Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Surveillance of Children: Good Idea?

On September 17, the House passed the "School Safety Enhancements Act of 2008." Passed by a voice vote, at a time lots of other things were happening.

Sounds like a good thing, right? Promoting "school safety", especially in these "dangerous times", what with student killings, etc. On the other hand, there really is something sinister about federally sponsoring surveillance of children in schools. And why does it have to be federally mandated? Can't school districts tailor their own security according to their own needs?

School Safety Enhancements Act of 2007 - Amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to: (1) allow the placement and use of surveillance equipment in schools under the matching grant program for public elementary and secondary school security; (2) allow the use of grant funds to establish hotlines or tiplines for reporting potentially dangerous students and situations and for making capital improvements to make school facilities more secure; (3) set the federal matching share of program costs at 80%; and (4) revise application requirements for school security grants.

Requires the Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Secretary of Education to establish an interagency task force to develop and promulgate advisory school safety guidelines.

Amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 to require each institution of higher education participating in any program under title IV (Student Assistance) of that Act to: (1) conduct an annual campus safety assessment in consultation with local law enforcement officials; and (2) develop and implement a campus emergency response plan that addresses a comprehensive set of emergency situations, including natural disasters, active shooter situations, and terrorism.

The latter "emergency response plan" reminds me of my childhood safety drills, which included (now my age rears its head over Alaska and points south) air raid drills and what to do in case a telephone/electricity pole falls down - and "terrorism" is a safety issue, not to mention "active shooters", which was a thing we didn't hear about back in the Precambrian when I went to school.

And the latter paragraph refers to "higher education" where the word "children" doesn't exactly apply. But the issue here is that children will be under surveillance all across the country, and the law enforcement-school relationship doesn't need the federal government to mandate it in order to work. Law enforcement and schools should establish their own relationships in each community without there being strong federal mandates and coordination. Why? Because doing so makes a network that could be used for somehow "other purposes", and it gives us that feeling that the government is trying to control us unnecessarily.

Citizens in communities should be able to handle their own schools and police. What happened in Columbine was not because of lack of surveillance. The issues are much deeper than that, and surveillance and police-state tactics only exacerbate the marginalizing of students who may need more love and attention.

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