At first glance, these two words seem to bear no resemblance. While schools are the breeding ground for knowledge, where millions of innocent children go to learn, explore, and find sanctuary, shootings mostly occur in either war-torn or crime-heavy regions—places of rampant illness, stark malnutrition, and death. With such drastic differences in mind, can these two words be possibly synonymous with each other?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes and quite obviously so. According to Chicago Tribune, school shootings have become more prevalent than ever before. Just last May, for example, a 17-year-old took the lives of 10 fellow classmates at his high school in Texas while a 13-year-old injured two and perhaps would have injured more if it weren’t for the swift response of the school’s resource officer. Similar incidents have preceded these two shootings; to put matters in perspective, there have been, on average, more than one school shooting per week in 2018, leaving more than 70 injured and 40 dead. In other words, with the year only halfway over, 2018 has already seen more injuries and deaths than all of 2017 and appears to be on track to outpace 2017 in terms of overall incidents.
With such horrifying statistics in mind, what can we do to prevent these incidents? To answer this question, let’s explore a few possible underlying causes and investigate how Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) can alleviate these issues.
A likely cause of school violence could be bullying, which is defined by the U.S. Government as repeated, unwanted, and aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying is a very serious issue in many different countries and at various types of institutions (primary, secondary, and higher levels of education); it is particularly alarming given the significant mental health effects inflicted on both the bully and victim and because of the rate at which it is uncovered. The U.S. Department of Education claims that an adult is notified in less than 40% of bullying cases, meaning that, oftentimes, kids let their feelings of helplessness, humiliation, and isolation grow and don’t know how to look for help. With FRT, however, schools can identify students who show consistent signs of emotional distress. Administrators and counselors can actively help suffering students instead of having to wait for them to ask for help—an option that many students do not even consider.
At a more basic level, school violence can also be caused by simply letting the wrong person in. Conventional security systems can monitor existing locales, but they cannot conduct predictive analytics or provide advance warning of a violent event. Traditional surveillance systems do not have access to existing criminal databases or previous histories of violent incidents at a specific institution. Surveillance systems with FRT, on the other hand, do and can run Edge computations to determine if any dangerous circumstances will arise. In the case of an intruder, for example, a surveillance system with FRT capabilities will run his or her face against past histories of criminality, violence, and other past school-related incidents.
Failure to Recognize Prevailing, Depressed Emotions
As mentioned earlier, one of the most frightening facts about bullying is the low rate at which it is uncovered, which points to widespread suppression of negative emotions. Such suppression of negative emotions, whether from bullying or not, can potentially lead to even more volatile emotional states that can subsequently produce violent outbursts if left unresolved. If we have the ability to observe psychological trends over time with FRT, then why not use this ability to treat clinically depressed individuals? Sure, FRT could keep dangerous individuals out of schools, but it could also create a more inclusive community for all—one in which students can focus on their academic performance and truly be themselves.
Note: We asked our summer interns to investigate the potential for FRT in education and present us with their findings and conclusions. Andy Tseng, an Economics/Computer Science student at the University of Chicago, crafted this piece. He strongly believes, as do his colleagues at VIA, that technology can and should be used to make the world a safer, better place and that the foundation for such change starts with education. We invite you to check out the rest of the educations series: Personalization in Education: Integrating AI into Alternative Classrooms; Maximizing Classroom Performance with Facial Recognition Technology.