The New York Department of Education has permanently banned the use of facial recognition technology in schools—the first state to do so, Education Week reports. While it's too early to know if other states will follow New York's lead, the state's new policy should serve as a reminder to educators that they should proceed with caution when it comes to implementing facial recognition technology and any other tech that gathers biometric data on students, say experts in school security and student data privacy. They advise schools to scrutinize the claims made by vendors of these technologies and be aware of their drawbacks—in particular when it comes to student data privacy and school climate. New York's ban comes as companies that sell such technologies have amped up their marketing to school districts, said Kenneth Trump of National School Safety and Security Services, a consulting firm.
"Schools have been using the COVID recovery funds to buy security equipment and hardware because they have that pot of money that doesn't come from the district operating budget," he said. "But they have been used to solve political and community relation problems, not so much school safety problems. When there is gun use or confiscation on campus, we see school boards and superintendents make knee-jerk decisions and play to the emotional security needs of parents and staff." Taking a more deliberate approach to school safety can be easier said than done. School leaders are under immense pressure to make their campuses safe from gun violence. There have been 33 school shootings in 2023 that resulted in injuries or deaths, says a database maintained by Education Week, and 177 total since 2018. High-tech solutions such as facial and weapons recognition technology—which is powered by artificial intelligence—can be an alluring solution for school boards and superintendents looking to reassure parents that their school campuses are safe, said Trump.