Surveillance tech didn’t stop Uvalde school shooting

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photo: Jordan Vonder Haar (Getty Images)

On Tuesday, a horrific but familiar story unfolded: A distraught 18-year-old traveled to Rob Elementary School in Uwald, Texas, where he murdered 21 people using a legally purchased assault rifle: 19 Children and two teachers. Before the dust settled in the Texas border town, the conversation quickly turned to preventing future shootings.Texas School Promise Improve security and new protection.

But how do you prevent this phenomenon from often appearing as relentless and arbitrary as lightning?Over the years, some have insisted that
The best strategy is Take new safety measures and invest in emerging surveillance technology — hopefully new products combined with a high level of vigilance will be able to identify and stop the next shooter before he pulls the trigger.

The Uvalde Integrated Independent School District, to which Robb belongs, has followed this conventional wisdom and adopted modern safety solutions in its schools.In fact, the region actually doubled its security budget Over the past few years, we’ve invested in a variety of recommended precautions to keep our kids safe.

According to UCISD’s secure page, the district adopted a security management system from security provider Raptor Technologies, designed to monitor school visitors and screen for dangerous individuals. It also uses Social Sentinel, a social media monitoring solution, that screens children’s online lives for signs of violence or suicidal ideation. Students can download an anti-bullying app (the STOP!T app) to report peer abuse, and an online portal at allows parents and community members to submit reports of disturbing behavior to administrators for further noted, UCISD also has its own police force, has important links with local police departments and has contingency plans in place. It even deployed a “threat assessment team” scheduled to meet regularly to “identify, assess, classify and address threats or potential threats to school safety”.

However, when a distraught young man brings legally purchased weapons to Rob and commits a crime deadliest school shooting in the history of the state. The perpetrators are not students and therefore cannot be monitored by their security systems.

UCISD didn’t adopt its new measures in a vacuum. The district implemented them not long after a 2018 shooting In Santa Fe, Texas, eight high school students and two teachers were killed.Governor Greg Abbott dies after massacre new legislation and post A 40-page list of suggestions for improving school safety. Among other things, the list includes the use of technology to “prevent attacks”. The governor also recommended increasing the number of school police officers, deepening the connection between local law enforcement and school districts, and providing students with better mental health resources.

But at a news conference Wednesday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McGraw Admission The security measures failed to provide the protection they should have: “Obviously, this is a situation where we failed because we didn’t stop this massive attack,” he said.

Shift to emerging technologies

Whether equipping America’s schools like miniature forts will actually help stop shootings is unclear. One thing is for sure, though: There are many companies that believe their products will make the world a safer place.

Among the many solutions sold to schools as risk mitigation measures, social media monitoring already become one most common. Navigating a student’s online life for signs of danger is now routine in many districts.In fact, lawmakers have discussed mandatory Such monitoring capabilities in schools across the country. UCISD employs one such company, but Gov. Abbott said Wednesday that “there was no meaningful early warning of this crime.” Shooter Sending private messages that threaten attacks Via Facebook Messenger half an hour before the event, but they are private and therefore invisible to outside observers.

Facial recognition is another technology Provided Use schools as a basic safety mechanism.Number of schools using face recording solutions It levitated A sharp decline in recent years (Clearview AI announced this week, has its purpose enter the market). Yet despite their growing popularity, there is little evidence that these security agencies actually do anything to stop school shootings.even supporter The head of facial recognition admits the system may not be very useful once the shooter is in the school.

Secret weapons scanners are also on the rise. The devices can be installed quietly on walls and floors to scan entire crowds for signs of firearms or weapons, according to the company that makes them.These companies have explicit courtship Schools and promise their products can identify weapons before they become an active threat. Whether they’re right — and what the privacy trade-offs of covert scanning are — remains to be seen. In the Uwald shooting, it’s hard to see how weapons scanners actually stop anything.

If security enthusiasts are keen on all these things, privacy advocates will see the current trend as well-intentioned if it ends up wrongly trying to solve more complex problems.

“Whether it’s facial recognition, surveillance software on school equipment, cameras — all these types of surveillance are becoming very common,” Jason Kelley, digital strategist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in an interview with Gizmodo. “The companies that sell these tools are trying to do something positive — they’re trying to minimize tragedy,” he said. However, these products not only end up being ineffective, but they end up negatively impacting the children they are meant to protect, Kelly said. The intrusive nature of these tools makes it possible for students to grow up feeling that they have to be watched to be safe — even if monitoring doesn’t actually keep them safe.

Some study Show that surveillance actually provides punishment rather than protection. Cameras and software can turn schools into tiny panopticons, Where student behavior is continuously analyzed and assessed, and where minor violations can be identified and disciplined. But if these systems are good at providing internal oversight to the agencies that deploy them, the question remains: Are they also good at keeping children safe? Can algorithms or new scanners really see what usually feels complete? invisible naked eye?

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