Action News Jax Investigates: Broken surveillance cameras in local schools

Surveillance cameras in local schools have helped solve crimes and even sent school employees to jail.

But an Action News Jax investigation found some of the cameras meant to protect your children are broken.

Without cafeteria surveillance video, the mother of a Sebastian Middle School 8th-grader may never have found out how her son was injured in 2015.

“I can't believe three grown men [were] twisting, bending, basically tormenting my child,” said the mother, who asked not to be identified to protect her son’s privacy.

All three of the employees caught on camera were suspended without pay.

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In 2016, surveillance video from an Arlington Middle School hallway led to a security guard's arrest.
The video captured the guard grabbing two boys as they walked away, slamming them to the ground.

But what if those cameras weren’t working?

Action News Jax uncovered 109 surveillance cameras in St. Johns County schools alone are broken.
That's 6 percent of the district's cameras.

"I am a little surprised by that, yeah, I wish it was 0 percent broken," said Kelly Jones, whose son goes to a St. Johns County elementary school. “It lessens accountability, I think, with adults and children.

And there could be inappropriate things that go on, or abuse, or anything like that," said Jones.
When Action News Jax first asked the St. Johns County School District how many cameras didn't work, they didn't know -- and there was no system in place to find out.

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We had to pay the district $575 for a maintenance manager to go to each school and check each camera.

Then Action News Jax took the results to Deputy Superintendent of Operations Cathy Mittelstadt, who said she was not surprised by the number of broken cameras.

“Actually, I was not surprised, and here's why. As we look at the level of our cameras right now, many of them are outdated. They're called an analog camera,” said Mittelstadt. “The inoperable cameras... those are so outdated that we're not going to replace them.”

Two months after Action News Jax started asking questions, the school board authorized the superintendent to negotiate with a new security company.

St. Johns now plans to replace all the cameras with a centralized system, allowing the district and the sheriff's office to view any camera from a single screen.

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Action News Jax also asked Duval, Nassau and Clay county schools how many of their surveillance cameras are broken.

A Clay County School District spokesperson said all 1,800 of its cameras are working.

Neither Duval nor Nassau County Schools would turn over the information.

Both school districts cited a Florida law exempting information from public record requests if they might reveal security plans.