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School Districts Consider Facial Recognition to Improve Security

One New York school district has begun the installation of 300 facial recognition cameras on its eight campuses using a state grant.

School Districts Consider Facial Recognition to Improve Security

Critics worry the technology will misidentify students and create a negative school climate.

Some school districts have started the process of integrating facial recognition technology into its surveillance systems while others are still in the early stages of simply considering the technology.

Lockport City School District in upstate New York has begun the installation of 300 facial recognition cameras on its eight campuses using $1.4 million from a $4 million 2014 state grant, reports Trib Live.

The technology will check each person’s face against a database consisting of expelled students, terminated employees, sex offenders and other possible agitators. It can also identify certain weapons the system is programmed to detect.

“We shake our heads that we’re having to deal with and talk about these kinds of security issues, but here we are,” said Robert LiPuma, the district’s technology director.

District officials believe the technology could have thwarted shootings like the one in Parkland, Fla., where the gunman was an expelled student with a well-known history of severe mental health issues.

“This would have identified (the gunman) as not being able to be in that building,” said Tony Olivo, a security consultant who recommended the system for Lockport.

Officials also acknowledge that the system won’t stop a determined attacker from coming through the doors or warn against someone who is not a known threat.

“There’s no system that’s going to solve every problem,” LiPuma said. “It’s another tool that we feel will give us an advantage to help make our buildings and our communities a little safer.”

Since Lockport’s plans have been made public, many critics have denounced the technology, concerned the software will misidentify students and have a negative effect on school climate.

“Lockport is sending the message that it views students as potential criminals who must have their faces scanned wherever they go,” said Donna Lierberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, a group that has asked the state Education Department to block the technology from any N.Y. school.

Administrators assure that the system, made by SN Technologies of Ontario, will not build or store a database of student and faculty face prints that could be shared with the government or marketers. Only those seen as threats will be uploaded into the database.

Back in March, the Magnolia School Board in Magnolia, Ark., signed off on spending nearly $300,000 for a facial recognition system that includes over 200 cameras at two secondary schools, according to Gizmodo.

In Texas, the Fort Bend Independent School District tasked a 40-member school safety advisory committee with evaluating school security enhancements for its 75 campuses and 76,000 students.

During a June board meeting, the committee, comprised of students, staff, parents, community members, security experts and two Ford Bend ISD trustees, proposed using facial recognition technology.

“If somebody makes a threat in the community, we could plug their face in and if they pass in front of any of our cameras it would give us an alert right away,” said Fort Bend ISD Police Chief David Rider, who presented the suggestion during the board meeting.

Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said any school considering facial recognition must consider who will have access to data, how such a system would be managed and whether students can opt out.

Fort Bend ISD trustees expect to vote on the technology and other security items during an Aug. 13 board meeting. If approved, the entire referendum could total $1.7 billion.

About the Author

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Amy Rock is the Campus Safety Web Editor. She graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a minor in Education.

She has worked in the publishing industry since 2011, in both events and digital marketing.

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2 responses to “School Districts Consider Facial Recognition to Improve Security”

  1. Steve says:

    WHY? Seems like a waste of money especially since most of the shooting are from students that ATTEND the school. All the program will do is recognize “Jimmy” as being authorized on campus not that he has a backpack filled with ammo and guns.
    Need more suitable programs…Increased resource officers, video monitoring of approaching personnel, stricter guidelines to what can be brought into school, homework via internet so books aren’t needed. etc. etc..

  2. ARMANDO Seay says:

    Most of tge technology on the market today used a set of training data for facial Recognition based on a standard set of characteristics. This training set does have some built in bias factors that leads to a degree of false positives that must be mitigated by a human. More importantly the new technologies hitting the market such as Kogniz take a different approach yo the machine learning and AI capabilities in the camera that increase accuracy of recognition.

    Also important is the ability of the new cameras entering the market to recognize movements that could indicate a violent event in progress. This type of capability makes cameras a proactive threat mitigator rather than a witness to an event and an after action forensic tool.

    Schools can reduce overhead and technology total cost of ownership by using cloud based solutions that eliminate the cost of servers and DVRs. The ability to share live video with first responders using tablets, iPhones and android devices is important. There are gateway solutions that will bridge surveillance systems in schools with those of police departments as well – eliminating the need to have a single vendor solution for shared video to be implemented. Police can then assess what is going on using live feeds and determine the best courses of action during an active shooter event.

    As always, cyber security must play a role to ensure secure video distribution and monitoring by authorized personnel only. Schools must kniw where the data being collected by cameras is going at all times. Data loss prevention tools can track this information and help prevent unauthorized downloads, uploads and forwarding.

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