Do schools need facial recognition?

Facial recognition technology has a lot of potential, but is there really a place for it in schools?
24 July 2018

Do school students need the security that facial recognition technology offers? Source: Shutterstock

When you hear about facial recognition, you think of all the ways the technology can help the police identify criminals in a crowd.

In many parts of the world, people are also slowly beginning to accept the use of facial recognition technology to electronically authenticate citizens and legal residents.

However, thinking of employing the technology in your child’s school, albeit to keep them safe, might be a tough pill to swallow – but it’s exactly what the Lockport City School District in New York plans to do.

Obviously, it’s fuelled a debate about the system’s potential effectiveness, student privacy, and civil rights.

On one hand, facial recognition technology can check each face against a database of expelled students, sex offenders, and other possible troublemakers to ensure that only the right people gain access to the gated communtity.

In light of the shootings in schools in recent years, parents and the academic community might vote to allow it.

On the other hand, there’s the threat that schools might use the technology and the system to track students across the campus, profile them, and treat them differently based on these profiles.

Further, there’s also the fear that schools might collect and store the data from their facial recognition systems and then trade them with the government – which will have its own set of repercussions.

In light of Lockport’s plans, the New York Civil Liberties Union has asked the state’s education department to ban the technology from schools, saying it would “have a chilling effect on school climate.”

According to media, education officials are reviewing the request.

“Lockport is sending the message that it views students as potential criminals who must have their faces scanned wherever they go,” said Stefanie Coyle, Education Counsel and John Curr III, Director, NYCLU.

The two NYCLU executives further pointed out that if the databases linked up to the system include those used for immigration enforcement, it could make parents of immigrant students afraid to send their children to school.

“Our freedom of information request is designed, in part, to get to the bottom of these important questions. All students in New York State have a right to an education regardless of immigration status, but that right is put in danger if families are scared to go to school,” NYCLU’s executives said.

In conclusion, although it seems like a great idea to use facial recognition technology to make schools infinitely safer, there are several challenges and forces at play that might force educators to re-think their plan.