Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Education Dept. Security Procedures Questioned

March 06, 2007 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

It was good to see the issue of contractor-employee security screening at the U.S. Department of Education receive attention (“Education Dept.’s Stricter Background Checks Questioned,” Feb. 21, 2007). But your article, which in part discusses my refusal to comply with these new rules, leaves many basic questions unanswered.

What is the reason for requiring invasive “security clearances” for all contractor employees? The article cites an Education Department spokeswoman in reporting that these background checks “are now standard procedure for federal agencies hiring contractors who will have access to federal buildings or databases.” Yet the majority of contractor employees don’t access federal buildings, computers, or databases.

In that case, what is being made more secure by requiring invasive security clearances of thousands of ordinary people? The Education Department’s wholesale security-screening policy is not in the long list of recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, regardless of what Karen Evans of the White House Office of Management and Budget, also referenced in your article, suggests. Indeed, the 9/11 Commission is deeply concerned about people’s civil liberties and recommended that the burden of proof be on the executive branch to show that the power it exercises “materially enhances security” and also protects civil liberties.

Other unanswered questions: How are people screened, and who makes those decisions? An Education Department document states that its investigative information “regards individuals’ character, conduct, and loyalty to the United States as relevant to their association with the department.” Should we feel better knowing that a group of bureaucrats is judging the character, conduct, and loyalty of thousands of contractor employees—people who pose no material security risk in the first place—using criteria that the public and Congress have not seen to make those judgments?

Rather, let us reaffirm, with the 9/11 Commission, that government needs to very carefully strike a balance between security and America’s precious civil liberties.

Andrew A. Zucker

Cambridge, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the March 07, 2007 edition of Education Week as Education Dept. Security Procedures Questioned

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: February 1, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 18, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Letter to the Editor EdWeek's Most-Read Letters of 2022
Here are this year’s top five Letters to the Editor.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Education In Their Own Words Withstanding Trauma, Leading With Honesty, and More: The Education Stories That Stuck With Us
Our journalists highlight why stories on the impact of trauma on schooling and the fallout of the political discourse on race matter to the field.
4 min read
Kladys Castellón prays during a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
Kladys Castellón prays during a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Billy Calzada/The San Antonio Express-News via AP