Ariz. governor candidate Kari Lake echoes call by some conservatives to put cameras in classrooms

Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake speaks at the Back the Blue Rally on Oct. 2, 2021, in Cave Creek, Arizona.
Ray Stern
Arizona Republic

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake says she wants to put cameras in Arizona's classrooms to monitor teachers.

Lake, a former TV news anchor who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump in her bid for governor, talked about her idea in a recent radio interview and during a Nov. 8 meeting in Kingman.

Her comments echo a national movement among some conservatives concerned about "critical race theory" embedded in school curriculums and diversity programs. Supporters of cameras in classrooms include Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson and Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Good of Virginia. 

Critical race theory seeks to highlight how historical inequities and racism shape public policy and social conditions. Critics, and sometimes educators themselves, have confused the advanced academic framework with diversity and inclusion efforts in K-12 schools that have also come under scrutiny by Republicans.

This year, Gov. Doug Ducey signed an anti-CRT bill that banned K-12 schools from teaching any curriculum that would create a sense of blame or judgment on people due to their race, ethnicity or sex. The new law was among those thrown out by the state Supreme Court earlier this month because they were, according to the ruling, attached illegitimately to the yearly budget bill.

Lake's camera idea presents another tactic for conservatives to push back against diversity and inclusion efforts.

State Sen. Christine Marsh, a former Arizona teacher of the year who was elected to the state Legislature in 2020, suggested another method for parents to know what a teacher is telling their children: They could arrange a meeting with the teacher.

Marsh told The Arizona Republic that she considers the push for cameras to combat alleged CRT teachings a "manufactured crisis" that distracts from "real issues facing education," like large class sizes, relatively low per-pupil funding, and a "teacher shortage of crisis proportions."

Classroom cameras comparable to police bodycams?

Lake outlined a possible classroom camera program in an interview with KNST (790 AM) on Nov. 17 as she discussed the latest controversy in the Scottsdale Unified School District, where the former board president is accused of being linked to an online dossier of information collected on parents who are critical of the district.

Lake said that surveillance "should be going the other way."

Kari Lake, a Republican candidate for governor, has her arm around Scottsdale parent Amanda Wray as people gather outside the Mohave District Annex before the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board meeting on Nov. 15, 2021. Lake and others called for the ouster of school board President Jann-Michael Greenburg.

Lake compared the idea of classroom cameras to police bodycams, saying she wants the "same type of accountability measures in schools."

She said the video would not be livestreamed so that "creepers" could watch the class. As she described it, the recordings would be accessible on a limited basis to certain people.

Live access could be granted to police during an active shooter situation, she said, and recorded video could be held for a "certain amount of time," such as six months. If parents complain about something allegedly being taught in their children's class, "the parent could have access to the video of what was taught ... And then we could figure out what's being taught to our kids in classrooms that would hold our schools accountable for the curriculum."

Lake also discussed the idea when responding to a question during a gathering of the Conservative Republican Club of Kingman, according to a Nov. 9 article in Today's News Herald. She said she supports cameras, as long as the cameras only show teachers and not students, the Kingman news outlet reported. 

It's unclear how that might work. Teachers often walk among their students or move around the class, which would make it difficult to exclude students.

Lake did not respond to The Republic's emailed questions related to cameras in classrooms.

Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, who was at the Kingman meeting, told The Republic that he agrees "parents need to know what's going on in the classroom," but that any such program must respect the privacy of children.

Many Arizona school districts use video cameras on school buses to monitor children's behavior.

Teacher turned lawmaker pans idea

Marsh, a Phoenix Democrat who has worked as a teacher for about 30 years, said that putting cameras in every Arizona classroom would be "monumentally expensive" not just for the hardware, but for the cost of storing all the data the cameras would generate.

Worse, she said, if students knew that parents or administrators could see the videos, cameras would probably have a "significant effect on the classroom dynamic — a negative effect." 

Students "might be uncomfortable participating in class discussions because of this," Marsh said.

Reach the reporter at or 480-276-3237. Follow him on Twitter @raystern.

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