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Superintendent: MMSD approved planting a camera in coach’s office

In a letter to parents, Dr. Jenkins wrote he was “outraged” that it happened
(NBC15)
Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 4:01 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The superintendent of Madison Metropolitan Schools alerted families of East High School students about a camera that had been hidden in a smoke alarm in the office of one of its coaches - apparently with the district’s approval.

In a letter dated Thursday, Superintendent Carlton Jenkins wrote that the first discovered something was amiss nearly two weeks earlier, on January 8, when someone noticed the cover on a smoke alarm had been altered. The school principal was immediately notified and, in turn, contacted the district office and law enforcement.

The district’s investigation indicated a camera had been installed in the smoke alarm – and the district staff had signed off on the move, Jenkins continued. He explained the recording device was likely installed in early September of 2019; but did not say when the camera may have been removed.

Jenkins, who was hired in July 2020, did not indicate who approved the installation, only saying that it was done to document an employee for disciplinary purposes over a possible work violation. He did not identify either the employee or the violation they were investigating. (Read full letter below)

Regardless though, he noted, installing the camera was a violation of district policy, adding that he was “outraged a policy of this nature would be violated.” The district has retained the legal firm of MWH Law Group to help with its internal investigation and is working with the Madison Police Dept. to determine if criminal action is warranted.

“Please be advised, we take these matters very seriously. Once the investigation concludes, we will share an update with our school community,” he wrote.

Jenkins went on to say the district expects some students, staff, or families to be distressed by the incident and, in anticipation of that, officials have gone ahead and established a support network. It can be accessed by calling 608-204-1603.

A virtual listening session has also been scheduled for Wednesday, January 27, the full details of which will be shared in the coming days, he said.

January 21, 2021

Dear East High School Families:

We are communicating with you today to share important information regarding a serious issue involving a recent discovery at East High School.

On January 8, 2021, an East High School Security Assistant discovered what they believed could be evidence a concealed recording device had been hidden in the school. Specifically, a smoke alarm cover appeared altered in a way to accommodate a concealed recording device. The smoke alarm is located in a coach's office. The evidence was compelling enough for the security assistant to immediately contact the school principal, who contacted district officials and law enforcement.

Upon further review, it was later discovered a camera was previously installed in the smoke alarm, done so with the approval of district staff in an effort to document an employee discipline issue related to work rule violations. According to the district's investigation, there is reason to believe a camera was requested on September 6, 2019. We have turned this matter over to the Madison Police Department and are awaiting official notification of their final decision.

The use of a camera in this way is in direct violation of district policy 6702, covering the use of surveillance cameras in our schools. I am outraged a policy of this nature would be violated. As such, we have launched an investigation with MWH Law Group LLP.

We will continue holding the safety of our students and staff as our highest priority. Our district anticipates this communication may cause distress. As such, we have established a comprehensive support plan which includes circles of support at East High School to address the needs of students, staff and families. To access this support, please call 608-204-1603.East High Staff will be sharing this comprehensive support plan for our students and families later today. Additionally, we will be hosting a virtual listening session for East Families on this matter on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. We will be sharing more information on how to access the virtual session in the upcoming days.

Please be advised, we take these matters very seriously. Once the investigation concludes, we will share an update with our school community.

Sincerely,

Carlton D. Jenkins, Ph.D. Superintendent, Madison Metropolitan School District

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