David M. Bresnahan
- Schools trying to control the thoughts and words of students can now
turn to the federal government for funds to teach kids to spy on each
Using funds provided
through the Department of Education, Safe and Drug Free Schools
program, middle school students can now be taught how to spy on
classmates and turn them in to the local police.
The program is
designed to "prevent hate crimes" by reporting
"homophobic" and racial slurs uttered by students.
The program will
begin in West Virginia schools this fall by order of the state
attorney general, Darrel V. McGraw. He calls it the "Civil Rights
Team Project," but many are already voicing concern that it
smacks of McCarthyism.
Under the program,
students will be trained to observe, monitor, and report other
students based on their words and actions.
The so-called civil
rights teams will be specially selected and trained. Comprised of
three students and two faculty advisors, the teams will report
incidents of "racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and homophobic
Instead of protecting
civil liberties, the new "spy kids" program is a direct
threat to First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech.
Brad Dacus of the
Pacific Justice Institute, a religious-liberties legal group, said
someone is going to have to be wrongly accused before the project
legally can be challenged. When that happens his group is offering to
provide free legal defense for any student harmed by the project,
according to Focus on the Family.
Other states are in
the process of putting the program into effect for the coming school
year. Similar efforts around the country have included training entire
school populations to make anonymous calls to a toll-free number to
report students who act or speak in a certain way.
The West Virginia
program is modeled after a similar program already in use in Maine.