A former FBI agent was paid $157,000 to oversee security efforts at Alabama's Huntsville City Schools, including monitoring the social media activity of students, an effort that critics argue unjustly targeted African Americans.
The spying on social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter led to 14 expulsions—12 of them of African-American students—last school year.
According to AL.com, the former FBI agent, Chris McRae, oversees Huntsville schools' Students Against Fear (SAFe) program and was provided anonymous tips that he then used to go on social media sites to monitor students' accounts to assess the threat level.
According to the news site, 86 percent of those expelled as a direct result of social media behavior are black students. And while the school system is 40 percent African American, 78 percent of the 305 students expelled overall last year—238—are black.
These numbers are a cause for concern for Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison. "That is effectively targeting or profiling black children in terms of behavior and behavioral issues," Harrison told the news station.
Superintendent Casey Wardynski told AL.com last week that the program is about safety, and social media sites provide information that can be valuable.
"Often we'll find on Facebook things going on right now, kids are posting from inside school or on Twitter. Here's a kid with a pistol on Facebook. These are his buddies, each with a gun. We're instantly interested in that," Wardnski told the news site.
"This isn't like folks are going out looking at everybody's Facebook and working our way back to, 'Should we be interested in them?'" he insisted. "It is, 'We're interested in this guy, what's he up to? Is he in school today? Let's look at his social media.' All you do is go to Facebook and YouTube and type in their name. If you find out they are doing something in real time, or those other people look like they're doing nefarious things, they can be a threat."
Read more at AL.com.