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Schools are using unproven surveillance technology to monitor students (propublica.org)
178 points by howard941 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 131 comments



When I was in school they would monitor everything that you did on the computer and then when the students attempted to get around the blocks with simple proxies, they would have to get new proxies each day as they were banned.

I personally was one of the people who was supplying new proxies to students at the school, and they went after me taking away my ability to connect to the internet using my login for the remaining years of my high school experience. I eventually had to use other peoples logins (with their permission of course) to be able to continue using the computers at the school.

All this is to say, if you try to create a surveillance system at any given school, kids will find a way to not engage with it or fight back if they are able. People in the discussion below aren't giving the kids enough credit to stand up for themselves.


Yes but cameras and microphones are different than network monitoring. The monitoring of computers is individualized, whereas cameras monitor groups. It might seem minor to some, but the presence of cameras in british schools is really changing things for the good.

American schools use cameras to look into crimes. They are not generally accessible immediately by teachers, but many British schools now have very elaborate camera systems designed for immediate use. When two kids get into a fight there is little debate about who started it. Teachers can, within minutes, have the footage on a tablet at their desk. Having that unbiased video evidence immediately at hand radically changes bullying prevention. Some kids and most parents may not like cameras, but that kid who is afraid for his or her physical safety wants those cameras working.

Microphones are a more sensitive issue, but I could see them being equally effective in addressing harassment. They would need different protections, perhaps a 30min recording limit, but there is potential.


That sounds absolutely horrific. The distinction between individual and group monitoring is nothing but window dressing. You still monitor every kid all the time, its just currently not analyzed that way, at least publicly. And kids know that they are constantly monitored. Great Britain is becoming more and more the chilling example of a western style police state.


Honest question: since you think absolute surveillance in schools is beneficial, what about society at large? Should we have cameras in every possible corner of the world as a crime deterrent? If not, what should be the cutoff? Schools only? All places with a high density of kids?


People want safety. There are multiple ways to achieve that, electronic surveillance is just a lazy/economical way of doing it with a not insignificant civil liberty cost. If you aren’t being hurt, you might think that cost is too great, if you are being hurt, you won’t.

So I guess as a society, we should try to provide safety, and if surveillance isn’t desirable, we have to be willing to pay higher costs for another solution (eg fewer students per class so teachers can pay attention to bullying).


Schools are not society as a whole, and they are subject to a great many rules and procedures that make cameras very different than those on the street. Schools are already heavily surveilled, by teachers if nobody else. Kids cannot leave, and they are subject to codes of behavior far more restrictive than in wider society. Those codes of behavior are not enforced with jail time. The cameras, in the british model, are also not used to catch behavior. They are used after an incident has been reported by other means. And they are administered very locally, by school staff who know everyone by name, not cops. It is an entirely different paradigm.


This will just train bullies to pick on their fellow students in the bathrooms, locker rooms, etc. where no cameras are present, not actually fix the problem.


Why assume that there will be no cameras in locker rooms or bathrooms? If they aren't literally in such places, they do monitor who goes in and out.

I have actually read about a camera system for locker rooms that would use image recognition to blur nakedness. Another system blurred everything other than faces and the static background. We are far from being OK with such things in schools, but they are out there for more secure areas.


The problem with bullying isn't in figuring out who was involved in incidents, it's that it's a he-said she-said issue as to who's the bully and who's the victim, or if it happened at all, barring some kind of physical evidence. Knowing that Bob and Charlie both go in to the locker room doesn't tell you the truth of the story when Bob says Charlie was bullying him.


When a system like that is hacked and the unblurred images of pre-teens undressing are published online, and one or more kill themselves over it, will it have been worth it?


Also, those leaked images can be used for bullying and blackmailing.


Even knowledge of the existence of such a system could be used to bully people. If the victim knows that such a system is in place, then the bully can claim to possess imagery from the system. The system's public existence bolsters the plausibility of the claim. Fear of the system leaking becomes a source of terror.


You don't avoid doing something because a third party might kill themselves. That's on them. The answer is to not kill yourself.

One of the most obvious causes of suicide is newspaper reporting on other suicides. The reporting is allowed anyway.


Ignoring the probable outcomes of your actions is willful ignorance, and rather callous toward those around you.

I hope your never in a position of power over youth or vulnerable people, as your mindset could cause severe harm to people undeserving of such treatment.


How can there be any protection from the psychological stress of knowing that everything you do is recorded and can be used against you and there are no safe places of refuge? Are we not training the youth to accept the insinuation of violence by authority figures when they graduate?


