Revised facial recognition policy OK'd by Lockport school board

File photo A modified version of a policy covering the use of the Lockport School District's new facial recognition system was approved by members of the school board on Wednesday. 

A modified version of a policy covering the district’s new facial recognition system received approval Wednesday from members of the Lockport School Board.

The revised policy removes the possibility of all suspended students being included in a potential database of what district officials have described as unwanted individuals. Under the newly approved policy language, only suspended students who are considered a threat, as determined by law enforcement, will be considered for placement in the database.

The district used $1.4 million of the $4.2 million allocated to it through New York’s Smart Schools Bond Act to acquire and install one of the first facial and object recognition security systems in an American school.

The system relies on the Aegis software suite created by Canadian-based SN Technologies.

The 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 software reportedly also will detect 10 types of guns.

After district officials announced their intention to start testing the software in June, they were told to stop by state education officials until further notice.

The revised policy follows a meeting earlier this year between district officials and representatives from the New York State Department of Education who expressed reservations about some elements of the original policy language, including the Inclusion of all suspended students in the database.

The original policy, which was passed in December, listed suspended students, staff suspended or on administrative leave, level 2 and level 3 sex offenders, any person who has been notified that they may not be on district property, anyone prohibited from entering district property by court order or anyone believed to pose a threat.

Although, suspended students have been taken out of the policy approved on Wednesday, there is still the opportunity for the district to place a suspended student in the database if district officials deem them to be a credible threat.

A credible threat is defined in the revised language as “limited to a threat that is referred to the district by law enforcement authorities, or a threat that, given its nature, has been or will be referred by the district to law enforcement authorities.”

Superintendent Michelle Bradley said an example of a threat that would rise to the level of law enforcement involvement would be one made against a district school on social media.

“That’s something that we would mostly likely be contacting law enforcement about,” Bradley said.

The other main changes to the policy include tasking the district technology director with encrypting the data and adding the ability to appeal a decision to the board of education. In addition, the new policy language requires the district to discuss with state education officials any changes in the categories of people to be included in the database.