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New Republican bill thinks Minority Report style mass school surveillance will cut school shootings

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US Republican Senator John Cornyn has come up with a new plan to prevent mass school shootings – to use invasive technology to monitor students’ online behavior and digital history, in school and at home, to look for troubling signs. 

The new Republican bill suggests it will “help prevent mass shootings” by implementing levels of open school surveillance technology previously unseen in a Western democracy. The bill would instill a federally-mandated boost to the growing surveillance industry.

We’ve previously documented how many US students across a growing number of districts are already being heavily monitored with much of their digital behavior and communications being tracked and analyzed.

However, when the final bell rings and kids go home, much of that technology also tracks them in their home and family life – whether they’re doing their homework or watching Netflix in their bedroom. 

The new bill is called the Response Act (Restoring, Enhancing, Strengthening, and Promoting Our Nation’s Safety Effortsand is being introduced along with a series of policies that are aimed at reducing mass shootings. 

“We cannot leave anything to chance,” said Senator Thom Tillis – a cosponsor of the bill. “The Response Act provides proactive solutions to provide better access to mental health care treatment, provide more tools and resources for our schools, and improve the information law enforcement has to stop acts of imminent violence.”

The bill wants to get schools to “enforce internet safety polices that detect online activities of minors who are at imminent risk of committing self-harm or extreme violence against others in order to provide students with the services they need and prevent possible violence.”

The new legislation proposed this week would add further invasive surveillance technology – called a “protection measure that detects online activities of minors who are at risk of committing self-harm or extreme violence against others” – to the Children’s Internet Protection Act and push public schools to adopt these technologies. 

However, while some would argue that the loss of civil liberties could be tolerated if it were to have a significant impact on reducing violence, there have not been any studies or research into these surveillance technologies to suggest they actually have any impact on keeping people safe.

To date, there has been no documented evidence that this level of mass surveillance actually prevents any harm – from suicidal tendencies and self-harm to extreme violence. 

It has long been shown that mass surveillance is “statistically impossible” in helping to reduce terrorism across terrorist cells, and so critics argue that it’s unlikely to have any real impact in educational settings where one lone student turns to violence. 

While many privacy advocates, such as Reclaim The Net and others, have long campaigned against mass surveillance, it is particularly frowned-upon for educational settings and could result in discrimination within schools. 

The bill is being cosponsored by Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Tim Scott (R-SC).

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