Talk to a kid who has been hospitalized by other students and still has to sit beside those persons every day because there wasn't enough evidence to punish them. Talk to the teachers who now wear body armor (not a joke) to protect themselves from violent students. Documentation of attacks is the first step in their eventual mitigation.

https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/ottawa-educators-o...


I don't doubt that some kids are shitty and sneaky, but taking more aggressive measures should be in response to a complaint and time limited. Kids have human rights too.


When I was at school, the fights were either behind the school building or sometimes in front of it, but usually not inside. So installing microphones and cameras inside won't change anything. The bully will just say to a student: "Let's talk after school, if you are not a chicken".


I'm glad I got bullied instead of going to a school like that.


I did the exact same thing! I somehow managed to combine PHProxy with Wordpress and a plugin that would let me charge users through PayPal. If my domain got blocked, I'd just buy a new .info domain and email it to all my users. I even had a teacher who paid me for an account. My proxy was especially popular because it worked for YouTube and MySpace, and it was hard to find web proxies that consistently supported the both of those.


I found it ridiculous that we had search keyword monitoring that prevented researching the Ku Klux Klan which we had to study in history.


That was by far the worst part, when your keyword search got you called to the deans office. Never happened to me, but this one kid I knew got grilled by the dean and a police officer because of his search history once. If I remember correctly he had googled "DeathBomb Arc" which is the name of a record label[0] in order to look up when a band he liked was touring. The dean and the police officer repeatedly refused to believe that he wasn't up to something.

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deathbomb_Arc


We used to have so much fun with this in school. Wrote scripts to disable the surveillance software, proxy our traffic over SSH, exploit permissions gaps to help students run games on school laptops, etc..

Even discovered that the "teacher" version of the software could be used for complete surveillance and control of every student computer on the network.

Despite doing nothing malicious, I was reprimanded heavily for describing to the principal the severity of the issue after other kids were caught doing less than savory things with it.

I learned something then. And it seems the "real world" isn't much different.


One of my schools was naive in believing that Windows Firewall would suffice to prevent kids from playing multiplayer games so long as student accounts had restricted rights preventing them from toggling the firewall. What they didn't know was that a simple Batch script I wrote could easily switch off the firewall, so I distributed it to all my friends so the games continued. We played Halo, Counter Strike, Doom, and Unreal Tournament all year.

I have another story related to yours. Myself and 3 friends were taking a programming class in high school, and one of them discovered that the screen casting software that teachers used(which also functioned as surveillance software) could be "reversed" without admin access. Not only did he figure out how to spy on everyone's screens, but during class he managed to cast his screen to everyone in the school, including teachers who were using their projectors to do lectures. It was pretty funny, and I don't remember how he did it. This was in New Zealand, so while the school officials were extremely pissed, he didn't get expelled since what he did was fairly harmless and it exposed a serious flaw in the system. I imagine if this was happened in the United States, he'd have at least been expelled and possibly charged with a crime.


Ahh fun times! My principal specifically said that it was a good thing I was a minor. Oof.


My high school didn't block https traffic. The work around, literally, was to append an 's' after http. (Of course, that only worked for sites that implemented SSL, but a good number did at the time).


Yep, and I think it's easier than ever right now. School IT systems will often whitelist browsers including Chromium and its derivatives for installation without admin privileges. That means any student can download Brave, access Tor, and get to any site they want. All GUI, no hassle.


not with recaptcha in the way


> People in the discussion below aren't giving the kids enough credit to stand up for themselves.

People anywhere don't give children enough credit for how clever they can be at getting around stuffy rules.

I really hope parents take up this battle though. This is your job as a parent.


I remember I was in a small CS class in High School. It was a mix of hardware geeks and software geeks.

The teacher had a script which would turn off all our screens when she was giving lectures. One of my buddies (SW geek) developed this script which would get around the teachers script and turn our monitors back on, but it was buggy and didn't always work.

The Hardware geeks just unplugged their ethernet cables. Go figure.


This was being praised on NPR recently. The young host was ecstatically talking about how the CEO of some company says "we kinda gave up our rights to privacy with the digital age", and that these surveillance measures are able to spot trouble students.

The host then talked himself into making the comparison between this activity and how Russia treats surveillance, and confusedly asking his guest "wait, we're not like the Russians are we? That can't be right..." After some interaction, the host was eager to talk about the programs again.

Why are people so willing to give up their rights?


Why are people so willing to give up their rights?

A lot of people are very happy to lead docile, ignorant lives, and be "protected" from any (real or imagined) threats. I think it's mostly a "I'm not doing anything wrong, why should I care?" type of thinking. As the infamous saying goes,

"Those who give up freedom for security deserve neither."


