Boston ordinance gives city control over surveillance technology, sets limits on sharing school information

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Boston is now one of a group of 20 communities nationwide, including Cambridge, Lawrence and Somerville, that have approved such laws to govern surveillance and information sharing, according to an ACLU statement from Massachusetts, which supports the law.

Under the new law, the City council will have a grip on the use of gunshot detection devices, x-ray vans, biometric monitoring technologies, automatic license plate readers and social media monitoring software, among others. technological tools.

Wednesday’s vote follows last year’s council decision to ban the government’s use of facial surveillance technology. Supporters of the ban have said the technology can generate false matches and have expressed concern about its accuracy when identifying people of color.

Kade Crockford, director of the “Technology for Freedom” program at the local ACLU on Wednesday said surveillance in Boston “like the police themselves, disproportionately targets blacks and browns.”

“For years we have been subjected to the making of surveillance policies that take place in secret, behind closed doors, without any democratic engagement or public debate,” Crockford said in a statement. “We are delighted to enter a new chapter in Boston democracy.

A section of the ordinance limits when and how student information can be shared with law enforcement. And the ACLU said this aspect of the law is the first of its kind in the country.

With a few exceptions for mandatory reports, the law states that school safety specialists should not collect information about students except to create “student reports,” which are documents detailing behavior. criminals.

The law details the specific criteria for producing such reports, and also specifies the circumstances under which such reports may be shared with local police: if a student has seriously injured someone; if they pose a credible threat to the safety of the school, it would amount to criminal conduct; if they are in possession of a firearm or certain controlled substances.

Last year, it was revealed that city agencies shared student information more than 100 times from 2014 to 2018 with a Boston-area intelligence-sharing network that includes an agent from the United States. . Department of Homeland Security.

And, in at least two cases, school incident reports have been used by immigration authorities to justify the expulsion of students, according to their lawyers, the Globe reported.

Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, sponsor of the Ordinance said in a statement that the new regulations offer protections that begin “the work of dismantling from school to prison, and from school to expulsion, pipelines.”

“Boston residents deserve a transparent process that promotes accountability for how we are watched and watched,” Arroyo said.

The new legislation specifically prohibits school officials from including certain information in student reports, including immigration status, address, and confirmed or suspected gang affiliation. It also prohibits sharing student information with the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, which is an intelligence-gathering operation of police, federal immigration authorities, federal law enforcement agencies, or any center. merger of law enforcement agencies “under all circumstances, except as required by state or federal law. “

Nora Paul-Schultz, a Boston Public School physics teacher and co-chair of the Boston Teachers Union Unafraid Educators, has said that in the past “The lack of policies and oversight has led to the criminalization of students for typical adolescent behavior. “

“It had devastating consequences for these young people and their families. I hope this ordinance will provide important safeguards that will better protect our students from criminalization in our schools, ”said Paul-Schultz.

The case is now moving to the office of Acting Mayor Kim Janey. A spokeswoman for the mayor said on Wednesday that the administration was considering the proposal.


Danny McDonald can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @Danny__McDonald.



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