Schools Consider Using Facial Recognition to Prevent Violence on Campus

By Melina Wisecup

NEW YORK—School shootings and violence on campus has lead schools to consider using facial recognition to protect students, but not everyone agrees with that approach.

Advocacy groups announced this week they are teaming up to work on a nationwide campaign to stop facial recognition from seeping into U.S. schools before the trend becomes more common.

“It’s easier to prevent this from happening than to try to undo this in the future,” Erica Darragh, who is on the board of directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy told NTD.

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Students walking around at a school in Queens, NY on Dec. 19, 2014. (Oliver Trey/NTD)

Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future, said its campaign wants to get legislation passed that would ban facial recognition technology from all public spaces. A study published last month shows that people from certain demographics may be at risk of being falsely identified—which, the nonprofits say, is a cause for concern.

“I think it’s really important that we recognize that the implementation of facial recognition on campus would exacerbate existing forms of discrimination within higher education as well as within the criminal justice system so this isn’t just about privacy or technology, it’s also about basic human rights and justice for everyone,” said Greer.

Facial Recognition in Schools

One of the most recent places the technology has popped up is in the Lockport School District in New York State. The school’s superintendent told CBN News the reason for using the technology is to protect students from violence on campus by identifying flagged individuals and detecting guns.

Randy Andrews, security expert and CEO at Logan Security Consulting, says the technology can help with school safety.

“The programmers can make the software do a variety of things. They could alert school personnel if somebody unknown is on the premises. It can control physical access to systems like a door—an electronic door lock,” Andrews told NTD.

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Tanya James and her child walk at Madison Square Park on Jan. 16, 2020. (Don Tran/NTD)

Tanya James, a parent in New York City, said she agrees with the use of the technology in schools because it could be helpful for nonverbal students.

“My child is three years old. He is on the spectrum-nonverbal- minimum verbal, but there are children that are completely nonverbal. If, for me, it would be a sigh of relief if my child is able to go to a school with facial recognition,” James said. “He can’t tell you what school he goes to, he can’t tell you his name, he can’t tell you if something is wrong… And if that’s going to be something that helps us, I’m with it, 100 percent,” she said.

Case Against Facial Recognition Technology

Last May, San Francisco banned police and other agencies from using facial recognition software. Attorney Matt Cagle told the New York Times that the technology “provides government with unprecedented power to track people going about their daily lives. That’s incompatible with a healthy democracy.”

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Facial Recognition Camera shown outside and apartment building in New York City on Oct. 15, 2019. (Juliet Song/NTD)

Paul Fix, a dad from Connecticut, agrees, saying it’s violation of rights. “To me that would seem to be a violation of constitutional protection that we have where you’re not under investigation, there is no reason to be tracking information about you,” Fix told NTD.

Right now, it is unclear exactly how many U.S. schools are already using facial recognition software or taking steps to get there.