use them to look for evidence after a specific incident. One example cited by Novato officials a couple of years ago involved skateboarders who skated on the roof of Novato High School.

Surveillance cameras are in schools in San Francisco, Berkeley, Sonoma and Napa.

In a letter to parents, Terra Linda Principal Carole Ramsey said that, across the nation, security cameras are in nearly a third of elementary schools, 40 percent of middle schools and 60 percent of high schools.

"Safeguarding your students within such a system remains our priority," she said.

Reich said Terra Linda will spend $53,000 on 18 indoor cameras, 12 outdoor cameras and one wide-angle camera for the football field. They will be in common areas such as hallways and the quad outdoor area in the middle of campus, but not in restrooms, classrooms or locker rooms.

Part of the drive for cameras came from members of the Terra Linda High School Site Modernization Committee, which oversaw a number of renovations, including the new performance hall.

"The idea came from a variety of people," she said.

Sherri Carrigan, a parent who serves on the modernization committee, said voters spent a lot of money to provide students with an up-to-date, clean school. The cameras will help protect the investment, she added.

Valerie Greene, president of the parent organization One TL, said Ramsey and several other administrators attended a safety meeting for parents Tuesday night to explain the need. The response among parents was positive.

"I think they were supportive of it," Greene said.