The Surveillance of K12 Schools: A Threat to Civil Rights and Student Success

Is it acceptable for schools to receive funding for surveillance technology?

In a recent letter to the U.S. Department of Education, a coalition of more than 40 civil rights organizations expressed their concern over the use of surveillance technology in K12 schools. The groups believe that the implementation of this technology can lead to an increase in police presence in schools, greater contact between students and law enforcement, exclusionary discipline, and school pushout, particularly affecting marginalized communities such as Black, Brown and Indigenous youth.

The letter urged the agency to ban the use of federal funds for surveillance technologies and to divest discretionary appropriations from funding police surveillance hardware. Additionally, the organizations recommended providing technical guidance to support school districts in conducting audits to ensure compliance with AI and big data technologies. They also suggested studying surveillance tools and other algorithmic technologies to understand their potential risks on public schools.

While several states, including New York, have taken steps to address the misuse of surveillance technology in public schools by banning facial recognition technology, the authors of the letter believe that more action is needed to protect students, families and educators from its harmful effects. They called on the Department of Education to take immediate action to end what they referred to as “the dangerous transformation” of America’s public schools through surveillance technology.

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