Public schools

School Paid Ex-FBI Agent $157,000 to Spy on Kids' Facebook Pages

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Watchmen
Rob Speed / Flickr

Remember that bizarre news item about a school district deciding to monitor its students' Facebook accounts on advice from the NSA? Alabama.com pursued the story and discovered that the district paid $500,000 over the last two years to several employees at a consulting firm tasked with handling cyber surveillance. That figure includes $157,000 for Chris McCrae, a former FBI agent and security expert.

When administrators monitor students' private, non-school, online activities, who is harmed? Mostly black kids, as it turns out:

On Oct. 30, Huntsville City Schools provided records showing the system expelled 305 students last year. Of those, 238 were black.

That means 78 percent of all expulsions involved black children in a system where 40 percent of students are black. Expulsions related to social media investigations through the SAFe program were a small part of that total. Of those 14 expulsions related to SAFe, 86 percent involved black students.

Some people think those numbers are evidence of deliberate racial profiling on the part of the watchers. (For what it's worth, the only black member of the school board, Laurie McCaulley, suggested that perhaps more black students were up to no good than white students.)

The system relies on a network of snooping: Teachers, administrators, parents, and students are supposed to watch out for online postings about guns, drugs, and gang activity, and then inform the security team. It's easy to see why that kind of thing could be abused. And in fact, a local civics association activist believes McCrae's gang is monitoring her as well:

Jeannee Gannuch, co-founder of the South Huntsville Civic Association, said after the online program came to light, she noticed T&W was following her civic group on Facebook. Gannuch, who has at times been critical of city officials, said she blocked the consulting firm.

"My tax dollars are paying for a hired hand to watch a political organization? That doesn't seem right," said Gannuch.

School security forces should at least restrict their Orwellian spying networks to activities that happen during school hours, within school walls.

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  1. Well, we have to save the children, you anarchists!

  2. School district hires former FBI agent to spy on students…minorities hardest hit?

    No, school district spies on students…period. That’s the outrage.

    1. Duh, of course. If it doesn’t have “disparate impact” it’s not a real civil rights violation.

  3. I remember when I was in school reading about those poor unfortunates in Eastern Europe who had to live with their government spying on them all the time and being in fear of them taking punitive action based on what they found, or being informed on by their neighbors. I remember how thankful I was that I didn’t live in a place like that.

    1. Even the Gestapo and the Stasi would famously knock on your door at 3 am when they came for you.

      We just break it down and throw grenades in.

      When your manners compare unfavorably to the fucking Gestapo, you may have a problem.

      1. When your cops make the Statsi seam reasonable, then you just might be living in a police state!

        /Foxworthy

  4. So who posed as an “NSA” agent & conned this moron admin into spending 500K of tax payer money? Betcha it’s the same FBI dude who ended up watching teenagers’ facebook pages. “Disparate impact” test: let’s compare % expelled of African American boys posting picks with guns and benjamins v. hot chicks who posted “inappropriate” bikini pix.

    1. In the late 90’s when it was just becoming fashionable to hire a Chief Security Officer, the dysfunctional company that I was working for (I know, I know, who else would hire me) announced that we had snagged some super security person from the NSA to be our CSO.

      After six perplexing months it finally came out that while at the NSA she had been a secretary for someone who actually knew something about security. No one at our company had done any due diligence when hiring her. They simply saw NSA and hired her.

      I’m guessing something similar happened here. Some yahoo at the school district saw FBI on some guy’s resume and bought in whole hog.

      1. To be fair Freshman Body Inspector is technically FBI also.

        1. Listen you damned Yankee, in Alabama it had better mean Freshwoman body inspector!

          They don’t go for your New England ways down there.

  5. Isn’t this how they nabbed Anne Frank?

    Next – Justin Beiber selfies with the perps!

    What a bunch of Nazi fucks. And fuck the parents and schoolboard that support this shit.

    1. I voted for an anti-Wardynski candidate for school board a couple of months ago. She lost.

      My house is for sale.

      Open to further suggestions.

  6. Also, I’m picturing “Super-Creepy Rob Lowe” from the Dish? ads as the “former NSA” guy doing the spying.

      1. See how effective those ads are! SUPER effective!

        /whatever

  7. Alabama.com

    I think it’s just “al.com.”

  8. By the way, this is not surprising behavior. Not only was the original “NSA tipped us off” lie profoundly idiotic, but this kind of totalitarian behavior has been a big problem for many public schools in Alabama.

    On the bright side, it tends to encourage students to do better in life in order to get as far away as they possibly can.

  9. Kids plotting things in secret on Facebook is a real danger these days. Out of an abundance of caution, I think all public schools should be shut down indefinitely.

  10. For what it’s worth, the only black member of the school board, Laurie McCaulley, suggested that perhaps more black students were up to no good than white students.

    RACI- Oh, you said “only black member”…

  11. What does this have to do with race?

    Blacks commit more crime at all ages.

    It isn’t racial profiling or racist to observe facts and reality.

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