> I'm not doing anything wrong, why should I care?

I always hate this, because we've seen all throughout history that legal wrong and moral wrong are different things. You can do something that is legally wrong and morally right. Lots of laws change for this reason. It is no longer illegal to have an interracial marriage. Or a gay marriage. I think part of this thinking is "we've come so far" but people don't realize those things weren't that long ago and similar things are happening today.


And people's definition of morally wrong also differs.

Even if the people in power now consider everything you're doing both morally and legally right, that could change when power changes hands, and the system you once supported can be turned against you.


Even when you're morally and legally in the right, sometimes people get harassed anyway. Lots of whistle-blowers have had their lives turned upside-down for doing the right thing.

Too few people understand that privacy protects the innocent as well, not only the guilty.


Laws also change the other way around. For the longest time it was not illegal to be Jewish, or a Roma. Or an intellectual or an activist.

I suggest seeing The Lives of Others, a beautiful film about East Germany’s surveillance and it’s influence on people.


The saying is "essential liberty for temporary security" and Ben Franklin was talking about taxes.

https://www.npr.org/2015/03/02/390245038/ben-franklins-famou...


He was talking about taxes, and the phrasing was different, the concept still applies.


Exactly. It’s true not because a particular authority said it; it’s true because it is true.


I know your question was half-rhetorical, but people as a group follow authority figures. Asserting one's rights requires self-actualization, correctly extrapolating narrow rights into actions that remain within the bounds of those rights, going against a "professional" who is in charge, going against the social herd (and your own mirror neurons) who are judging you for not simply complying, generally making your position worse off than if you had complied, and then repeatedly doing this hoping that it will catch on.

IMO the US style adversarial system where eg cops can outright lie to you to nullify your rights are mindlessly naive. Having to do all of the above is basically market inefficiency, with the default being set by only the regulations the professionals have to follow. In retrospect the ethos couldn't have been better designed to foster totalitarianism.

Straw men such as not being "like Russia" or "like China" just prop up the cognitive dissonance. That is what happened to that radio host who accidentally made the badthink connection between US surveillance and Russian surveillance.


> Why are people so willing to give up their rights?

Students have no rights. I find it despicable but it's a fact.


Children do have rights. And the parent is waiving their children's rights by putting them in garbage public school.


Or, you know, can’t afford the massive cost of private school or timesink of homeschooling?


If someone other than the child can waive those rights, then they never had rights[0] in the first place.

0: Or, more pedantically, the rights that are inalienable to them by virtue of being a person were never not violated. Or, more comprehendibly, they never had acknowledgement and enforcement[1] of those rights by the legal system.

1: I assume "children do have [acknowledgement and enforcement of their preexisting] rights" is what dgzl intended to convey.


It's not about public vs private.


People on NPR are specifically being paid to advance these viewpoints, so I wouldn't view them as representative. Meanwhile ad blockers are ubiquitous, indicating most people aren't "kinda" into giving up their privacy.


People block ads because ads are annoying. Those same people freely use cred cards and grocery loyalty cards.


Some do. Some don't.


“I want to believe.”

Do you have any evidence for that bold claim?



I meant the claim that "People on NPR are specifically being paid to advance these viewpoints."

I would expect that's difficult to support. Aside from, perhaps, guests that are funded by think tanks. Or, I suppose, even professors.


All this - being spied on 100% of the time - ostensibly to prevent something that has about a 1 in 600,000,000 chance of happening to you, ever. Oh but it must be a real and ever-present danger - I saw it on the news!

By that logic we should have facial recognition too, just to make sure JLo doesn't walk in. She's been all over the news for 20 years, so it must be an epidemic.

The critique in this article focuses on technological unreliability without addressing the profound wrongheadedness of the idea in the first place. Perhaps that's been discussed plenty elsewhere, but I for one could stand to have that part of the critique repeated ad infinitum until it sinks in.


The probability is orders of magnitude larger than this.

https://medium.com/@hellodonavon/what-are-the-chances-of-you...


What an utterly garbage article. "what are the chances that your child’s school will be in a shooting at some point in their life"? Why ask such an irrelevant, convoluted question* , instead of the obvious: what are you child's chances of being killed in a school shooting?

Because it turns out the chance for that is 1 in 35 thousand (per lifetime, not per year) [1]

[1] Using 118 school shooting deaths/year from 2018, which was the worst year ever, according to https://www.bbc.com/news/business-46507514, 13.41 mean years of schooling from http://data.uis.unesco.org/index.aspx?queryid=242, and 78.69 years life expectancy.

