Controversial, data-driven technologies are showing up in public schools nationwide at alarming rates. AI-enabled systems such as facial recognition, predictive policing, geolocation tracking, student device monitoring and even aerial drones are commonplace in public schools.

For example, a recent national survey of educators found that over 88% of schools use student device monitoring, 33% use facial recognition and 38% share student data with law enforcement. Many of these tools are designed for military use and routinely used by authoritarian regimes to repress ethnic minorities — making their use in schools all the more frightening.

The harms of these technologies are not evenly shared. Research shows that these tools disproportionately affect Black youth, youth with disabilities, immigrant youth, LGBTQ youth and youth in low-income communities. For example, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that schools with large surveillance infrastructure suspend students at higher rates, leading to worse academic outcomes for Black students.

Despite the prolific use of these technologies, there are still solutions to undo digital authoritarianism in America’s public schools.

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Iron Will

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