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Lockport to Abide State Ban on Facial Recognition in Schools

Three years after Lockport City School District purchased a facial- and object-recognition system from Aegis, state legislation has put a moratorium on the technology, and the district is complying.

(TNS) — Lockport was the only public school district in New York state to employ facial recognition technology for security purposes, having bought the Aegis software-powered facial and object recognition system that operated through school security cameras.

While the system was turned on in in January of 2020, by June 2020, the Civili Liberties Union had sued the New York State Education Department in an attempt to turn it off. That suit was made moot by a moratorium on the technology.

The cost of Aegis was $2.7 million and was paid through the state Smart Schools Bond Act of 2015 grant, a grant totaled at $4.2 million, that was received by the district.

"I think this will affect things on a national level," Jim Shultz, longtime opponent of Lockport's system and grandparent of a Lockport student, said. "If I'm a superintendent and I'm approached by someone selling facial recognition software, I'll be able to see what a mistake it was and not go through it."

Ultimately Shultz said Lockport "didn't do its homework" and that the state did.

Assemblyman Monica Wallace, D-Lancaster, was a co-writer of the legislation that led to the statewide moratorium. Upon Wednesday's decision, she released a press release which read, "I applaud New York State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa for her decision to ban the use of facial recognition technology in schools statewide.

"This was the right decision and in the best interests of students in New York. The commissioner's decision follows the recommendation of the Office of Information Technology Services in a recently issued report, which found that the risks and potential harms from using facial recognition technology in schools far outweigh any potential benefits."

Meanwhile, in Lockport, newly hired Superintendent Mathis Calvin III said he would continue to follow state regulations, particularly when it came to facial technology.

"The Lockport City School District will follow Commissioner Rosa's determination," he said. "We have not been using the facial recognition system and we have no plans to at this time."

©2023 the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.