* Of course we all know why - because the author doesn't hesitate to mislead with creative statistics to push an agenda.

Edit, to add some context and explanation: Using mean_years_of_schooling/life_expectancy to get an estimate on the number of students in the USA. Now the chance of being killed in any homicide, in the same period of time as mean years of schooling, is 1 in 1400. 25-times larger. And homicides aren't close to the biggest killer: https://ourworldindata.org/uploads/2019/05/Causes-of-death-i...


1.5% lifetime chance of attending a school with a shooting. that's a super wide net. We almost all have friends who have been murdered or died in car accidents or cancer. 1.5% of merely knowing someone in a school shooting is tiny.


1/600,000,000 was made up and wrong, sorry


US students (general population as well) are way more stressed than students in other countries. Like way, way, way more stressed.

People respond to prolonged stress with aggression. Instead of doing surveillance, maybe think about ways to reduce student stress.

E.g. in Austria, the school is legally required to provide a day between two major tests (IIRC). In the US, lol, finals are crammed into like 3 days where you have major papers/projects due as well, so like 6 major things due in like 3 days is normal.

Maybe school is just supposed to prepare from being managed inefficiently.


The culture in many US schools is an adversarial mess where the teachers, administration, and students are in constant conflict over things that should be non-issues. There's often a sense that the primary purpose of school is to grind down any resistance to authority. Comparisons between school and prison aren't typical, but they're certainly not unheard of. Some schools have been known to lock/chain all side/rear exits during the school day to stop students from sneaking out (generally in blatant violation of fire code). Multiple school districts have had to settle lawsuits related to students being strip-searched.

In this culture the kind of system described by the article wasn't just predictable, it was utterly inevitable.


I grew up viewing school as prison. I was part of a program in elementary school which meant that I traveled to other schools regularly. My elementary and high schools were quite nice, but my middle school and the schools that I traveled to were very prison-like. The windows are small, and covered in metal bars or thick metal meshing.

Using the bathroom required permission that was often denied. Peeing between classes often meant penalties for being tardy (in middle/high school where you had 5 minutes to get between classes which may be a 4 minute walk apart, and teachers always had that one last thing to say). My middle school banned shoelaces for a while because of gang violence. I had a Spanish teacher who regularly handed out negative grades on tests (your grade would have been better if you hadn't showed up and taken a 0 on the test). I had a different spanish teacher who took it upon herself to regularly humiliate students who were doing poorly and lecture us about how we could never expect to get anywhere in life.

It wasn't all bad. I had a fantastic chemistry teacher and a great physics teacher. But there was a lot of bad.


"The windows are small, and covered in metal bars or thick metal meshing."

That's one thing I don't get in the US. The schools really look like prisons. Why not have windows and daylight?


I don’t know, but a lot of public sector buildings seem to be built in this way. Looming monolithic structures with little to no natural light, and grimy linoleum flooring. Visit your local city hall or similar. It’s weird because I’ve not experienced the same in the UK, where government buildings are usually (ignoring the beautiful historic ones) built more like any other modern office.


Much of the the US was built up in the 1960s. Architecture was brutal and hasn’t aged well.


My high school was designed by an architectural firm that litterly designed prisons for the state.


As was mine.


A neighboring school to my high school actually was a women's prison before it was repurposed as a high school.

That said, the architecture was actually quite nice, with lots of natural light and open space.


It was the ubiquitous architectural style mid-century. Combined with crime wave that has long since crashed.


>The windows are small, and covered in metal bars or thick metal meshing

Shouldn't that be banned by fire hazard regulations?


There seems to have been some disconnect where we’ve just decided that young people have no longer got any rights. For most cases your barometer for treating children ought to be “would I as an adult be okay being treated this way”. Children need more protection than adults, not less. Schools should be a place where children feel safe, not a place where they feel locked up. It’s no surprise that there’s a school-to-prison pipeline in the US when some schools resemble prisons so closely.


>There seems to have been some disconnect where we’ve just decided that young people have no longer got any rights.

Segregation happened. Much like racial divides, it's easier to see people you aren't exposed to on a daily basis as something less than human. That, and when people are expected to be less than human, they start acting like it (the lack of opportunity for personal development directly delays when it happens).

Children, of course, have it worse, because they don't know (and some never really figure it out) that they're getting screwed; the foundation of fighting for rights is knowing you should have them in the first place.

