Huntsville City Schools paid a former FBI agent $157,000 last year to investigate social media activity of public school students.
The investigation led to the expulsion of 14 students last year. 12 were black.
Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison said the numbers suggest the system is targeting social media activities of black children. “That is effectively targeting or profiling black children in terms of behavior and behavioral issues,” said Harrison.
But board member Laurie McCaulley, the only African-American member of the city school board, said expulsions are caused by serious offenses, involving weapons, drugs or sex.
“These numbers tell me that I have kids with some major issues,” said McCaulley. “What I think the board is doing is trying to provide a safe environment for all children.”
On Oct. 1, AL.com requested public records listeing expulsions by race along with expenses related to the consultants involved in the online investigation.
Last year, Huntsville City Schools expelled 305 students last year. Of those, 238 were black. That translates to 78 percent of all expulsions involving black children. African Americans make up just 40 percent of Huntsville City Schools’ student body.
The investigation, known as the SAFe program came to light when AL.com was made aware of internal documents exposing the program. The system security personnel investigated the social media accounts of 600 out of 24,000 city students.
According to Superintendent Casey Wardynski, the program operates on tips from teachers or students. Personnel examine accounts for images of guns or gang symbols.
Thoughts on the alarming statistics?
Should school officials be allowed to examine students’ social media profiles for disciplinary purposes unrelated to school activity?
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