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Cameras in toilets at a high school in Szczecin.  What’s next?  “Students feel watched and intimidated”

Cameras in toilets at a high school in Szczecin. What’s next? “Students feel watched and intimidated”

– Let’s imagine a situation in which a person needs to change a tampon or clean a menstrual cup. Such people will be in a state of constant stress, they have to get away as quickly as possible or they sit there for hours in fear that someone is watching them from behind the camera – says Wojciech Szumiło from the GrowSpace foundation. A former councilor from Szczecin referred to the installation of cameras in the toilets of the Secondary School No. 2 in Szczecin. Was monitoring supposed to be just a dummy? What next with the scandal that has been loud about the whole country for a month?

Let us remind you that the case has been dragging on for over a month. It was first reported by the website on October 27, 2023. In addition to the cameras, students are also to enter a special list documenting the time they go to the toilet. The case immediately became interested in the national media. The school’s principal, Jolanta Jastrzębska, justified the controversial step with acts of vandalism that allegedly took place in the men’s bathroom and concern for the safety of students. One of the students reported the situation on TikTok. The advisor to the president of Szczecin, Dawid Hamera, also spoke on this matter:

In turn, lawyer Marcin Kruszewski posted a video in which he explains that installing cameras in the school toilet is illegal. The lawyer also published recordings from inside the school bathroom, which show that the camera is located just above the outdoor sanitary cabins – therefore it can capture people using them.

The media publicity helped and the Education Department of the Szczecin City Hall intervened in the case. The city hall issued an order to dismantle the devices and turn off the system, as well as to thoroughly cover the cameras. Then they celebrated success: the cameras were to disappear.

Cameras in high school restrooms. “The principal said that we went to the media and discredited the school.”

But unfortunately, that didn’t happen. There has been a dramatic turnaround in the matter and, by the decision of the school management, the monitoring devices in the toilets are to remain. The WSzczecinie.pl portal reported on the proceedings of the extraordinary education committee convened on November 22 this year. at the request of councilors of the Civic Coalition. During the meeting, the following spoke: students attending LO2, activists – including activist Dagmara Adamiak, president of the RÓWNiE foundation, and Szczecin councilors.

Despite the conversations, the director stated that the cameras would be activated and discovered. We learned this during a ’round table’ between students and the management. We were not informed at all that these cameras would be there, hence the students’ outrage. The principal made a presentation with memes created after media publications, she said that we went to the media and discredited the school

– said one of the students, quoted by the portal. Students complained that the principal tried to make them feel guilty. Dagmara Adamiak, in turn, recalled that the Szczecin municipality called for the dismantling of the cameras. She also emphasized that the city hall did not know that they were installed at all, how the management intended to store the materials they recorded, and that the area they covered was not properly marked.

However, according to WSzczecinie.pl, the management’s decision was defended by the chairman of the Parents’ Council, Radosław Majcher. He announced that teachers will keep lists of trips to the toilets. – Photos from cameras can be shown during homeroom hours (…). The common decision is that the cameras will remain, with the possibility of temporarily turning them off “after the trial period”. Additionally, they were asked to establish a procedure for reporting faults in toilets – the local website quotes him as saying.

Szczecin. Cameras in school toilets. What’s next? “People are not sure whether they are being recorded or not”

More than a week has passed since the committee meeting. Has there been any new information in the case? – Apparently the cameras were mounted in such a way that they do not cover the cabins. It was also claimed that a plexiglass covering had been placed over them. However, it turned out that it did not cover the entire cabin, so the problem was not solved. And now we’re faced with a message from school officials that these cameras were never turned on. So they are supposed to be a dummy, a “bogeyman” – says Wojciech Szumiło from the GrowSpace foundation and a former councilor of Szczecin, who has been working for the students of the Szczecin high school from the beginning.

He adds that there is a communication problem in the whole matter because there is no clear information about what to do next. Will the cameras be turned on? Or were they intended only as a warning from the beginning?

However, we know that they will definitely not be dismantled. – Leaving the cameras in this place, even as dummies, is a very stupid idea. Mainly because people using the toilet are not sure whether they are being recorded or not – notes Szumiło.