And while there may have been a good reason for this in the past (1910s industry was very far from being a pleasant place to work), safety regulations and the increased number of service/knowledge jobs relative to the more unpleasant ones (as well as safety regulations where applicable) as well as increased automation would make workplace apprenticeship programs much more viable. The political will (of the people who have rights) can't be changed unless they see those who they oppress like themselves, and showing that they can accomplish objectively useful things (not schoolwork) is a good way to do that.

Of course, the very task of creating programs that make children useful is significant, and we figure that school isn't that unpleasant for most, so [corporate humanity] will do nothing to change their status. We won't teach the children dissatisfied by the current system that there's something they can do about it either, because that would destabilize the system as it stands.

>Schools should be a place where children feel safe, not a place where they feel locked up.

The two are much more similar than you realize. The feeling of being locked up directly stems from the complete elimination of risk (i.e. the feeling of safety). And a school with no playground and no technical subjects where students are seen and not heard is a perfectly safe place, much like societies where the concept of risk is antithetical to the concept that individuals only exist to serve said society tend to have less violence but never actually prosper. Development requires risk.


I wonder if this might be a result of architectonic decisions. What if the architecture of the school made people in it behave more prison-like?

I think that another aspect of the us school system is the stampede during the breaks. Too many people moving at once.


One thing that sadly seems to apply is that despite all claims of justice and equality it is really all about power in terms of how societies actually judge and treat people - and children lack power. Society abolished corporal punishment in prisons before we abolished it in schools - how is that for being utterly fucked up?

Not to mention the unidirectionality of aging - once you age out you never have to worry about being subject to the restrictions. If we applied the same standards to minors we would have a maximum voting age because once you get to say 90 your bloc is judged 'statistically not fully capable'.


> People respond to prolonged stress with aggression. Instead of doing surveillance, maybe think about ways to reduce student stress.

I for one would be stressed even more if I had a camera behind me when in classroom. Similarly in the office. At my last job, the mere passing remark about possibility of installing cameras was met with "you do this, we walk right out and don't come back".


>US students (general population as well) are way more stressed than students in other countries.

And way, way less than in other countries.

In plenty of countries people take a set of exams that covers two years worth of education (e.g. the physics exam is two years worth of physics education). And then they do it again 2 years later (first set of exams is after the 10th grade, second set after the 12th).

Both these exams are a major determinant of your future university admissions.

And then there are countries where there are too many students and too few universities. Kids will study all day and nights. I knew one high school student who was not allowed to leave his house for at least a month prior and during the exams. It paid off. He got into a good university. And while not everyone who got in studied as hard as he did, many did - he was not an outlier.

Many people need to study like crazy just for a chance to get into any accredited university.

If you're OK going to a regular state university, and not necessarily a top ranked one, life is easy in the US. You don't need a fantastic GPA, and you don't need a fantastic SAT score. An above average GPA in the US does not mean you'll never get a university education. Getting appendicitis in the middle of the big exams (you know, the one that covers 2 years of material)[1] is not a major determinant of your life.

[1] Actually happened to someone I know. Didn't hurt him too much as his family had money to send him to a US-like country.


> Asked whether his algorithms could prevent a mass shooting, van der Vorst said: “I wouldn’t claim that we could prevent a crazy loony from shooting people.”

Call me a crazy loony, but I think someone who would phrase it that way isn't on the same planet as taking the problem space seriously.


Because taking the problem seriously isn't the point of their participation.

Computer recognition of the natural world does not work without training and human confirmation/QA, and they aren't going to train each individual installation on corpuses derived from each individual school because that would eat their profits. It's all a scam, the only reason anybody's even talking to them is because they're using tax dollars as free R&D funding and calling it "progress."


It seems to be working. The sane people have stopped shooting up groups of strangers and now only the crazy loonies are left, as one can plainly see from their interviews, social media posts etc


I don't think that's the point. The person in the quote probably has no idea what motivates people to do this, and they clearly have no desire to want to understand it if they're quick to dismiss them as 'crazy loonies' (hint: understanding motivation, etc is key to prevention, not "identifying all the loonies" or whatever they seem to be suggesting..)


When were sane people shooting up schools? What makes recent shooters insane?


He’s Dutch. This statement sounds about right to me given that country’s understanding of these events, and that’s how they view them.

All that said: They made the software to stop bar fights in Groningen, not to stop shootings. I don’t really understand why this is being framed as a school shooting deterrent.


While the cameras in the article seem to run on some stupid software that doesn’t help, I don’t think I would have cared as a student about cameras in general. In fact I may have appreciated the fact that cameras mean the teachers can’t get away with the privilege of being more trustworthy than the kids.

Catching cheaters would be nice. Catching bullies would be nice. Reducing the rate of false sexual assault claims and actual sexual assault (my year had one of each teacher:student).

