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Lockport City School District in New York states they will be implementing facial recognition software in order to avoid school shooting scenarios similar to the one that occurred in Parkland, Florida. The announcement of the use of this software comes is being debated for many reasons such as cost, privacy, and effectiveness. Not only is the proposed technology intended to be used to deter and stop attacks against the school quicker than without the software, but is stated to be used to identify individuals in the building such as suspended students or faculty/staff, as well as registered sex offenders (Doffman). The stated intentions behind the use of the software are good but there are many cons attached that outweigh the pros.
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There have been many situations in the last few decades involving the lack of security in schools; school shootings being the major issue. Every time there is a tragedy, many people call for more security measures in schools. While many schools struggle to fund the necessities, it is often argued that none of the other things matters if the schools are not safe for those inside. Lockport City intends to change this with the use of facial recognition software to detect danger before it happens. This software will be used to alert administration of a potential intruder, hopefully before any attack can happen. The software will also be programmed to pick up on faces of individuals who are registered as level 2 or level 3 sex offenders or anyone who are prohibited from being on campus (Doffman). If the Parkland shooter had been picked up by facial recognition software, it could have given police or school resource officers more time to get to him before he began shooting. There is no guarantee that it could have stopped the attack but it could have given first responders more time. Because Nikolas Cruz had been expelled from the school, his face would have caused an alert from the security software. The software would not offer any actual protection and an expensive system such as this is difficult to justify for only the potential to “maybe” help.
One major concern of the use of facial recognition software for parents, students and even New York’s State Department of Education is “how that would affect the privacy of students, parents and teachers” (Kaur and Marco). The vendor for the software states that the cameras would only be in common areas and would not be placed in any bathrooms, workrooms or classrooms (Doffman). It is also mentioned that if an individual is flagged with the software, an actual person would be sent to verify the identity before putting the school into certain procedures meant for intruders. This would help to avoid false alarms due to misidentification. Parents are concerned that their children’s “biometric data” would not be protected or that an intruder wearing a mask could avoid detection from the program. If the company cannot guarantee the privacy of those on whose data will be run through the software, it should not be used in a school. Privacy is not the only concern for this software because the cost is extremely high, especially when many school districts are already struggling financially.
Based on the articles, the biggest argument against facial recognition software is the cost. It is no secret that funding for education is a major concern across the country. The technology needed to implement this software, along with the software itself, is a cost that will not be able to be afforded by most school districts. For Lockport City School District, the cost is over 2 million dollars initially for a small district. This price does not include the upkeep that would be required overtime and any other costs associated. With that amount of money for a district that small, the parents argue that so much can be provided for the students and teachers instead of wasting money for a program that does not appear to be worth the money (Doffman). Many parents and teachers feel that funding should be spent on school security but that this particular program is not the best route. For example, many school shootings are carried about by current students. If the student was allowed to be on campus, the system would never flag them and it would do nothing to prevent an incident from them. The money to afford this software must come from somewhere. It would either take away from the current budget for the school or cause taxes to increase for the residents in order to pay for it. Schools are already struggling with large class sizes, out of date resources, low teacher pay and lack of actual security. Such a large amount of money should not be spent on software that has so many potential flaws when it comes to the protection of children.
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While Lockport City School District has given many reasons to defend their implementation of facial recognition software in their schools, many residents and stakeholders of the school district have their own arguments that the software should not be used. The biggest argument is that the amount of money needed to afford the system is outrageously high at around 2.5 million dollars and that is just for a smaller district. The software does not have the ability to actually protect the school, just to alert certain people of possible intruders. The company claims that their software has an almost 100% success rate with matches, but there are too many loopholes in this software when it concerns schools and the attacks that happen there. Many parents are also concerned with the software violating their children’s privacy. “New York state legislators introduced a bill in March that would prevent schools from using facial recognition technology in the 2019-2020 school year and require further study.” (Kaur and Marco).
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