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Facial Recognition Invading Public Schools

WASHINGTON - The Lockport public school district in New York plans to implement a $1.4 million facial recognition security system in its schools as early as next year, even though facial recognition surveillance programs have been known to identify the wrong person up to 98% of the time.

Given that such programs most often misidentify women and people of color, this poses a particular threat to the district’s 1,282 students who are non-white and 2,219 students who are young women.

Lockport had planned to conduct a dry run of the security system early last month until the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) intervened. “The Department has directed the Lockport School District to cease the testing and utilization of facial recognition technology until further notice,” spokesperson J.P. O’Hare told the Buffalo News for a story that was reported on June 28.

Despite the injunction, the district has continued to install and position cameras, to train staff in the technology’s use, and to prepare for resulting collaborations with law enforcement. Its activities over the summer signal intent to implement the technology as soon as September.

Meanwhile Assemblymember Monica P. Wallace introduced a bill in the state legislature that seeks to bar the use of biometric identification technology in schools pending further study. Wallace claims her legislation is not in direct response to the situation in Lockport but rather aims to address a potential statewide menace. However the bill’s timing - it cleared the education committee in early June and passed the Assembly on June 20 - coincides with the installation and preparation of Lockport’s system. 

Ultimately it may not move quickly enough to prevent a facial recognition surveillance regime from taking hold in Lockport schools this coming academic year.

“We need an outright ban on facial recognition in schools yesterday. It’s wholly unacceptable to see the Lockport School District rushing to put in place a dangerous and racist technology. Facial recognition is invasive, vulnerable to misuse and has no place in schools of all places. Some technology is simply too dangerous to exist. We need to stop this technology before it’s too late. We need to ban facial recognition.” said Evan Greer (she/her), Director of campaigns at Fight for the Future

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