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NYCLU Statement on Facial Recognition in Schools Moratorium

NEW YORK – Today the New York legislature passed a moratorium on the use of biometric identification technologies in schools, effective until 2022. The bill, A06787-D/S05140-B, further directs the commissioner of education to conduct a study on the use of biometric identifying technology. The Lockport City School District turned on a facial recognition system in January this year, which is the subject of an ongoing NYCLU lawsuit against the New York State Education Department.

In response, the NYCLU issued the following statement from Deputy Director of the Education Policy Center, Stefanie Coyle:

“We’ve said for years that facial recognition and other biometric surveillance technologies have no place in schools, and this is a monumental leap forward to protect students from this kind of invasive surveillance. Schools should be an environment where children can learn and grow, and the presence of a flawed and racially-biased system constantly monitoring students makes that impossible.

“This is especially important as schools across the state begin to acknowledge the experiences of Black and Brown students being policed in schools and funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline. Facial recognition is notoriously inaccurate especially when it comes to identifying women and people of color. For children, whose appearances change rapidly as they grow, biometric technologies’ accuracy is even more questionable. False positives, where the wrong student is identified, can result in traumatic interactions with law enforcement, loss of class time, disciplinary action, and potentially a criminal record.

“New York schools should never dedicate funding to speculative surveillance technology when the need for resources in the classroom and remote-learning settings are so direly needed.

“We urge Governor Cuomo to sign this bill immediately and as is, to make sure that if students return in person to schools in Lockport in the fall they won’t be exposed to the collection of their student data or the dangers of school surveillance.”

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