May 31 2013
Vicki E. Alger
Some 450 school safety bills have been introduced in the states since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, according to a new analysis by Education Week. Many of those bills focus on more emergency planning, having more police officers in schools, and arming teachers, but there’s also a growing trend of adding more surveillance cameras.
Keeping children safe at school is a top priority, but it cannot come at the expense of their Constitutional rights.
Reviewing the facts adds some perspective. As Education Week reports:
Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 26 students and staff members were killed in December, had a video surveillance camera and buzzer entrance system, which allowed approval of all visitors seeking to enter the school. Those measures, though, were little protection against a determined killer with powerful guns.
Even before this tragedy clandestine efforts by the federal government to obtain personal information for politicized purposes about students and their families were well underway (see here). School officials have also demonstrated that they are more than willing to trample on students’ rights—not to mention, ironically enough, their safety—by micro-chipping their identification cards (here and here).
Just last week Polk County, Florida, parents got an eye-popping shock when they discovered their children’s irises were scanned at school as part of a pilot “school safety” program. Parents had no opportunity to object because informational letters were received four days after the scheduled scans.
The school board has since apologized and insists students’ scans have been destroyed, but the board’s senior director of support services Rob Davis offered parent this justification:
It simply takes a picture of the iris, which is unique to every individual …With this program, we will be able to identify when and where a student gets on the bus, when they arrive at their school location, when and what bus the student boards and disembarks in the afternoon. This is an effort to further enhance the safety of our students. The EyeSwipe-Nano is an ideal replacement for the card based system since your child will not have to be responsible for carrying an identification card.
Less personal responsibility and more reliance on real or perceived authority figures who seem bound and determined to ignore all those pesky Constitutional rights. Now there’s a great lesson for schoolchildren.
And what’s next? Urine analysis stations in the restrooms? Blood sample booths near the cafeteria? A finger-printing fair to kick off the school year?
The school board had planned to install eye scanners on 17 local Polk school buses next year but has pulled the plug in response to the scandal. That’s little consolation to one parent who said:
It seems like [school officials] are mostly focused on this program, like the program was the problem. It's not, it's the invasion of my family's Constitutional right to privacy that is the problem, as well as the school allowing a private company access to my child without my consent or permission…This is stolen information, and we cannot retrieve it.
No they can’t. But what parents can do is stand up to manipulation by school officials who assault their Constitutional rights under the guise of “safety.”