ADELAIDE, Australia – An Australian criminology professor is warning about the perils of school surveillance in a recent scholarly journal article detailing its increased use in the United States and abroad.
“An estimated 1.28 million students are fingerprinted in the UK, largely for daily registration purposes; there is an excess of 106,000 closed-circuit television cameras installed in English, Welsh and Scottish secondary schools; while students in a USA high school use pedometers to ensure that they meet their gym class’s physical activity requirement,” associate professor Andrew Hope told Phys.org.
Hope is the head of the Department of Gender Studies and Social Analysis at the University of Adelaide in Australia. Hope, a criminologist, recently published research in the British Journal of Sociology of Education that shows intrusive school surveillance practices are now the norm in U.K. and U.S. schools, and he’s calling on Australian education officials to think twice before simply following their lead.
“In most cases, school surveillance initiatives are introduced to protect students, and while the safety of children is important, we must not lose sight of their rights to privacy,” Hope told the news site.
“Excessive use of surveillance devices can threaten the values of a progressive education, undermine trust, stigmatize individuals and limit the potential for student engagement.”
Hope provided examples of how surveillance technology is already being used in Australia.
“In Melbourne, some primary school students who walk or cycle are required to swipe a card when they arrive to school, which generates an automatic email notifying parents, and dataveillance (surveillance using data) has been used to estimate student disengagement and dropout rates,” Hope said, according to Phys.org.
In the U.S., an increasing number of grade and high schools now require students to scan their palms or fingers to track food purchases, while others are using facial recognition and recording knuckles and other physical features during online courses.
In many cases, people simply go along with surveillance until it becomes inconvenient, but allowing it to creep into one aspect of life opens the door to more surveillance in other aspects in the future, Hope said.
“Surveillance is largely used to reduce people’s fear of crime and disorder. Many have differing views about the level of surveillance they think is appropriate, but generally people largely ignore surveillance technologies in their everyday lives until they intrude in a negative manner,” he told Phys.org.
“Discussion in educational communities is required prior to new monitoring technologies being introduced into Australian schools,” he said. “This is not only because of the possible impact on schools but also as these intrusive devices then find their way into work and public places.”
In America, however, decisions about school surveillance and student data collection are often made with no input from the public, whatsoever.
And perhaps the biggest U.S. school surveillance effort was adopted by education officials in nearly all states without public discussion or major debate.
National Common Core education standards incentivized by the federal government and adopted by most states requires school officials to collect data on students – from medical information to their favorite colors – and forward the information to the U.S. Department of Education.
According to Truth in American Education, “The National Education Data Model includes over 400 data points, including health history, disciplinary history, family income range, voting status, religious affiliation, and on and on.”