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Guest Thinkers

Surveillance society, safe schools

[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

Metal detectors. Dog sniffs. Networked surveillance cameras. Bar

codes. Swipe cards. Biometrics. Thermal imaging. Wire taps and

electronic communication monitoring. Blood and urine testing. Cell

phone, pager, and transit card tracking. Radio frequency identification

(RFID) tags. Facial recognition software. GPS tracking. Correlation of

disparate online databases. Microchip implantation. National identity

cards. Everyware. And so on…

We are rapidly approaching a time where every move – every action – can be monitored, archived, and correlated. The right of privacy precious to many is rapidly disappearing as we trade it for safety and convenience. The surveillance society is right around the corner, if it’s not already here.

On the school front, many administrators dispense with students’ 4th

Amendment rights in the name of ‘safety.’ They know what the law says,

but community pressures or perceived dangers outweigh Constitutional

rights. Many of these administrators are in schools with no history of

violence or threats. But Columbine freaked everyone out – if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere – so anything goes when it comes to student rights.

Benjamin Franklin

said, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little

Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” The United

States Supreme Court, in West Virginia Board of Ed. v. Barnette,

said, “That they are educating the young for citizenship is reason for

scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if

we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.”

As leaders, we should be discussing these issues – with each other,

with our communities, with our students. Do we really want to live in a

surveillance society? Do we still care about the 4th Amendment right to

be free from suspicionless search? What is the proper balance between

legitimate concern and undifferentiated fear? What kind of world do we want to leave for our children?


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