More than a dozen rights groups and education organizations wrote a letter urgently calling on the Department of Education (DOE) to take a stance on controversial student monitoring software, which they say violates students’ privacy and threatens to undermine hard-fought civil rights gains.
Digital rights and privacy experts shared similar concerns with Gizmodo and claimed these technologies, often implemented in the name of safety, actually make schools less safe for students. The letter comes on the heels of newly-released research from The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) which claims a staggering 89% of U.S. teachers report using software capable of tracking their students’ online activity.
The organizations, which includes the CDT, American Civil Liberties Union, and American Association of School Librarians, claim these monitoring tools, which exploded in use during the pandemic and have gained favor as a means of safety following the horrific Uvalde, Texas school shooting, are “often used in ways that discriminate against protected groups of students.”
The groups cite the new CDT research, claiming the continued prevalence of monitoring software (often used even after normal school hours) can exacerbate disproportionately racial school disciplining, lead to increased student interactions with law enforcement for people of color, result in the “outing” of LGBTQ+ students, stifle speech, and exacerbate students’ mental health struggles. All of these factors, the groups argue, are more likely to affect low-income students and students of color, who previous research has shown are more likely to use school-provided technology.
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