Eyes in the Sky in Full Force at GHS

One of the Gilroy High School security cameras, mounted on top

Food fights, drug deals and tire slashings caught by the
security cameras
– more coming
Gilroy – French fries, hamburgers, nickels, a sprinkling of soda – you name it and Greg Camacho-Light has been hit by it.

“I’m a target, I guess,” he said. “I’m assistant principal.”

Camacho-Light has had his fair share of ketchup-smeared pants and sticky shoulders as Gilroy High School’s assistant principal, but he’s not the only victim of the school’s mostly freshman food fights.

This past week, Camacho-Light saw a student throw a milk carton at a girl’s head. He has also witnessed other students being hit by a variety of perishable items.

But witnessing food fights on a high school campus is nothing new. School administrators are not only battling the messy and potentially dangerous pastime but they’re monitoring other possible improper student conduct with the scrutinizing eye of about 15 security cameras.

“It is a sense of security when you know there are other eyes out there,” Camacho-Light said.

Those eyes have been especially helpful this fall to catch a group of mostly freshman boys playing with their food.

GHS Secretary Rita Quintero monitors the quad, parking lot and hallways with two screens.

The cameras, which are placed in obvious spots throughout the campus, have incredible range. On Friday, Quintero demonstrated that with a slight slide of the joystick, she can check out what’s happening on West 10th Street and quickly zoom in on suspicious activity in the quad.

The security cameras were installed in summer of 2004 after being approved by the Gilroy Unified School District board. The digital camera system was installed after a teacher received a death threat in 2005 that resulted in a three-hour lockdown. The cameras are also keeping the campus free of vandals and other safety hazards.

“The number one thing we need is to (maintain) the safety and welfare of students,” said Camacho-Light. “We’re going to do everything we can to keep the students safe.”

Although the cameras have been in a place for a year, it took some time for Quintero to feel completely comfortable navigating the system. She used to constantly refer to a cheat sheet. But now that Quintero knows what she’s doing the school official can work on other projects while scanning the screen.

The monitoring has created a bit of controversy. A GHS mother called the Dispatch this week to complain that her son had been caught on camera.

The freshman had thrown a bit of bagel wrapped in a napkin at a girl sitting nearby. Moments later the teen, who was wearing his football jersey, was swooped up by Mani Corzo, GHS dean of students.

The boy was suspended for a day.

The student’s mother, who requested that her name not be printed, said her son admitted to throwing food and she knows he shouldn’t have done it but she was angry because “he starts on the football team (and) they’re doing extremely well.”

The woman’s son wasn’t the only football player suspended for slinging grub.

Camacho-Light said there were five students, who he thinks were all freshman football players, suspended for a day this week.

“Discipline should never take into consideration whether they have a game that night,” he said.

The students “should be concerned about that.”

The mother of the bagel-thrower said she thought the cameras were only being used for security or discipline issues and she doesn’t think food fights falls into either of those categories.

But Camacho-Light disagrees.

“Discipline and security go hand-in-hand,” he said.

If someone threw an item such as an apple or soda it could hurt someone, making food fights a security and discipline issue, said Camacho-Light.

The cameras have helped curb graffiti and have even been used by the Gilroy Police Department.

Quintero showed two crime scenes captured by the cameras from last year that the high school had saved. One showed a group of students making a drug deal and another showed a male slashing the tire of a teacher’s van on 10th Street.

The high school plans to install more cameras in the front and back parking lots and two in the stadium.

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