Huntsville, Alabama, high school administrators say yes, they have been spying on students’ social media accounts for the past 18 months or so — but that they’ve only done it because the National Security Agency warned of the potential for a “violent threat,” they said.
The schools started tapping into students’ Facebook and social media postings to check for photos of guns and gang signs, threats of violence and anything else that could give clues of looming acts of violence, the Daily Mail reported. They conducted the surveillance as part of a program called Students Against Fear, or SAFe, the news outlet said.
Huntsville schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski said to AL.com that officials launched the program about 18 months ago after the NSA warned of a student making violent threats on Facebook., AL.com reported.
But the NSA denies it ever called the school to issue a warning.
“The National Security Agency has no record that it passed any information to the Huntsville school district and the description of what supposedly occurred is inconsistent with NSA’s practices,” said Vanee Vines, a public affairs specialist for the agency, in the Daily Mail.
Regardless, Huntsville City Schools started scanning through student Facebook pages to look for signs of guns and gang signs, as well as threats of violence, about 18 months ago, AL.com reported.
Mr. Wardynski insists the NSA got involved because there was a “foreign connection” — that a student in Huntsville who was found to have made threats had previously engaged in an online chat with an individual in Yemen, AL.com reported.