“The Sanitary Inspectorate came for an inspection and they covered the cameras with a bag”

– The management’s narrative on this matter, in my opinion, changes as the whole matter evolves. I’m sure they were supposed to be on from the very beginning and record what was happening in the toilets. But when the matter became public, this idea was withdrawn and now they are just a “dummy”, he adds.

The activist explains that installing monitoring devices in toilets was a response to vandalism committed by a group of boys in one of the school bathrooms. The students were to “occupy” one of the men’s toilets during lessons, smoking cigarettes there and not allowing others to enter. Wojciech Szumiło emphasizes that this is also the problem: instead of punishing a group of specific students, everyone attending the high school in Szczecin became the victims of the situation.

– There were cases when the Sanitary and Epidemiological Station came for an inspection and they covered the cameras with a bag – added a former Szczecin councilor.

“Let’s imagine a situation where a person needs to clean a menstrual cup.”

– Let’s assume that these cameras were never supposed to be turned on, that they are dummies – explains our interlocutor. – Let me repeat: people entering the toilet and using it normally are not aware that they are not being recorded. Imagine a situation in which a person needs to replace a tampon or clean a menstrual cup. Such people will be in a state of constant stress, they have to get away as quickly as possible or they sit there for hours in fear that someone behind the camera is watching them. This causes a lot of stress and is a great mental burden for them, notes Wojciech Szumiło.

If – as Radosław Majcher announced during the commission – the cameras are turned on (or they already are), who will have access to the recordings? Where and, above all, how long will they be stored? We asked these questions to both the school management and the city hall. We have not received a response until the text is published. If both parties respond, we will update this article.

– So our current position is that the cameras are going to stay. Are these really fakes? Nobody knows this, apart from the management, says Wojciech Szumiło.

He also referred to the stormy course of the meeting between students and the school principal, which was previously convened on this matter. – The principal organized a meeting with the school community about the use of cameras. There was supposedly a dialogue in which the students were supposed to finally agree to these cameras, but from internal sources I know that it was more of a monologue and they didn’t have much to say, he adds. – The director blamed them for going to the media and reporting the matter to the governing body (city hall – ed.) – he points out.

Cameras in the school toilet. “Students are intimidated and feel helpless”

What does the current, unclear situation mean for students? – First of all, with great stress. And mental burden. They are unable to meet their basic needs and feel watched. It’s hard for them to even talk about it, they’re tired of it all and they’re intimidated. They feel helpless. They are also disappointed with this collective responsibility, he explains.

He adds that the case should be constantly monitored by the media. – She shouldn’t be allowed to die and we need to keep an eye on the governing body and find out how it will be resolved. Especially since, in my opinion, the matter is being swept under the carpet, for example when it comes to providing information about its progress. Everything is dealt with internally, and this cannot be the case – because the matter has grown to such a scale. Moreover, we receive signals that such situations occur in many schools throughout Poland. We keep hearing: “There are cameras in the toilets at my school,” says Wojciech Szumiło.

Cameras in school toilets. There will be an intervention with the Commissioner for Human Rights

The interventions of non-governmental organizations and people acting on behalf of students, as well as the Szczecin municipality, have not yet dissuaded the school management from the decision to install cameras in school toilets. Activists announce another intervention regarding the situation of students of the Secondary School No. 2 in Szczecin, this time directly with the Ombudsman and the newly elected Ombudsman for Children.

There was a similar case earlier this year. Epoznan.pl journalists contacted one of the students of the 12th Secondary School in Poznań, who informed that monitoring had been installed in the toilets. The management confirmed this in an interview with the portal. The cameras were supposed to record from mid-January 2023 until the end of the month. The decision was also explained by acts of vandalism. The difference, however, was that the cameras covered only the part of the bathroom where the sinks were located. Cabins and urinals were to be excluded from view of the devices. Ultimately, the system was turned off and the monitoring recordings were to be deleted.

Sources: WSzczecinie.pl/Kobieta.gazeta.pl/TikTok/TVN24.pl/epoznan.pl

Source: Gazeta

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