Lockport City Schools need protocols for new facial recognition security system

Sep 5, 2018

The Lockport City School District welcomed back students Wednesday for the new school year, but a new, controversial security software system is not fully in place.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says it involves Facial recognition and tracking software. 

In the parking lot of Lockport High School you can see a new outside surveillance camera above a back entrance door. The district is one of the first in the nation to use this in schools. The security software already in some airports and casinos. But one parent is outraged at privacy issues for the Lockport Schools.

In parking lot of Lockport High School you can see a new outside surveillance camera.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“It’s just a violation of privacy that no one talked to parents about,” stated  Jim Schultz. His daughter is a sophomore at Lockport High School.

Schultz tells WBFO News the system would constantly record students with digital cameras.

“The system was pitched to the district as a way to keep bad people out of the buildings. What no body admitted until the very end was that this is going to be a set of 300-cameras that are going to be constantly filming students and the teachers in the halls, in every school in the district, and at any point in the future, that somebody, whether it’s the school district or the police or anyone else – they can literally go back and create a map of who hung out with who in the halls,” explained Schutlz. 

Lockport Superintendent Michelle Bradley declined an interview, but issued a statement in an email to our newsroom saying the district must finalize protocols for use.   

"The system is in the process of being installed, and the District is likewise in the process of finalizing protocols in relation to the use and operation of the system.  The District believes that the system will be fully installed by the end of September.  However, the system will not go "live" until some point thereafter, and only once the District has finalized and adopted the relevant protocols and has adequately tested the system," Superintendent Bradley wrote. 

Outside Lockport High School.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

The District purchased the system from a Canadian company spending over $2-million of state funds from the Smart Schools bond Act. 

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia tells WBFO they are making sure Lockport tackles those privacy issues.

“That they have in place the privacy concerns addressed that we know are necessary and so that is all part of our guidance that we are working with them to understand the importance of that,” Eila responded.

The New York Civil Liberties Union responding to the use of the system saying “schools should be safe places for students to learn, not spaces where they are constantly surveilled.”