Congressman Asks House Education Committee To Look At Pre-Crime Program Targeting Florida Schoolkids

from the legitimate-use-of-'won't-someone-think-of-the-children?' dept

Late last year, the Tampa Bay Times broke the news the local sheriff’s office had set up a “pre-crime” program targeting schoolkids in Pasco County. The same program used by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office to harass residents into “moving or suing” (yes, those are the Sheriff’s words) had been retooled to target minors, utilizing highly questionable access to students’ records.

Some deputies made dozens of visits a year to residents that the Office had declared pre-criminals, citing them missing mailbox numbers or overgrown grass. What’s in line for students being subjected to the same scrutiny isn’t clear, but the Sheriff’s broad list of indicators is pretty disturbing. According to the Sheriff, potentially criminal minors were students with low grades, spotty attendance, and/or were victims/witnesses of domestic violence.

The program itself was disturbing. But the Sheriff’s access to student records appeared to be illegal. A privacy group dug into the laws surrounding the use of student records and came to the conclusion this program violated federal privacy protection laws, namely FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act).

While educators may have been able to share some records with School Resource Officers working with the Sheriff’s Department, they were forbidden from sharing those records with the Sheriff’s Office — at least not without parental consent. Parental involvement in any of this pre-crime BS appears to be minimal. In fact, most parents (and administrators) appeared to be unaware the program even existed before the Tampa Bay Times uncovered it with public records requests.

Now the program has drawn the attention of Congress.

Denouncing the program as promoting “racial bias” and further feeding the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a U.S. congressman Tuesday called for a federal investigation into the Pasco school district’s practice of sharing student data with law enforcement.

“This use of student records goes against the letter and the spirit of (the federal student privacy law) and risks subjecting students, especially Black and Latino students, to excessive law enforcement interactions and stigmatization,” said U.S. Rep. Robert C. Scott, a Virginia Democrat and the chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, in a letter to the acting federal education secretary.

The letter [PDF] points out the Sheriff’s program blatantly ignores FERPA to give the Office a way to turn students into criminals, even if they have never committed a crime in their (short) lives.

Despite these clear restrictions, a recently uncovered “Intelligence-Led Policing Manual” indicates that a public school district has been releasing FERPA-protected education records to its local sheriff’s office, so that the sheriff can “identify at-risk youth who are destined to a life of crime.” The sheriff’s office collects information from FERPA-protected records on “student’s grades, attendance, and behavior.” Using these records, the sheriff categorizes students by what it claims is their likelihood of “becoming prolific offenders” effectively creating a school to prison pipeline and determining their outcomes for them. Additionally, the sheriff collects data from other state agencies on children’s social networks and whether children have experienced abuse or other trauma, which it claims “significantly increase[s] their likelihood of developing into serious, violent, and chronic . . . offenders.” To be clear, though the sheriff’s intelligence report refers to these children as “potential offenders,” this is not a list of juvenile offenders, but a list of children that may have committed no crimes.

More locally, the Pasco County Parents and Teachers Association is calling for the school district to reconsider its data-sharing agreements with the Sheriff’s Office and to ensure its participation is actually lawful. More reasonable parents are demanding the program be stopped completely.

So far, the school district has only offered this vapid statement:

The school district said it planned to “assure the PTA County Council that our agreements with the Sheriff’s Office are routinely reviewed and, when appropriate, revised or updated.”

Obviously, this isn’t true. If they were routinely reviewed, someone who actually gave a damn would have spotted the federal privacy law violations well before a local newspaper and privacy activists did. This statement means nothing more than the district is waiting for the furor to die down before getting back to pre-crime business as usual.

And the last sentence of this paragraph pretty much directly contradicts the hollow claim data-sharing agreements are “routinely reviewed.”

But asked directly, [the district] declined to say whether it would act on any of the PTA’s requests, whether it was reviewing the Sheriff’s Office program, or whether Superintendent Kurt Browning had learned anything about the program since he told a reporter he was unaware data was being used this way in September.

The district’s apparent plan to wait this thing out isn’t working. At least not yet. It’s been on the radar since last November. And now it’s going federal. Someone’s going to be forced to take some action soon. Hopefully, it will be the school district reaching for the program’s cord and pulling the plug on this abomination attempting to pass itself off as good police work.