But... it probably opens doors to worse things. Dumb cameras would be good. Smart cameras would be bad. As would software run over the dumb cameras.


You seriously believe there wouldn't have been a "technical problem" if it saves the teachers or school some trouble?


When teachers and administrators are the only one with access to the camera system, they can choose to look the other way and use the panopticon of surveillance only on the students.

Meanwhile, the disempowered students can complain all they want, which will just encourage administrators to crack down more using their new camera system.


Sometimes but probably less than the majority of incidents for a fixed static camera system feels appropriate. Not to mention deterrent effects.


As a former teacher I 100% support surveillance (hopefully video) monitoring in the classroom. Parents need to see first-hand how bad student behavior can get.


Adolescents require a sense of privacy in order to properly grow into functional and successful adults. I was under constant surveillance as a child and wasn't able to start "being me" until I'd left home. My development was straight up stunted by constant surveillance. There are too many abusive / helicopter parents out there for this to possibly be a good thing.

I can only imagine what life would be like if my control-freak step-grandmother had access to tapes of me learning how to interact with my classmates and participating in cognitive rebellion against their draconian, hyper-religious control over my personality. Instead of being punished 75% of the time it would have been 100% of the time. I would not have been allowed to contact any of my friends because they all grew up in more sensible households and represented threats to my guardians' control over me.

And this doesn't even touch the fact that normalizing children to surveillance is objectively a bad thing if you give a rat's ass about the future of this planet and peoples' ability to be individual.

Maybe it sounds like a good idea at face value but you should resist espousing such views without thinking about every last detail.


>And this doesn't even touch the fact that normalizing children to surveillance is objectively a bad thing if you give a rat's ass about the future of this planet and peoples' ability to be individual.

Yes, but the powers that be don't actually want that. It's easier to control children that don't know better if they're prevented from learning that things could be better, much like it's antithetical to a racist government's power to educate people of races they don't like.

This is appealing to technocrats and other authoritarians, because They know better than You, but that's short-term thinking at its worst; what they fail to consider or calculate is that progress requires time and risk to occur.


I grew up free range. And I mean like, "going to the woods for a couple days, very back Sunday..." type free.

Was not able to do that degree with my own kids, but they had considerably more than their peers did. (Yes, I had to deal with helicopter parents a few times)


I'm fortunate to have enjoyed similar freedoms; my guardians would throw me out the door until night time and on weekends I would disappear without communication. Luckily the only thing they enjoyed more than controlling every aspect of my personality was pretending I didn't exist.

It was weird spending time with friends whose parents generally let them develop their own personalities and interests unhindered but who would have to check in or get permission every time we changed locations. Once I was out the house, I never felt the need to check in because neither did my guardians. Honestly I'm fairly certain they would hope I wouldn't come back one day. And I definitely had quite a few close calls.

As for my own children, I plan to do the same; their time is their business, as long as they stay out of trouble. Hopefully while at home I manage to drill some sense into their heads.


I am doing a repeat with my granddaughter. We are likely to raise her. (Son has really fallen)

Just cannot see her suffering through the mess.


In both directions.

The worst of my teachers' behavior when I was a kid was beyond the pale, but no one took kids at face value.

Fact is, school is a horrible environment with disgusting power dynamics in every direction, which doesn't do anything to bring out the best in people. No one believes how bad it gets in there, and for some reason, promptly forgets what it was like in school when they were growing up. Or they just didn't comprehend it at the time.


I'm curious why in such an environment even if tapes existed you believe that students and parents would have any access to such tapes even if authorities within the school reviewed such and knew what you were saying to be absolutely true.


I'm curious, did you attend a large(ish) school or a smaller school?

I attended what most people would consider a "small" public high school in the U.S. (rural area, less than 1,000 students, one high school for the entire county), and never experienced anything like what you're describing.

Teachers knew students by name (given the smaller size of their classes; for example, there was one band teacher for the entire school), as well as students' parents by name.


The schools that I went to had around 300 students. It did not stop the abuse by teachers nor did it stop the bullying that the teachers ignored.


I never experienced or observed bad bullying or even physical violence (except for some minor skirmishes, usually between friends) during my school years.

We surely had our share of social awkward people, but they were left alone unless they themselves acted out, and they usually still made some friends.

