Education

Fairfax County Public Schools Proposes Contract For ‘Social Media Management Services’ To Monitor ‘Harassment, Hate Speech’

SHUTTERSTOCK/John M. Chase

Chrissy Clark Education Reporter
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A northern Virginia public school district proposed a contract of up to $200,000 for “social media management services” to track “social media threats, harassment, hate speech and bullying,” according to documents obtained by a concerned parent organization.

Parents Defending Education recently uncovered that Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is expanding its Office of Safety and Security by contracting for social media monitoring services. The vendor — who has yet to be named — will be tasked with providing software that is capable of “active listening,” searching “deep and dark web sources not visible through traditional search engines” and conducting “Open Source Intelligence” on perceived threats, among other things.

The goal of the project is “to expand social media research program [sic] in order to detect [and] help deter any negative actions or consequences coming from social media which may be directed to racial groups or any students or teacher within FCPS,” according to the proposal.

Screenshot/Fairfax County Public Schools/Parents Defending Education

Screenshot/Fairfax County Public Schools/Parents Defending Education

The proposal also lists classifying “aliases, usernames, emails, websites, etc.” and “visually identify[ing] relationships and connections between persons” as technical and functional requirements. (RELATED: Apple Infiltrates School Board Association With ‘Racial Justice’ Guide For Pre-K Students)

Parents Defending Education noted that FCPS does not define what it considers “harassment, hate speech, and bullying” in the proposal.

“Parents raised concern that the contract amounts to wasteful spending actually designed to silence parents and combat the school district’s public relations failures, often pilloried on social media,” the concerned parent group said.

Nicole Neily, the founder and president of Parents Defending Education, said the program is a violation of the First Amendment rights of parents, teachers and students.

“Unfortunately for FCPS, students and their parents have First Amendment rights too. The district intends to spend taxpayer funds to monitor and chill constitutionally-protected speech,” Neily said. “Efforts to chill speech through Orwellian programs like this have rightly been challenged — and struck down — by courts around the country.”

FCPS spokeswoman Jennifer Sellers told the Daily Caller that the program is in the “development stage” and was designed with the intent of “protect[ing] students and staff.”

“The FCPS Social Media monitoring program is in the development stage and is intended to protect students and staff from potential safety threats through early notification and response,” Seller said. “As this program develops, it will be supported by regulation and procedures. It is only a part of our comprehensive safety and security program that focuses on a safe school environment.”

In nearby Loudoun County, Virginia, current and former teachers reportedly compiled a list of parents who questioned the Loudoun County school district’s preferred critical race theory-inspired lessons, according to the Daily Wire. The stated goal of the list was to gather information on the “anti-CRT movement,” “infiltrate” anti-CRT groups, redirect them to “pro-CRT/antiracist informational web pages” and “expose these people publicly,” the outlet reported in March 2021.