Chanting phrases such as "counselors not cops" and clutching signs saying "counselors not cameras," high school students from the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Teen Activist Project protested on Thursday the use of cameras in public schools. The protest was held outside off New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office, Fox 5 reported.
The group believes that the $30 million in state grants being offered to schools to purchase surveillance equipment, including video monitoring and facial recognition software, would be better spent on mental health programs or other tools to boost school safety. They also argued that such technology could infringe upon privacy and increase government surveillance.
Some local officials, school administrators and parents, however, have pushed for increased surveillance in the city's schools as a way to increase security and protect students and teachers.
Video surveillance has become much more common in society as a way to monitor locations and attempt to ensure people's safety. As this security method becomes more widespread, perhaps it makes sense that it is also cropping up in schools around the country.
Those who support video surveillance — which has become more popular as a school safety option in the wake of multiple school shootings — have good intentions. They want to promote safety and security, and using these systems is said to keep unfamiliar faces out of schools and prevent violent incidents as a result. However, some argue the result of all this surveillance may do more harm than good by making schools increasingly harsh and promoting the school-to-prison pipeline. There are also many unanswered questions with these technologies, including whether these cameras truly protect students or whether captured images are being stored and used later on.
An argument opponents cite is that the use of cameras robs people of their privacy. While that might be well-suited for a store to prevent shoplifting, some say this technology has no place inside a learning institution. The camera’s existence can make a school feel more like a prison that watches students' and staff members' every move. In addition, a recent government study found that while on-campus police and outdoor cameras make students feel safe, cameras inside the school made them feel vulnerable. It should also be noted, as the New York teen protest shows, that students have found their voices in the debate and are making them known.
In addition to the institutional feel that cameras create, the use of facial recognition technology could put the student’s identity at risk. The companies that provide this information are being accused of not sharing proprietary information regarding who controls the children’s facial images and how they can be used in the long-term, and facial recognition tech companies are said to be largely unregulated.
Whether it's Parkland, Florida, teens using their national platform to denounce gun laws, or the New York teens marching against facial recognition technology, students are one sector of the population that's affected by this technology. While everyone wants schools to be safe, administrators — before implementing such tools in their districts — should host discussions with stakeholders, including staff, students and parents, to survey what others think about video surveillance and what concerns they may have in the hope that all parties can reach a comfortable solution.