We didn't have true bullies. Maybe occasionally somebody from a higher grade would tease somebody younger, but never for long let alone repeatedly. Beating somebody up would have been a great crime worthy of grave penalties in our eyes, and we would have stopped it and then have ratted out whoever it was in a heartbeat. If somebody tried to bully somebody beyond what we considered acceptable teasing or be aggessive to somebody, the class mates would protect whoever it was, even the social awkward kid. This only happened once in my peer group with a dude who had freshly transferred from another school (moved cities IIRC) trying to be the "cool" guy picking on an awkward kid, starting to slap him. He quickly learned that if you want to bully or fight one of us, you will fight all of us. Forming a crowd around him telling him to leave his victim alone, fuck off and never try it again with anybody was enough. A few years later we were buddies with him.

There were some students who gave teachers a somewhat hard time, but mostly "class jokers" who probably suffered from ADHD. I only ever had one class mate who posed such a problem the teachers could not handle her within our school. She was then sent off to a special care place specializing in teens with her kinds of problems, not as a punishment or some bullshit "zero tolerance" policy but to help her.

This is of course just my personal experience in the two schools I personally visited, but it makes me genuinely wonder how the dynamics in a school can change and deteriorate to a point where constant bullying and even beat ups are tolerated and common (whether it be due to obliviousness or fear). But I know it happens, and happens a lot.


I went to a small elementary school; a small-ish middle school, and a large "talented" high school. The last was by far the best environment. The first two were in the suburbs; the last in a major city.

The middle school was the worst of the bunch, but the unhealthy power dynamics are everywhere. Students who, if they don't care for their grades, teachers have zero leverage over. Teachers with little to no accountability, and a bunch of hormone-rich assholes to look after. All locked in together day after day.

It was atrocious.


> Fact is, school is a horrible environment with disgusting power dynamics in every direction, which doesn't do anything to bring out the best in people.

*In the US. My own school experience in Europe could not have been more different than what you describe. When looking for a solution, we should not forget about places that have (or had) good school systems.


It seems... wrong to reduce this to a U.S. and Europe dichotomy, there are a lot of great schools in the U.S. and I assume there are bad ones in Europe as well.


Sorry, I did not mean to imply that. Just that school is not inherently terrible.

After all, I can only vouch for a few schools in one country in Europe. And that's outdated info - I hear things have been slowly getting worse here as well.

Edit: Yet I do get the impression schools are worse in the US, at least from how they're universally portrayed by Hollywood. Some statistics could clear things up...


> Yet I do get the impression schools are worse in the US, at least from how they're universally portrayed by Hollywood

When I studied abroad in Europe, other exchange students regularly asked me how us Americans learn anything when we are constantly talking during class as seen in any highschool teen drama movie. As if Mean Girls was a documentary. I was dumbfounded.


People assume art imitates life. That, aside from a few liberties taken to make a more interesting story, movies try to faithfully represent reality. And when so many movies all share the same spin, one assumes there's some truth behind that spin.

A big part of what people think about daily US life, past and present, is shaped by movies. E.g. we didn't learn about Mt. Rushmore, Drive-In theaters, the FBI, Thanksgiving, or Miranda rights in school.


Why would you expect a movie to show all the class lectures that are totally irrelevant to the plot? One lecture would be half the length of a movie.


I wouldn't - that would be one of the "few liberties taken to make a more interesting story" I mentioned.


*Everywhere. My own school experience in Europe was pretty much the same as he described. And it is not only my school experience either, there were many cases of unpunished power abuse that the teachers engaged in in nearby schools.


ESL teacher here. I agree with your comment (although not necessarily with the reasoning).

This week inwasnput incharge of the whole technology deot behind out school and the boss asked me to find a way to forward the cameras to their main office.

They asked it was possible and I gave a non committal answer promising to get back to them next week, purely because I know some teachers are uncomfortable about this.

Personally I'm all for it. I've seen it in Korea (I'm in Japan btw), where parents can see real time feeds of the classrooms.

Personally, i don't have an issue. I have a full audio and video camera in my room, and I'm willing to open that to the owner(and if they want the parents) in real time.

A lot of teachers over here seem to take it as an insult though. As if their personal freedoms are being enchroached.

I think there is more reason than to show how badly their children are acting though. A co worker was accused of sexually assaulting a student a few years ago (different school). They happened to still have the recordings on hand and after showing the full month in question to the oarentx the student admitted to makjgbitnuo to try and stop doing extra after school studies. That's one reason it's damn important, and the converse side of course.

I'm of the mind that having a camera(and audio) in a classroom that parents can access in real time is not just an excellent safety precaution, it's also a great way for parents to learn about their children's study and learning methods!


I side with the teachers on this one. Parents should not be able to watch their kids' classroom in realtime. There are helicopter parents out there, now they will be helicoptering the poor teachers and other students.

