State Pushes New York School to Revise its Security Policy

The chief privacy officer for the New York State Education Department presented the Lockport School Board with proposed revisions to its facial recognition surveillance system policy.

by Connor Hoffman, Lockport Union-Sun & Journal / December 12, 2019

(TNS) — The Lockport school board was presented with proposed revisions to its facial recognition surveillance system policy designed to fulfill policy recommendations made by the New York State Education Department last month.

NYSED has forbid the Lockport district from turning on the system until the district properly deals with the state department’s concerns about student privacy.

Temitope Akinyemi, the chief privacy officer for the New York State Eduction Department, wrote to Lockport Superintendent Michelle Bradley saying that if the changes, which further clarify students won’t be in the system database, are made then the state education department will allow the district to use its facial and object recognition system.

At the Wednesday board meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Lisa Schrader outlined the major changes being proposed.

Schrader said a scope section was added to the beginning of the policy clarifying that no students would be put in the database.

On the second page, it is being proposed to add the board of education president as a person that would receive a notification.

Schrader said that another change was the addition of law enforcement personnel and school security officers to the database.

“So, they would be more easily recognized when they are in our buildings providing support in the event an emergency happens,” Schrader said.

Trustee Edward Sandell, who is also the chair of the policy committee, observed this would help law enforcement because they would be able to know where other law enforcement officers are.

With Wednesday’s meeting, the policy revisions were presented to the school board for a first reading, and they will be read for a second time in January, where they can be passed if the board chooses to. If the board passes the revisions, the revised policy would be sent to NYSED for its review.

In the letter, Akinyemi said they wanted a scope section at the beginning of the policy and language in the Maintenance of Databases section, both to clarify that student data will not be created or maintained by the district’s use of the system. Akinyemi also wanted language changed in the “privacy” section of the policy, which deals with sharing information with law enforcement or other governmental authorities, to clarify that this language does not apply to students.

“With these additional revisions, the department believes that the Education Law §2-d issues it has raised to date relating to the impact on the privacy of students and student data appear to be addressed,” Akinyemi wrote. “However, the department recommends that the district work with its local counsel to ensure that all other applicable laws and regulations are met and that the civil rights of all individuals are also protected when it comes to the District’s use of technology. We thank you for your cooperation throughout this process and please continue to provide us with any updates on the use of such technology in your schools.”

The district used $1.4 million of the $4.2 million allocated to it through New York’s Smart Schools Bond Act to acquire and install one of the first facial and object recognition security systems in an American school. The system relies on the Aegis software suite created by Canadian-based SN Technologies.

The facial recognition software works by using a database of flagged individuals and sending an alert to district personnel when a flagged person is detected on school property. The object recognition portion of the system would alert law enforcement as well if a weapon is detected.

©2019 the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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