DECEMBER 11, 2005. Below, you’ll find an excellent article by
Catherine Komp on federal funding of covert and overt surveillance
in American schools. The article is posted at newstandardnews.net.

Feds to Fund Controversial School Surveillance
by Catherine Komp
In what some allege is a thinly veiled attempt to normalize
surveillance, a federal agency is pumping more money into Big
Brother programs that track students despite declining needs for
school security.

Nov 29 – As debate over government surveillance rages in adult
society, the US Department of Justice is quietly enticing school
districts to implement controversial technologies that monitor and
track students.

Critics fear these efforts will normalize electronic surveillance at
an early age, conditioning young people to accept privacy violations
while creating a market for companies that develop and sell
surveillance systems.

A few of the nation’s schools are already running pilot programs to
monitor students’ movements using radio frequency identification
(RFID). The highly controversial programs, implemented in the name
of student protection, see pupils wearing tags around their necks
and submitting themselves to electronic scanning as they enter and
leave school property.

Now, a new federal grant could lure more districts into using these
or similar technologies.

Even though school violence is at its lowest rate in a decade,
according to the federal government’s own statistics, the Justice
Department’s “School Safety Technologies” grants will be distributed
to schools that develop proposals in four broadly defined areas:
integrated physical security systems, bus-fleet monitoring systems,
low-level force devices and school safety training.

In its call for the grant proposals, the National Institute of
Justice (NIJ) – an arm of the Justice Department – says the money
will be distributed to schools proposing “effective technology
solutions to protect the students, teachers, school personnel, and
the educational infrastructure from criminal activities,
particularly crimes of violence.”

The NIJ states that the current systems used in schools are costly,
invasive, labor intensive, and “objectionable to various segments of
the community.” The Department’s vision for improvements are
“integrated physical security systems,” which would include
“non-obtrusive sensors” to detect drugs and weapons, as well as to
track students, staff, visitors, and intruders on school grounds. It
also asks applicants to develop systems that enable law enforcement
personnel to track the time and place that students enter and exit
school buses.

In one of the more controversial areas of the grant solicitation,
the NIJ states that “non-cooperative” identification and tracking is
preferred over a “cooperative” system. A non-cooperative
identification system captures and tracks personal or biometric data
automatically, without a person knowing that they have been screened
by a surveillance system.

Catherine Sanders, a spokesperson with the NIJ, would not elaborate
on the specific technology that could be proposed to qualify for the
grant money. She said doing so would create an uneven playing field
for applicants. However, the types of technology solutions described
by the NIJ are similar to RFID surveillance and biometric data
programs. Companies that manufacture these products often describe
“cooperative and non-cooperative tracking” components of their systems.

Maximum-security Schools
Such technologies have already been implemented in some school
districts. North of Houston, Texas, 16,000 elementary students in
the Spring Independent School District wear RFID tags, embedded with
chips that indicate their locations on a computerized map. The
school also has 750 surveillance cameras mounted throughout its
facilities, with plans to install 300 more.

In New York, RFID systems are also being used in schools. The
Brockport Central School District in northern New York is testing
school bus fleet monitoring with GPS technology and scanning
students IDs as they enter and exit the bus. Students at the
Enterprise Charter School in Buffalo wave their RFID tags in front
of two kiosks at the school entrance which automatically transmit
attendance to teachers and administrators.

The use of RFID tracking technology in schools is troubling to
electronic privacy advocates. They say it further compromises the
already minimal civil rights of students while reinforcing a
demeaning environment that erodes trust and respect between young
people and adults.

Lee Tien, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, a public-interest organization, believes the increasing
use of RFID technology in schools could affect how the public views
surveillance.”It creates an atmosphere where you normalize the use
of surveillance technology… [and] the idea that you should accept
that you are being tracked,” said Tien.

