After an expose from the New York Daily News and subsequent criticism from the New York Civil Liberties Union, the city’s Department of Education has been forced to shut down the web portal where school principals used to shop for hidden cameras. The website, which sold super-educational hidden cameras, like ones built-into neckties and teddy bears, violated school rules that forbid taking photos of children without parental permission. The unfortunately-named SEEALL Academy in Brooklyn faces investigation for using a $490 pencil sharpener with an embedded camera. The school’s principal, Gary Williams, also invested $330 in a motion detector to guard his office.
Some of the purchases seemed like paranoid reaction to bad behavior, like the principal at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens, who bought, but never used, a $200 camera hidden in an Exit Sign after the theft of laptops. Others, school officials claim, were bought by accident. Principal Gart Beidleman says he ordered perfectly normal boomboxes for Foundations Academy in Brooklyn, and somehow ended up with ones with a hidden camera hook up, “We ordered the boom boxes for [English] classes to be able to play books on tape, for the art class for ballroom dancing.” Sounds reasonable. Why else would a principal want secret footage of a teenage dance class?