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

A coalition of over 40 civil rights organizations have written a letter to the U.S. Department of Education, warning about the negative impact of increased surveillance technology in K12 schools. The coalition argues that such actions could lead to a dangerous escalation in the school-to-prison pipeline and the criminalization of marginalized youth, particularly Black, Brown, and Indigenous students.

The use of surveillance technologies in schools can result in greater police presence, increased police contact with students, exclusionary discipline and school pushout. The coalition urges the Department of Education to ban the use of federal funds for purchasing surveillance equipment, including those that utilize artificial intelligence (AI).

The letter also provides six recommendations to protect marginalized communities from technology-enabled rights abuses. These recommendations include divesting discretionary agency funding from police surveillance hardware, conducting algorithmic impact audits to ensure legal compliance of AI and big data technologies, studying the risks associated with surveillance tools in public schools and involving youth and young adults in AI data privacy governance.

While some states have taken steps to address the issue of surveillance technology misuse in schools, the coalition emphasizes the need for immediate action at a national level to prevent the transformation of America’s public schools into spaces of increased surveillance and potential harm to students.

By Sophia Gonzalez

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