Magnolia, Ark. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas today condemned the planned installation, as reported by the Magnolia Reporter, of an expansive surveillance system at Magnolia High School and Magnolia Junior High, including more than 200 cameras, infrared monitoring and facial recognition technology accessible to law enforcement agencies. The plan was approved by the Magnolia School Board at a cost of nearly $300,000.
“All of us want schools to be safe, but subjecting students to an unproven, costly, and intrusive biometric surveillance system is not the answer,” said Rita Sklar, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “These kinds of facial recognition systems are also vulnerable to hacking and abuse – compromising students’ privacy and diverting money away from other pressing educational needs. Communities and schools need to think hard about what type message they are sending to our kids when they monitor them in school like they were prisoners in a detention facility. We urge the Magnolia School Board, and all Arkansas school districts, to avoid these expensive, harmful gimmicks and consider more sensible approaches to keeping schools safe.”
Just last month, CCTV systems in four British schools were hacked and their live feeds were broadcast on the internet. It has also been broadly reported that facial recognition software is far less accurate in identifying the faces of persons of color, which will place those students at greater risk of false identification and improper discipline by schools and the police.