Lockport administrators hosted representatives from the New York State Education Department last week to discuss the district's facial and object recognition security system, according to Superintendent Michelle Bradley. 

"The district has been engaged in an ongoing dialogue with SED representative regarding the Aegis facial/object recognition system, and, as part of that dialogue, the district was pleased to host SED representatives (Thursday)," Bradley said in an emailed statement in response to the Union-Sun & Journals request for an interview on Friday. 

A state education spokesperson also confirmed the parties met, saying the meeting was part of "our ongoing dialogue regarding this matter." 

Two weeks ago, the state education department called for Lockport to delay using its facial and object recognition software. 

The district had announced they would begin the "initial implementation phase" of its Aegis software, but after the state education department voiced its concerns they changed the plans. Bradley said the district changed the plans to include an audit of the security cameras attached to the system in order to adjust camera angles and ensure camera images are optimized to the extent possible. They also were working with the system database to add in additional weapons images to "maximize the identification capabilities of the system." 

Meanwhile, Lockport's state senator and assemblyman have concerns over proposed bills that would lead to a temporary ban on facial recognition technology in schools to further study the issue. 

Assemblymember Monica Wallace, D—Lancaster, proposed the idea in a bill submitted on March 20, and this week the bill passed a vote in the Education and the Ways and Means committee. The bill does have a companion bill in the Senate which is sponsored by State Sen. Brian Kavanagh, also a Democrat. Kavanagh's bill is still in the Senate Education Committee after being introduced in April. 

Assemblymember Michael Norris, R—Lockport and a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said he voted against the bill during the Thursday Ways and Means vote because he is concerned about the bill taking away local control from school boards.

"This bill has a statewide implication. The study aspect surely does have merit and should be examined," Norris said. "However, in terms of local control and school boards having the opportunity to make these decision, I think those decisions should still be vested with the local school boards who have been elected by the people in those jurisdictions." 

State Sen. Rob Ortt, R— North Tonawanda, echoed Norris' concerns over the bills impacting local control over matters. 

At this moment, Ortt said he would vote against the bill if it comes to floor vote in the Senate, but noted things may change. 

"I think when it comes to school safety and school security, that's why you have school boards. That's why you have administrators who work for those school boards, who work for the public. We shouldn't be making decisions," Ortt said. "I would probably be a no today." 

The school district used $1.4 million of $4.2 million allocated to it through New York’s Smart Schools Bond Act to acquire and install what is being marketed as the first facial and object security surveillance system in a school in the United States. The system relies on the Aegis software suite, created by Canadian-based SN Technologies. The software works by using a database of individuals and sending an alert to district personnel any time a flagged person is detected on school property. The software reportedly also can detect 10 types of guns.

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