A Virginia school district is taking a page out of “1984” as it seeks to surveil social media to combat “hate speech.”
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has proposed the use of $200,000 toward “Social Media Management Services,” according to documents obtained by Parents Defending Education (PDE).
The request for proposal outlines the intent of these new services to “monitor social media threats, harassment, hate speech and bullying,” through “active listening,” “deep and dark web sources not visible through traditional search engines,” and “Open Source Intelligence.”
When asked about the proposal, Tom Vaccarello, the director of FCPS Office of Safety and Security claimed that, “Only open/publicly posted social media postings will be seen/reviewed,” and it would include such posts made outside of school hours.
This statement is in direct contradiction to the actual text of the proposal that mentioned the “deep and dark web sources.”
According to PDE, FCPS has not defined exactly what constitutes the “harassment, hate speech and bullying” they will be monitoring for. They vaguely state the surveillance will “detect [and] help deter any negative actions or consequences coming from social media which may be directed to racial groups or any student or teacher within FCPS.”
These wide-open objectives and extensive search parameters have raised concerns among FCPS parents that the true aim of the proposal is to silence parents as the school district has continually come under fire for actions and policies that outspoken parents have exposed.
In November 2021 FCPS decided after review to allow the continued access of the books “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison in the district’s libraries despite parents’ complaints of pornographic and pedophilic content in the books.
Parents accused FCPS of mocking their opposition to the books and mocking their Christianity when a few short weeks later the books were included in a “holiday” display.
“These are YOUR taxpayer dollars, Virginia!” the tweet from Stacy Langton reads in part questioning the priorities of FCPS much like the PDE highlights with the use of $200,000 toward monitoring those in the county at home.
It’s worth noting when viewed on Twitter, the image is not displayed without first consenting to a disclaimer that states, “The following media includes potentially sensitive content.”
More recently, FCPS was lambasted by parents when it was revealed that playing a game of “privilege” bingo was included in the curriculum.
They play 'bingo' with their 'privilege' under the guise of learning English.
'This lesson is an adept vehicle to push student thinking,' assistant superintendent says pic.twitter.com/XufnM3DITp
— Luke Rosiak (@lukerosiak) January 19, 2022
With the proposed surveillance system setting “no limits on searches, or the amount of data that can be saved,” FCPS parents believe the implementation of any such proposal would be a violation of their First Amendment rights.
Reports like this are likely to further calls from parents, lawmakers, and public figures that the time has come for “cameras in all classrooms” to stay ahead of issues like these.
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