New District Intercoms Enable Listening and Recording


Miranda Figueroa

Senior Maximilian Nelson and Junior Shaynen Gold stand in front of a clock/intercom.

Tara Djordjevic, Staff Writer

   Students and staff from UC High are having mixed feelings about the possibility that their conversations in classrooms can be monitored and recorded through the clock intercom combination systems installed around campus.

   The concern surrounds the Atlas-IED intercom system that was installed over the COVID-19 closure as a part of San Diego Unified’s return to in-person instruction.

   The clock has an “integrated talkback microphone,” as per the clock company’s website. The company added that the talkback microphone paves the way for, “supporting audio broadcast to enhance physical security while improving day-to-day communications” (

   Union Representative Samantha Cruz shared that she was shocked when she first heard about the possibility of being heard through the clock/intercom systems in a union meeting. She said, “Yes, [staff and students on campus] can be heard through the new intercom systems. Since hearing about this, I have found out that it is actually not such an easy way to gain access to whatever space they, or whoever is controlling the systems, are tapping into,” said Cruz.

   “From my understanding, whoever wants to tap in must send the room they wish to tap into some sort of code or something of the sort, and the room must accept it in order for the recording to happen. I think that there’s a little light bar underneath the clock that must turn green if the recording process has started,” said Cruz. According to Atlas-IED, “The LED flashers located below the display can be used to alert room occupants of an incoming audio message” (

   Principal Michael Paredes stated the clock intercoms are not currently set up to have this recording function, but he can think of multiple ways this function could be used. He said, “One of the ways I think it might be useful is if it was two-way; it could be another way for folks to meet without necessarily being in the same space, kind of like how we used Zoom, but in a less sophisticated way.”

   “Along those same lines, if there was a discussion in the classroom that a group of folks wanted to listen in to, say a group of students were having a socratic seminar, we could listen to the conversation without physically being in the classroom – which would make students hopefully feel more comfortable rather than having a group of adults in the space,” said Paredes.

   In a case of an emergency, UC High Librarian Lynn Miles believes that the possibility to listen in is necessary. However, Miles added that, “Most of the times where the situation at hand is not an emergency, the clocks will be distracting.”

   “I think [the clocks] are okay, I don’t really have anything going on that would be classified or a problem that I could not share with anyone who needs the information,” Miles said.

   Special Education Teacher Jennifer Breeding said, “I’m not very comfortable with it unless I was told ahead of time that [the recording] was going to happen and for how long. Otherwise, I would be uncomfortable,” said Breeding.

   “I do think the clocks are necessary. I think that there would be a need for them if perhaps something is happening in a classroom and there is a concern that needs to be addressed or investigated. I think [the clocks] can be helpful in that regard. If I were admin and there was some [classroom or person] I was alerted to, maybe a teacher using some weird language or an uncomfortable situation with some students that were talking, I think if I needed to do some deeper investigation that would be really the only reason I would want to [listen to conversations using the clock],” added Breeding.