Should schools be allowed funding for surveillance technology?

Last year, New York issued a statewide ban on using facial recognition technology in its schools. These civil rights advocates argue there needs to be more federal intervention.

When K12 schools bolster security by installing additional safety technology hardware, they’re allowing for a “dangerous new chapter in the school-to-prison pipeline and mass criminalization of Black, Brown and Indigenous youth and other marginalized young people.”

That’s according to a letter authored by a coalition of more than 40 civil rights organizations directed to the U.S. Department of Education. Its message? To ban K12 schools from leveraging federal funding to purchase surveillance equipment, including those that utilize artificial intelligence.

“We are alarmed by the growing use of surveillance technologies to expand police presence in schools and expose students to greater police contact, exclusionary discipline, and school pushout,” the letter reads.

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Above all, the authors urge the agency to embrace the following six recommendations as holistic strategies to protect marginalized communities from “technology-enabled rights abuses,” including:

  • Banning the use of federal funds for surveillance technologies.
  • Divesting discretionary agency appropriations from funding police surveillance hardware.
  • Provide technical guidance and assistance to support school districts in conducting algorithmic impact audits to determine the legal compliance of AI and big data technologies.
  • Study surveillance tools and other algorithmic technologies for the risks and other concerns they pose to public schools.
  • Center leadership and vision of youth and young adults alongside marginalized groups and community-based organizations in AI data privacy governance.

A number of states have outlined how legislators can author change to put an end to surveillance misuse in public schools. New York, for instance, announced last year a statewide ban on using facial recognition technology in its schools. The letter argues there’s more work to be done.

“Students, families, educators, advocates, and lawmakers have continuously raised concerns about the pervasive use of school surveillance technologies, including student device monitoring technologies,” the authors wrote. “We joining their voices in urging the Department to take immediate action to end this dangerous transformation of America’s public schools.”

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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