Katherine Albrecht, director of the group Consumers Against
Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) and author of
Spychips : How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your
Every Move with RFID, is also concerned about technological
surveillance in schools. She says RFID companies are targeting
captive audiences with their products. “They’re going for prisons,
they’re going for the schools; they’re going for the military;
they’re going for the people who are not in a position to say ‘no’,”
Albrecht told The NewStandard. “And who is less in a position to say
‘no’ than a child? I think it’s absolutely unconscionable,
absolutely unethical.”

The NIJ also asks grant applicants to develop proposals for
“low-level force devices.”New York City Detective Kevin Czartorysky
says low-level force, or non-lethal devices currently used by law
enforcement include batons, mace, pepper spray, beanbag launchers,
and Taser electroshock weapons. However, he adds that these devices
would likely draw sharp criticism if used in schools.

The NIJ says candidate weapons should be “inherently safe, causing
no long-term or permanent injury” and “should also not engender
objection from the public, the media or government.”

The Safest Place to Be
While school administrators justify the use of RFID and other
high-tech systems to protect children and facilities, some question
whether more security in schools is even necessary.

Frank Zimring, a University of California at Berkley law professor
and author of several books on youth violence, says that whether
adolescents are rich or poor, school is the safest place they can
be. Indeed, crime in school has been falling since the early 1990s.

According to information released by the federal Bureau of Justice
Statistics in late November, one percent of students reported being
a victim of violence in school. Between July 2001 and June 2002,
there were seventeen homicides and five suicides on school property
for school-aged youth in the United States between the ages of five
and 19. The study also found declining rates of school fights, lower
percentages of students bringing weapons to school and less overall
fear at school. “If you try to create too much security in a school
setting, you’re going to make it a branch of the law enforcement
enterprise instead of a branch of the educational enterprise,” said

Federal Government and RFID
The government’s use of RFID technology is expanding. The US
government has used RFID technology in Department of Defense for
more than two decades, and this year, the Department of Homeland
Security started a pilot program to track immigrants by putting RFID
chips in visas.

But the money flows both ways. Accenture, a global consulting and
technology company that specializes in RFID, was the top business
services contributor during the 2004 election cycle, with its owners
and employees giving approximately $778,589 to federal candidates,
69 percent of which went to Republicans, according to the Center for
Responsive Politics. And Deloitte & Touche, a global accounting and
consulting company that helps companies implement RFID technologies,
gave more than $2.2 million to candidates in the 2004 cycle, 71
percent to Republicans.

An explanation for the increasing use of RFID technology by federal
bodies could be found in a government document discovered by
CASPIAN, the RFID watchdog group – and it may have less to do with
actual need than with supporting the private interests that support
politicians. A December 2004 bulletin from the General Services
Administration, which manages federal purchasing, encourages
agencies “to consider action that can be taken to advance the
industry by demonstrating the long-term intent of the agency to
adopt RFID technological solutions.”

In a statement released shortly after the bulletin was discovered,
Albrecht criticized the government for finding “excuses to purchase
and promote controversial technology at taxpayers’ expense.”

The deadline for the federal “School Safety Technologies” grant
applications was November 25, and the full review and approval
process takes six to eight months. NIJ spokesperson Sanders would
not say how much funding will be made available or disclose the
number of proposals received.

Meanwhile, Tien and Albrecht continue to raise awareness about what
they see as the dangers of tracking technology and the lowering
threshold for permissible government surveillance. “The burden of
proof is no longer on someone who wants to institute surveillance,
but rather on those who object to it,” Tien told TNS with regret.
“And I think that’s a big change in the way people look at social
privacy.” Albrecht believes that today’s adults – as members of the
last generations to enjoy privacy and anonymity – have a huge
responsibility in fighting for responsible uses of technology. “If a
generation of school children grows up accepting as perfectly normal
the idea that someone would and should be able to watch and keep
track of where you are, as adults those people are going to have no
concept whatsoever of the kind of privacy that you and I take for
granted,” said Albrecht. “And that would be a huge loss.”

end newstandardnews.net article

JON RAPPOPORT www.nomorefakenews.com


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