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Comments on “Congressman Asks House Education Committee To Look At Pre-Crime Program Targeting Florida Schoolkids”

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24 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
aerinai (profile) says:

So a secret list, using secret algorithms, to predict criminals are sent to law enforcement for… reasons?

This is a blatant attempt to ‘catch them’ before they create ‘bigger crimes’, which just means they have a target on their back and that when these kids are flagged in the future for a routine traffic stop, they’ll be imprisoned because they are on a ‘list’

I also love the words that are used "destined to a life of crime", "potential offenders"… it shows me that these callous cops are not trying to intervene and help these children, they are just looking for an easy mark to justify their existence.

God forbid they actually befriend these kids, involve themselves into the lives of their community members, offer them internships, a soccer league, or you know… a counselor or therapy. Nope. Better just harass their families for no reason. That is a heck of a lot easier.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

just means they have a target on their back and that when these kids are flagged in the future for a routine traffic stop, they’ll be imprisoned because they are on a ‘list’

That’s a feature. If being on the list makes life sufficiently difficult, that helps the list become correct—i.e., the people on the list will be destined to a life of crime. And then there will be valid statistics to help sell the tech to other police departments.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Less of a self-fulfilling prophecy and more like a…logical progression of the demographic in question; US Law Enforcement has simply advanced from hunter-gatherers to farming.

It’s brilliant, in a way. If you can grow your own crooks to eventually harvest…I mean, arrest, rather than have to do a lot of foot-slogging and paperwork finding them and tracking them down in the wild, then that’s a great leap for police officers everywhere insofar as that it makes their "job" much easier. As long as the job only consists of meeting a quota of collars made rather than, say, serve and protect.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Wrong book…

Late last year, the Tampa Bay Times broke the news the local sheriff’s office had set up a "pre-crime" program targeting schoolkids in Pasco County. The same program used by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office to harass residents into "moving or suing" (yes, those are the Sheriff’s words) had been retooled to target minors, utilizing highly questionable access to students’ records.

All this time we’ve been reading Orwell’s 1984 as a prescient premonition when we should’ve been reading Dick’s Minority Report instead.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Wrong book…

In the ‘book’ (actually a short story) the twist is that all three reports are minority reports. The first report has him killing someone, the second report has him viewing the first report and NOT killing them, which leads to the precrime division being disbanded (and is implied to lead to America being taken over by a military junta) and in the third report he ends up going through with the murder to prevent the events of the second report.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Wrong book…

"All this time we’ve been reading Orwell’s 1984 as a prescient premonition when we should’ve been reading Dick’s Minority Report instead."

1984 became reality in the 2000’s. Every political outcry since has been the result of people persistently trying to undo some of that while the body politic keeps clinging to the mass surveillance state with a white-knuckled dead man’s grip.

Being able to point a finger at the guy most likely to being inconvenient and have them put away before they have a chance of becoming that is just the next leap of progress, and we know of 74 million americans who will be all-in on the idea that some people are just born criminals. Especially the brown ones.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
hij (profile) says:

Treat Them Like Criminals Before It Is Too Late

This is a perfect demonstration of the US criminal justice system. They were able to put a system in place that they believed would predict which children were at greatest risk to engage in criminal activity. Their solution was to just go ahead and treat them like criminals rather than intervene and help people they believed were in the greatest need. Rather than treat the problem they decided to just keep feeding a system that destroys lives rather than prevents any kind of relief.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
tom (profile) says:

This is why those often forgotten off cycle/down ballot elections are so important. Everyone worries about who is President, Senator or Representative. But this program was created and approved by locally elected Sheriff and School Officials. As are things like Resource Officer contracts. Pay attention to these elections and go vote.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Educational Program

And what does this ad for …?

If you don’t want to visit a link, then you can try taking a look at Google’s cached version of a webpage. For example—

https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:https://heritagedesignbuildgroup.com/residential-design-services/

In this case, even though I didn’t visit the original link myself, I doubt the page has changed much since Google’s snapshot on Jan 21, 2021 18:50:13 GMT.

TL,dr; It’s spam. So just hit report and move on. No need to clutter up comments trying to get some kind of answer.

ECA (profile) says:

And

Does this Help/fix/improve Anything to do with their lives?
Do we get an age with this?
Are we talking about Kids, and police are NOT making a good impression, or even trying to Improve their minds BY helping the parents improve or Fix things?
Are these Teens, who may already have an idea of life, and MIGHT want a change or are willing to look at a Different way of dealing with LIFE.

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