- Hunstville City Schools in Alabama is accused of racism after a social media probe of its students resulted in the expulsion of 14 students, 12 of whom were black.
- Last year, the district paid a former FBI agent $157,000 to work with its school security program and investigate the social media activity of students. That investigation resulted in the expulsions.
- The district is denying any racial motivation, claiming the investigators did not know the race of the students under observation.
According to Alabama Media Group, which has doing much of the reporting on this case, 78% of students expelled from the district last year were black, despite the fact that black students make up only 40% of the entire school population. This statistic, coupled with the investigation's results, has raised questions. According to the Huffington Post, Bob Harrison, the local county commissioner, told AMG that he believes the social media initiative was “effectively targeting or profiling black children in terms of behavior and behavioral issues.”
The school is arguing that the former FBI agent, Chris McRae, would only investigate students after getting a "tip-off" from teachers or administrators, and that he therefore did not know a student's race when beginning to dig into their social media profile. The case obviously brings to mind issues related to the school-to-prison pipeline, which sees a higher number of minority students expelled from schools and later ending up in the criminal justice system.
Another issue brought up by the story is the appropriate allocation of funds: $157,000 is a massive amount of money for a school. To spend this on probing social media profiles, as opposed to investing in actual classroom material, sounds like a real oversight. And while Keith Ward, director of communications for Huntsville City Schools, told the Huffington Post that the money was not only used for paying McRae, but also paying the consulting company he works for, it still wasn't used for the classroom. Purposely spending school resources on means to "catch" students as opposed to "supporting" them sounds like trouble.