Chester’s Woes and Student Technology Monitoring

Two news stories relevant to Nether Providence that came up in the news this week.

City of Chester

The first regards the ongoing financial difficulties in Chester. The receiver has suggested that the City of Chester could be disincorporated by the end of the year. It would be the first municipality disincorporated in the state.

Doweary maintains that there’s section of Act 47 that permits him to disincorporate the city and would occur if the bankruptcy process does not work. Both he and Kapoor repeated multiple times that this is a route they want to avoid but they had to raise it.

What would occur is that all city employees would be laid off, elected officials would be removed, and an administrator would be appointed by the state Department of Community and Economic Development to contract for the provision of vital and necessary services on behalf of the area.

Although it still sounds like an outside chance, as a neighboring municipality, Nether Providence should think about how this would affect services in the area such as fire services, as well as upkeep for Chester Park, which many Garden City residents use.

Monitoring Students

In my article on WSSD’s monitoring of student laptops, I glossed over the more commonly discussed opposition to focus on how it’s not effective. But WHYY had a lengthy piece this week that delves into more of the other issues with GoGuardian and similar technologies.

While surveillance software companies have shared anecdotal evidence and their own data, there is no outside research that shows these monitoring tools effectively reduce violence or accurately identify students considering self-harm or experiencing mental health crises, according to the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF). And some researchers say there can be many unintended consequences. Districts can be flooded with false alarms, disproportionately discipline marginalized students, out LGBTQ students, and limit free speech.

And there are other consequences of being watched as well,

Once students learn they are being surveilled, they are less likely to fully express themselves and seek online resources for help, according to the CDT and the FPF.

Half of students surveyed by the CDT for a 2022 report said they didn’t share their true thoughts online because they were aware of being monitored.

As I think ahead, I’m sure what’s coming next is coming next is these companies incorporating more and more machine learning technology into these products. So it’ll go from algorithms that they won’t disclose publicly to a system that even they don’t fully understand why it decides what it decides. One where the biases underpinning it are even less clear. I highly recommend reading the WHYY piece and if you want to understand the fundamental issues of this kind of surveillance better, I recommend Weapons of Math Destruction.

Categories: Ramblings