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Policy Summary
In January 2020 the Lockport City School District located in western New York State activated a facial recognition technology program in all of the public schools in the city of Lockport in Niagara County. The school district had first been approached in 2015 and was approved by the New York State Education Department in 2017. However, news of the decision was met with resistance from local citizens that caused the project to be delayed until the project could be further reviewed by state authorities. Installation of the security cameras with facial recognition technology was finally approved and was activated in January 2020. LEARN MORE

Policy Analysis
The decision of the Lockport City School District comes after a long drawn out fight over the pros and cons of facial recognition technology. While Lockport was not the first school district in the United States to implement the controversial technology (eight public school systems have been identified as using the technology) the school district has generated attention to the issues about the use of the technology on school campuses.

When the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) received word that the technology would help put suspended students in a database for future use they released a statement stating, “[T]his technology [ ] could end up [causing students of color] being subject to more scrutiny.” Parents in Lockport even created a petition to delay implementation of the surveillance system. Parents and students voiced concerns that the technology would be able to track their whereabouts and who they associate with in social groups. The school district responded by stating that the system was going to be used to keep out uninvited guests such as suspended students and local sex offenders. Other school districts have pointed to recent school shootings as a reason for using the technology.

The debate on facial recognition technology always comes down to invasion of privacy and other civil liberty concerns. While the use of the systems have often been used to monitor public spaces (outdoor venues, parks, streets) the use of the technology in the school is unique because it is being used in only one location – a school campus – that has a regular and known set of daily attendees. The students and teachers will always be the same throughout the year unlike a public street. Students in districts that have been using the technology have also pointed out that having the cameras on campus have not made them feel any safer but is instead a reminder that something could happen. And because of the well known inaccuracy of the systems the debate has shifted as to whether it is proper to subject still developing adolescents to a system that could label them as potential threats for incidents that could be classified as ordinary adolescent mischief. The psychological effect on children can likely be more devastating than if the student was simply scanned on a public street. Due to these concerns, the technology should be scrutinized, if not outright barred, from school environments. Usage in a classroom and on school campuses is far different than having the technology employed on public streets and venues. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

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