CLASP Joins Dozens of Groups Demanding Ban on Federal Funding of AI-Powered School Surveillance

Washington, DC, March 18, 2024—CLASP and dozens of other civil rights organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) today demanding a total ban on federal funding for school surveillance systems that rely on algorithms and other AI-enabled technology for predictive policing and other harmful practices that further criminalize Black and brown youth. 

These groups have formed the NOTICE, or No Tech Criminalization in Education, Coalition in response to the growing expansion of AI-enabled technology and surveillance systems to collect and analyze student data, including those derived from personal and family records, cell phone location data, facial recognition, and social media accounts. In addition to requesting a ban on both grant funding and agency appropriations funds for school surveillance, the coalition has also asked ED to provide guidance to school districts on how to evaluate algorithmic technology for racial bias and take action against the unlawful and discriminatory use of AI against students. 

“We are alarmed by the growing use of surveillance technologies to expand police presence in schools and expose students to greater police contact, exclusionary discipline, and school pushout,” the letter states. “We view these developments as a dangerous new chapter in the school-to-prison pipeline and mass criminalization of Black, brown, and Indigenous youth and other marginalized young people.

Research shows that such security and “school-hardening” measures are not necessarily keeping students safe. In fact, the evidence shows that students in schools with expanded surveillance face harsher discipline and experience worse academic outcomes. AI-driven school surveillance technologies run the risk of increasing contact between students and law enforcement and contribute to the schools-to-prison pipeline, which disproportionately harms Black and brown youth, LBGTQIA+ students, and those with disabilities.

Community advocates and technologists have also raised questions about the scientific validity of these technologies, given that many lack independent assessment and are often rooted in histories of scientific racism. The coalition notes that because police surveillance technologies present a direct threat to the civil and human rights of youth and young adults from historically marginalized communities, immediate federal action is necessary.