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Lockport Schools move toward full implementation of facial recognition software

'We believe we're at a place where our policy is in compliance with the State Education Department's wishes,' said Lockport Schools Superintendent Michelle Bradley.

LOCKPORT, N.Y. — It's a topic we've heard about for months, the use of facial recognition technology in Lockport City Schools. Now the district is one step closer to full implementation.

"Over many years the board of education has taken school security very seriously, and this is one more measure to help keep our students, our staff and visitors a little bit safer," said Michelle Bradley, the Lockport City School District Superintendent. 

At the Lockport City School District's Board of Education meeting Wednesday night, members reviewed the updated version of the district's security systems and privacy protection policy when it comes to the use of facial recognition software in schools. 

"One of the biggest changes is not placing any student images into the database. That seems to be the biggest concern of the State Education Department, so we've eliminated that from our policy, and we will continue to work under federal and state privacy laws, as we've done in the past," said Bradley.

Since the summer, the district has been in the initial implementation phase of the project, which includes camera adjustments, training and connecting with law enforcement.

"We believe we're at a place where our policy is in compliance with the State Education Department's wishes," Bradley said.

As for what's next, Bradley added, "We will adopt the policy in January, and then when we are confident that the system is in a good place to put into operation, we will do that."

There is not a rough estimate as to when full implementation will take effect, given the district gets the go-ahead from the state.

"We will continue to fine-tune and when that's done we will be going into operation with the system," Bradley said.

2 On Your Side reached out to NYSED for a response. No one was available to speak to us or send a new statement for this story.

However, a representative with NYSED did forward us the letter the department sent to the district last month regarding the district’s decision that no student data will be created or maintained by the operation of the district’s facial recognition system.

From the letter: “With these additional revisions, the Department believes that the Education Law §2-d issues it has raised to date relating to the impact on the privacy of students and student data appear to be addressed. However, the Department recommends that the District work with its local counsel to ensure that all other applicable laws and regulations are met and that the civil rights of all individuals are also protected when it comes to the District’s use of technology.”

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