A Very Brave Belleville Student Speaks Out


One aspect of the ongoing controversy with the Belleville school district that we seem to be overlooking is the personal feelings of the students themselves regarding the Clarity surveillance system that they are exposed to, each and every school day.

How do the kids really feel about the surveillance system? Doesn’t their emotional response to being watched and recorded all day long deserve to be considered and validated? How do they react to it? How does it alter their daily behavior? How does it impact their social interactions with one another, a crucially important factor in the development of any child?

While their sentiments should on some level be considered, I’m sure no one (including myself) wants to draw children into a political debate. And let’s not forget, they face and are subject to the same environment of fear and intimidation that the teachers struggle with continuously in the school district.

That being said, I was delighted to have this letter brought to my attention today. I’m going to withhold the student’s name, but it was written by a concerned eighth grader who contacted the local media in the hopes of having this letter published. Hopefully the local papers will feature it. Although this is just a homegrown blog, I am certainly proud to spotlight this student’s bravery and initiative here on NutleyWatch.

And yes, this letter was written entirely by a Belleville eighth grader. By the time you’re finished reading it, you’ll understand why I felt the need to make that statement. This is definitely one very gifted, insightful teenager.

To the young author, great job, and thank you for having the courage to speak out for what you believe in!

~ Griff



To the Editor,

Imagine you’re ready to start your normal school day at Belleville Middle School. You wait outside in the frigid winter air that sends chills crawling up your spine every other second for fifteen minutes. When you’re finally allowed inside, your cheeks are a rosy red, and you have to climb eight flights of seemingly never-ending stairs to reach your homeroom on the third floor. A deep blue locker is waiting for you to deposit your backpack inside and gather your books for your morning classes. Before you plunk down in your assigned seat for the ten minutes homeroom takes out of your day, you wave a quick hello to your teacher. After that, you, of course, greet your friends with a hug and a few words of endearment. However, you’re forgetting to acknowledge the one presence in the room that looms overhead.

The camera.

It watches your every move and catches your quietest whispers, records it, and stores it away somewhere supposedly safe. Doesn’t seem ideal, does it? Nobody wants to feel like they have their own personal “Big Brother” watching; why should the students?

It has come to my awareness that the current issues the Belleville Public School System is facing are monumental. One of the said conflicts is the cameras recently installed in all of the classrooms in the middle school. I, myself being an eighth grade student, believe that the cameras were unnecessary to the whole school system, seeing as they were also installed in the elementary schools and already in the high school. In fact, people are made to feel uncomfortable and conscious that they’re being recorded. Ever since the cameras have been installed, I feel constantly on edge.

While in school, adolescents believe they can’t have a private conversation among themselves knowing there are cameras placed in the center of the rooms’ ceilings. They can’t talk about their important personal problems other people’s ears aren’t meant to hear with the camera silently recording in the background. The confidentiality of parent-teacher conferences that are supposed to be private, is questioned with the cameras put into play. It makes me feel uncomfortable that if I went to a teacher after school for extra help and felt embarrassed about it, I wouldn’t want it to be broadcast. The system has just put a limit on all individuals’ given privacy with the single move of placing these recording devices in all classrooms.

Furthermore, the 2 million dollars used in the contract to install the cameras could, and should, have been better spent on students’ education. Both safety and education are equally important for all students; it just depends on which one the focus has shifted to more, and that causes the disruption of the fragile balance between both of them. It’s great that there’s a plan for establishing discipline for students who are out of line, but what about what they’ll be learning throughout the course of the school year? It does take up ten months of their year. There are some textbooks in school that are about a decade old, and others that probably share the same birthday as some students. Instead of using the money to buy desks and textbooks, the school board felt that recording systems were a greater priority.

Moreover, cameras don’t actually prevent crimes from being committed. All they do is bring the criminal to justice after the infraction is executed. If they really want to make the use of cameras beneficial, they should be placed at the field of School #8. That’s where most fights break out between middle school students, and they are more severe than the ones that actually happen at the junior high school.

In conclusion, one of the problems that I presently find to be the most crucial to everybody is the issue of the cameras in public schools. They limit the privacy that should be guaranteed for both the students and teachers; all the money put into the cameras and their installment could’ve been put towards educational supplies, and the cameras don’t necessarily prevent crime since they only catch the person after the infraction is instigated. The negative aspects outweigh the benefits easily. The decisions concerning the cameras were dubious. I strongly believe that we need to take a step in the right direction to make our school system an overall phenomenal place to receive a high quality education.


Isabella Mattingly



Update: We’ve consulted with the parents of the student who wrote this letter, and they gave consent to release her name. Isabella spent a week working very hard on this, without her parents even knowing about it.

With almost 5,000 people having read her story in just three days, we’d like to see her receive the recognition she deserves.

Congrats, Isabella!

We look forward to hearing more from you in the future.



About Griff 321 Articles
Lee "Griff" Dorry - Founder, watchdog, and public advocate. ♫ They've got strings, but you can see, there are no strings on me. ♫

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