School surveillance: how big brother spies on pupils

Cameras in the toilets; CCTV in the classroom; pupils’ fingerprints kept in a database . . . Can’t happen here? Think again, because the surveillance state is quietly invading our schools

CCTV in locker rooms
Wikimedia image

John Harris
Guardian

‘Every day in communities across the United States, children and adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours in schools that increasingly have come to resemble places of detention more than places of learning. From metal detectors to drug tests, from increased policing to all-seeing electronic surveillance, the schools of the 21st century reflect a society that has become fixated on crime, security and violence.”

So reads a passage from the opening pages of Lockdown High, a new book by the San Francisco-based journalist Annette Fuentes. Subtitled “When the schoolhouse becomes the jailhouse”, it tells a story that decisively began with the Columbine shootings of 1999, and from across the US, the text cites cases that are mind-boggling: a high-flying student from Arizona strip-searched because ibuprofen was not allowed under her school rules; the school in Texas where teachers can carry concealed handguns; and, most amazingly of all, the Philadelphia school that gave its pupils laptops equipped with a secret feature allowing them to be spied on outside classroom hours.

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