I think surveillance should still be used but with limitation, similar to police bodycams. Have audio/video recording and provide it to the parents if an incident arises or if there is a reasonable request from a parent. This introduces subjectivity but if carefully implemented that could be minimized.


I am concerned that desensitizing the future generations to constant surveillance could have bad consequences down the line, when people suddenly become ok with living in a 1984 type environment because that's all they know through their formative/school years.

But yeah some kind of unobtrusive bodycam style system for forensic purposes only (no access for parents) seems a reasonable middle ground.


Whilst I support the premise that schools might want security cameras for security reasons (finding out who beat someone up etc), it’s basically been shown that schools can’t be trusted with that kind of technology. I imagine that it would have a huge chilling effect on student development if everything was constantly being monitored (and who knows who watches the tapes).


Adding technology to a social problem isn't going to fix it.


I disagree with the surveillance bit, but yes parents can be pretty ignorant of their kid's behaviour outside of home.


As a former student I do not.


There is a huge difference between what is described in the article, and a simple video recording that you're describing.

A video system is ultimately a facilitator of human-scale behavior - recorded footage can be played back as objective evidence or representative examples. A proper video system would have an append-only audit log of what was accessed by whom, available to the entire community. But even without that, the limit of abuse is confined to what a petty school administration could accomplish. Whereas the system in the article is practically begging to create perverse incentives that lead to mechanized abuse ("your son has been suspended for repeated aggression incidents" - meanwhile it's simply something about their voice that sets off a poorly implemented trigger). The fallout from these problems then gets default-labeled as "nobody's fault" because the non-techie bias is to trust machines' biased interpretations as if they're facts.


Gosh,do you think there could be a bug where black males are evaluated as "more aggressive" than white females, by the AI system? Surely it would be calibrated against that, perhaps by using police officer's professional judgment as training labels...


OMG lol i was going to agree with you with all the recent tragedies lately and then you had to drop because of student behavior. well i have seen teachers take it out on students too...


It's really quite simple - with great power comes great responsibility.


And teacher behavior!


This is a crazy idea. Even if they worked, this would be a bad one. Most kids who get angry and aggressive never shoot up a school over it, and all this will result in is a bunch of kids who get in arguments being hauled in front of the cops and being interrogated about "where is the gun, and what day are you doing it?".

This applies to the whole "report suspicious behavior" thing too. Most of the time, when a kid is acting like an edgy teen he's just... being an edgy teen. I don't like the whole spanish inquisition rat-out-your-buddy direction this thing is taking.


It's a little surprising that this article approaches the issue from the perspective of the gizmo working, rather than ever-widening surveillance.

Imagine that some automated surveillance technology proved itself to be 100% effective at spotting aggressive behavior. The only catch is that it records, with perfect fidelity every sneeze, cough, conversation, and laugh in a way that uniquely associates each instance to an individual. Part of the efficacy requires all audio and personal identification to be stored in a giant database.

Should such a technology be deployed in US public schools?


No. Surveillance is a bad by itself. I don't want a social model where morality is the product of fear. I don't believe in authoritarian virtues; they will inherently lead to aggression and violence themselves.


What if a kid does not want to be constantly recorded?


Who cares what unpersons think?


They can skip school.


As a sidenote, most surveillance technology is unproven, at least in the sense — that there is no good scientific proof for increased security by using it.

I believe most surveillance tecchnology is better suited for ass covering/acountability than for any real increase of security and safety.

This is the difference between stopping something from happening vs figuring out afterwards what caused it.


You could prevent actual shootings for a lot less money by sending out a letter to parents asking about how secure their guns at home are.


Are most school shootings by fellow students? I was under the impression that was not the case.



That would cause a firestorm of complaints I’m sure. It seems reasonable but the issue is toxic.


All I know is I would very likely be in jail in the school environment today.

How did it get so damn authoritarian?


One thing I don't get is why the hell so many people's definition of 'good child development' involves setting up dystopias that only a few decades ago would have been panned as heavy handed and unrealistic.


It isn't very weird that these smart surveillance thingys go off on the wrong things. What do they have to train those AI? They can't have that many "sound bites" from actual school shootings right? Maybe they actually have some but probably not enough to train a reliable AI on imo. I wonder how they did to create more data. Did they hire some actors and tried to create some "aggressive noises" themselves? I really wanted the journalists to ask the companies this.


Most people only attend a single high school. What qualifies anyone to speak about how most US schools are, much less compare student experience between US and European ones?

There's too many comments here that are just conjecture.


In my school they also monitor everything.. so that's not a new thing.




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