A new state database intended to prevent school shootings represents a “massive surveillance effort” that should be immediately halted, a coalition of nearly three-dozen advocacy organizations told Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a letter delivered last week.
“We are deeply concerned that the program will be used to label students as threats based on data that has no documented link to violent behavior,” wrote the groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Association of People with Disabilities. “We believe this database represents a significant safety risk.”
Creation of the “centralized integrated-data repository” involving state agencies responsible for education, law enforcement, and social services was mandated by Florida lawmakers following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year. The education department was also required to contract with a company to monitor social-media sites for potential threats. The idea was to merge people’s social-media posts with millions of records held by school districts and the state government, all in the hopes of catching warning signs that might help officials recognize potential school shooters before tragedy strikes.
A spokesman said the governor stood by the plan.
Less than three weeks before the repository is supposed to be operational, however, details remain scant about what information will be included in the database and what safeguards will be enacted to protect Floridians’ privacy and civil liberties.
A version of this article appeared in the July 17, 2019 edition of Education Week as Civil Rights Groups Sound Alarm Over Fla.'s School Safety Database