A New York Civil Liberties Union "town hall" is coming to Lockport at the end of the month.
The organization is hosting a series of town halls across the state. The town hall in Lockport is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 25 at Lockport Public Library, first floor.
Jake Martinez, director of youth programs for NYCLU, said the organization has hosted eight town halls across New York state informing students and residents about various issues that threaten civil rights in education.
Martinez said the town hall in Lockport will focus on Lockport City School District's newly activated facial and object recognition surveillance system and a proposed statewide moratorium on use of the technology in schools. State Assembly Member Monica Wallace, D-Lancaster, has made passage of her bill a priority this legislative session.
The forum will focus on the impacts of facial recognition technology, problems and issues associated with it and the rights of students in schools.
"I don’t think you lose all of your rights when you go into the school building," Martinez asserted.
Surveillance technology isn't the most effective way to increase security and make students feel more secure, he added.
"These tools are really not answering the bigger problem, which is the school climate issue," Martinez said. "I think that is where we need to get at the heart of the issue."
Martinez said a different way that schools could make students feel comfortable is to focus more on counselors and peer mediators.
Attendance to the NYCLU town hall at the library is limited to about 60 people. Anyone who's interested in attending is asked to visit nyclu.org/en/lockporttownhall.
LCSD on Jan. 2 activated the first facial and object recognition-capable surveillance system in a public school district in New York state.
The district spent $1.4 million of the $4.2 million allocated to it through the New York’s Smart Schools Bond Act to acquire and install the system, one of the first of its kind in any American school. The system relies on the Aegis software suite created by Canadian-based SN Technologies.
The facial recognition software works by using a database of flagged individuals and sending an alert to district personnel when a flagged person is detected on school property. The object recognition feature would reportedly detect 10 types of guns and alert certain district personnel, as well as law enforcement, if a weapon is detected.