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Newark public schools may upgrade security system with artificial intelligence


While school safety is paramount these days, some see privacy concerns

Artificial intelligence may be on its way to Newark’s public schools, as the district seeks to replace its security cameras with a surveillance system that would be equipped with A-I.

The new system would have more than 7000 cameras, one for every five students, and be able to recognize not just people but cars, guns, and even sensors to detect chemicals in vape pens.

Community advocates and security experts say such a system could violate the privacy of students and staff. And Chalkbeat Newark’s Jessie Gomez said so far the state has been pretty hands off on A-I.

“In New Jersey there really hasn’t been much said about regulating artificial intelligence, although those conversations are emerging so there might be some regulations down the line for schools but again it all depends on what the state kind of decides to put forth,” she said.

Newark is like many other districts trying to boost security in the wake of mass shootings. New York City bought door locking systems to control access to school buildings. But Gomez said community advocates and security experts see privacy concerns in Newark’s plan.

“The tech experts are saying that school districts should be more careful about vetting this technology and advocates on the ground say it could lead to overpolicing of students,” she said.

The Newark Teachers Union said it has no objection to adding thousands of cameras in district schools as long as they are kept out of classrooms and teacher’s lounges.

Gomez said some in the community are concerned though.

“I think experts and advocates agree that the community deserves to be in these discussions, but more importantly school districts like Newark should help parents understand the implications of this sort of technology,” she said.

Security experts say many school districts are using artificial intelligence cameras with facial recognition systems, systems to manage and store information, and software to monitor students’ social media accounts.

Janice Kirkel is a lifelong award-winning journalist who has done everything from network newscasts to national and local sports reports to business newscasts to specialized reporting and editing in technical areas of business and finance such as bankruptcy, capital structure changes and reporting on the business of the investment business.