A school district in New York will become the first one in the United States to implement a facial recognition system district-wide in a pilot program that will be fully operational by September 1st.
The system, according to a document shared with the school parents, will track “level 2 or 3 sex offenders, students who have been suspended from school, staff who have been suspended and/or are on administrative leave, any persons that have been notified that they may not be present on District property… [or] prohibited from entry to District property by court order… [or] believed to pose a threat based on credible information presented to the District.“
The plans for the system have been in motion since 2018 when the Lockport city school first announced this decision.
Buying the system was funded through the New York Smart Schools Bond Act, who offered the school around $1.4 million to add about a dozen surveillance cameras throughout the school and installing Aegis, a facial recognition system provided by Canadian company SN Technologies.
Lockport is not the first school to add facial recognition cameras inside their buildings but it is the first to implement a full-blown system throughout the school.
The cameras will be placed in the hallways and all across the school buildings but not in classrooms, as that violates teachers’ contract.
But not everyone is in agreement with this decision.
Jim Schultz, head of the non-profit Democracy Center and Lockport resident who also happens to have a daughter that goes to the local high school, has expressed his concerns, stating that the technology will not only be completely ineffective but will also constitute an invasion of privacy.
“From a school safety point of view, it’s just a colossal waste of money.” Schultz told The Guardian “The way the system is designed to work is you would have to know in advance who a school shooter would be – you’d have to get their picture and put it in the system, and you’d have to hope they didn’t put on a ski mask or something on the way in.”
The district said that it will not track the movements of the students, staff or visitors who are not on the threat list and that they have established clear boundaries on how the technology will be used.
KC Flynn, President of SN Technologies stressed on the fact that the students are not included in any database and that their faces will not be stored in the system.
“Cameras are not allowed in any instructional areas, change rooms or bathrooms in NY State schools.” he said “Once a prohibited person is identified by the software, it is sent for verification by a designated individual, therefore a person must make the final decision on a match, not the system, if a match is confirmed then the school procedures are followed by staff.“
The New York State Assembly has been considering a bill that could delay Lockport’s plans by a year but the legislative session is about to close in about a month, and the sponsors of the bill only have so much time to push it through.