School surveillance cameras are becoming increasingly common across the country. Parents, students and school staff may wonder – how long are schools storing and keeping the footage these cameras record?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Most K-12 schools keep security camera footage for around 30 days before deleting it. Some schools may keep footage longer if it’s needed for an investigation or legal issue.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at the factors that impact how long footage is kept, including data storage costs, privacy regulations and more. We’ll provide details on standard practices for elementary, middle and high schools, time spans defined by state laws and steps you can take to access or request deletion of videos.

Why Do Schools Use Surveillance Cameras?

Schools have increasingly been implementing surveillance cameras as a means to enhance security and ensure the safety of students, staff, and visitors. This article will explore the primary reasons why schools use these cameras, including improving school safety, deterring bad behavior, and investigating incidents.

Improving School Safety

One of the key reasons why schools use surveillance cameras is to improve overall safety within their premises. By placing cameras strategically throughout the school, administrators can monitor activities in real-time and identify potential threats or suspicious behavior.

This proactive approach allows for quicker response times during emergencies and helps create a safer learning environment for everyone.

Deterring Bad Behavior

The presence of surveillance cameras acts as a deterrent for students engaging in inappropriate or disruptive behavior. Knowing that they are being monitored can help curb instances of bullying, vandalism, or substance abuse on school grounds.

Additionally, it fosters a sense of accountability among students, as they are aware that their actions are being recorded.

Investigating Incidents

Surveillance cameras play a crucial role in investigating incidents that may occur within the school premises. In the event of theft, vandalism, or other criminal activities, the recorded footage can provide valuable evidence for law enforcement and school administrators.

This evidence can be instrumental in identifying the culprits, resolving conflicts, and holding individuals accountable for their actions.

Furthermore, surveillance cameras can help resolve disputes and clarify incidents involving students or staff members. By reviewing the footage, administrators can gain a clear understanding of what transpired and make informed decisions regarding disciplinary actions or interventions.

It’s important to note that schools must adhere to legal and ethical guidelines when using surveillance cameras. Policies should be in place to protect the privacy of individuals and ensure that the cameras are used solely for the intended purpose of enhancing safety and security.

How Long Do Schools Keep Surveillance Footage?

Surveillance cameras have become a common feature in schools across the country, helping to enhance security and ensure the safety of students and staff. However, one important question that often arises is how long schools keep the footage captured by these cameras.

Let’s take a closer look at the typical practices regarding the retention of surveillance footage in educational institutions.

Most Delete Within 30 Days

In general, most schools tend to keep surveillance footage for a period of around 30 days. This timeframe allows for the review of any incidents or suspicious activities that may have occurred on the premises.

After this period, the footage is usually automatically deleted or overwritten to make space for new recordings. This practice is in line with the standard retention policies followed by many organizations.

Some States Mandate Shorter Times

It is important to note that the retention period for surveillance footage may vary from state to state. Some states have specific regulations in place that mandate shorter retention times.

It is crucial for schools to familiarize themselves with the specific laws and regulations of their respective states.

High Schools May Keep Videos Longer

While the general practice is to delete surveillance footage after 30 days, it is not uncommon for high schools to keep videos for a longer period such as 90 days. High schools often have more complex security needs and may find it beneficial to retain footage for a longer duration.

This can help in investigating incidents that may have longer-term implications, such as bullying or vandalism. However, even in these cases, schools must strike a balance between the need for security and the privacy rights of individuals captured on camera.

Factors Impacting Video Retention Duration

When it comes to the duration for which school cameras keep footage, several factors come into play. These factors can vary depending on the school’s policies, budget constraints, and legal considerations. Let’s explore some of the key factors that impact video retention duration.

Privacy Concerns

Privacy concerns play a significant role in determining how long school cameras retain video footage. Schools must strike a balance between maintaining a safe environment and respecting the privacy of students and staff.

In many cases, schools have policies in place that outline how long footage can be kept before it is automatically deleted. These policies are often based on guidelines set by local education authorities or state laws.

This ensures that the footage is only used for its intended purpose and is not stored indefinitely, which could potentially infringe on individuals’ privacy rights.

Data Storage Costs

The cost of storing video footage is another crucial factor that influences the duration for which school cameras keep recordings. High-definition cameras and longer retention periods require more storage space, which can quickly become costly for schools with limited budgets.

As a result, schools often have to strike a balance between the desired retention duration and the available storage capacity. They may opt for lower-resolution cameras or prioritize certain areas for continuous recording while others have shorter retention periods.

This approach helps schools optimize their storage resources while still maintaining a level of security and surveillance.

Federal or State Laws

Federal or state laws also play a significant role in determining how long schools must retain video footage. These laws can vary depending on the location and jurisdiction. For example, in some states, schools are required to retain video footage for a specific period in case it is needed for legal or investigative purposes.

It’s important for schools to stay informed about any legal requirements regarding video retention duration to ensure compliance and avoid any potential legal issues. Consulting with legal experts or education associations can provide valuable guidance in this regard.

Ongoing Investigations

In certain cases, ongoing investigations may impact the duration for which school cameras keep video footage. If an incident occurs that requires law enforcement involvement or further investigation, schools may be required to retain the footage until the investigation is complete or until the case is resolved.

These situations highlight the importance of having a flexible video retention policy that can accommodate unforeseen circumstances. Schools must be prepared to extend the retention period temporarily to support law enforcement efforts or any ongoing legal proceedings.

How to Access or Delete School Surveillance Videos

FOIA Requests

One way to access or delete school surveillance videos is by submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The FOIA grants individuals the right to access government agency records, including school surveillance videos.

To make a FOIA request, individuals can typically submit a written request to the school district’s administration office. It’s important to provide specific details about the footage you are looking for, including the date, time, and location of the incident captured on the video.

The school district will then review the request and determine if the footage can be released or if any redactions need to be made to protect the privacy of individuals involved.

Requests from Parents

Parents have the right to request access to school surveillance videos if it involves their child. To make a request, parents can reach out to the school administration and provide specific details about the incident they are investigating.

The school will review the request and determine if the footage can be released. It’s important for parents to keep in mind that there may be certain limitations or restrictions on accessing the footage, especially if it involves other students or sensitive information.

Additionally, parents can also request for the deletion of footage if they believe it is no longer necessary or relevant.

Requests from Students

Students who believe that they have been a victim of a crime or an incident captured on school surveillance cameras can also request access to the footage. They can reach out to school administrators or their teachers to initiate the process.

Just like with parental requests, the school will review the request and determine if the footage can be released. It’s important for students to provide as much detail as possible about the incident to help the school locate the relevant footage.

Requests from Law Enforcement

Law enforcement agencies may also request access to school surveillance videos if they are investigating a crime or incident that occurred on school grounds. In such cases, they will typically need to provide a valid reason for their request and obtain proper authorization.

Schools often have protocols in place for handling requests from law enforcement to ensure the privacy and safety of all parties involved.

It’s important to note that the process for accessing or deleting school surveillance videos may vary depending on the school district and local laws. It’s always best to consult with the school administration or legal professionals if you have any questions or concerns regarding accessing or deleting school surveillance videos.


Surveillance cameras are now common in K-12 schools across the United States. While practices vary, most elementary, middle and high schools retain footage for around 30 days before deleting. Some states have laws mandating shorter retention periods.

Schools balance data storage costs, privacy concerns and investigatory needs when setting video retention policies. Individuals can request access or deletion through FOIA requests and other means.

Similar Posts