We have previously discussed how students are being punished for out-of-school postings and statements on social media sites, a trend that I have criticized. Now, with the Supreme Court expanding the power of school officials to discipline students and teachers for outside activities, schools are creating their own surveillance and monitoring systems in our society. The Glendale Unified School District has hired a company called Geo Listening to monitor the conversations and postings of all of its students to detect any areas of concern. It is the latest example of how privacy in America is dying by a thousand papercuts.
Superintendent Richard Sheehan wants Geo Listening to look at all of the posts of 13,000 students at eight Glendale middle and high schools. He insists that this is to help intervene in any problems from drug use to suicides. However, it opens up yet another layer of surveillance in our fishbowl society.
Chris Frydrych, the CEO of Geo Listening said, “We have provided information to school districts, which has led to numerous successful interventions on behalf of students that intended self-harm, suicide, bullying, truancy, substance abuse, and vandalism.”
What really caught my eye in this story is the statement of one student Hoover High School student Elijah Augustine that neither he nor his mother is bothered by the monitoring. It is the ultimate example how people can become accustomed to surveillance and the loss of privacy. As our expectations of privacy fall, the government’s ability to engage in warrantless surveillance increases. We have trained a generation of students who are comfortable with continual surveillance and living in a monitored space.