Metal detectors. Dog sniffs. Networked surveillance cameras. Bar codes. Swipe cards. Biometrics. Thermal imaging. Wire taps and electronic communication monitoring. Blood and urine testing. Cell phone, pager, and transit card tracking. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Facial recognition software. GPS tracking. Correlation of disparate online databases. Microchip implantation. National identity cards. Everyware. And so on...
We are rapidly approaching a time where every move - every action - can be monitored, archived, and correlated. The right of privacy precious to many is rapidly disappearing as we trade it for safety and convenience. The surveillance society is right around the corner, if it's not already here.
On the school front, many administrators dispense with students' 4th Amendment rights in the name of 'safety.' They know what the law says, but community pressures or perceived dangers outweigh Constitutional rights. Many of these administrators are in schools with no history of violence or threats. But Columbine freaked everyone out - if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere - so anything goes when it comes to student rights.
Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." The United States Supreme Court, in West Virginia Board of Ed. v. Barnette, said, "That they are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes."
As leaders, we should be discussing these issues - with each other, with our communities, with our students. Do we really want to live in a surveillance society? Do we still care about the 4th Amendment right to be free from suspicionless search? What is the proper balance between legitimate concern and undifferentiated fear? What kind of world do we want to leave for our children?