July 25, 2018 Winston: Students and teachers are evacuated during an active shooter training exercise held by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office at Mason Creek Middle School on Wednesday, July 25, 2018, in Winston. The large-scale training drill is meant to test the resources of area law enforcement and emergency responders in an effort to better prepare Douglas County First Responders in the event of a mass casualty active shooter event. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Safe schools proposal would compile data on Georgia students

Legislation to thwart attacks on Georgia schools by assembling dossiers on students to gauge any risk they pose is facing concerns about privacy rights.

Senate Bill 15 would provide funding for equipment to strengthen schools against intruders while also supportinig safety planning. The most controversial element, though, is a proposal to anticipate threats by the students themselves using what the bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, called a  “data aggregation model.”

Records from schools, local and federal law enforcement and state social service agencies would be curated in “student profiles,” which would be reviewed  to identify those at-risk of mounting a violent attack like what happened last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“Identifying where we will have risk and where a student is going down a really bad path is important,” Albers said at a hearing for the legislation Monday at the Senate Public Safety Committee. The goal is to do “the responsible thing  by wrapping our arms around and helping these students before they might cause harm to themselves or to others.”

One critic who testified didn’t like the idea of government keeping tabs on kids or creating records that might dog them for life.

“Do we want our children to be flagged by the government based on an algorithm when we don’t even know who created the algorithm or what factors go into it,” said Jane Robbins, an education lobbyist who testified on behalf of Concern Women for America. She said profiling based on demographic information could produce biased, inaccurate results that violate students’ privacy and free speech rights while creating documents that “could come back to haunt them forever.”

Albers, the committee chairman, said the bill is evolving and that another hearing will happen after further changes are made, including striking private schools from those affected by the legislation.

SB 15 incorporates recommendations by a Senate study committee that met last year under Albers’ leadership.

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