W.A.V.E., a profit-making program ramping up in the southern U.S. and soon to go national, will use Web sites, toll-free numbers, T-shirts and cash to encourage students to anonymously turn in classmates they consider depressed, dangerous or potentially violent. This horrifically stupid Geek Profiling would be blatantly unconstitutional if applied to adults.
According to David Bresnahan, reporting on the WorldNet Daily site, the new "W.A.V.E" program, developed by Pinkerton Services Group,a division of the international security firm Pinkerton, Inc. is starting up in North Carolina, and is soon to go nationwide.
W.A.V.E. offers anonymous toll-free lines for students, who will be trained to watch for and report "dangerous" behavior like depression, or kids with weapons. Every North Carolina school will have free access to this program, which will include a Web site, classes, school assemblies and special sessions for parents and teachers. W.A.V.E America was created by a North Carolina task force on school violence working together with Pinkerton. A contact list of law-enforcement agencies is also being developed for each school in the state to notify when a tip has been received by Pinkerton on its nationwide toll-free line.
W.A.V.E joins new sofware "security" programs like Mosaic 2000, which is being tested in public schools in America to compile and computerize information on students believed to be dangerous or potentially violent. This new rat-on-kids industry is an offshoot of the Geek Profiling anti-Net hysteria that broke out all across the United States after the Columbine High School killings, whose first anniversary is fast approaching. Despite the fact that horrific incidents like Columbine are extremely rare, and that the FBI and Justice Department have both reported that youth violence has dropped to its lowest levels in more than half a century, the belief persists in much of America that technologies like the Internet (and activities like computer gaming) are turning otherwise healthy school children into mass murderers.
In a newsmagazine survey taken earlier this year, 81 percent of Americans said they believed the Net was responsible for the Columbine massacre.
In the lunatic world of American education, and the surreal aftermath of Columbine, it now seems perfectly reasonable, even sensible, to suspend and force into counseling children who who are angry, depressed, who wear white, game obsessively, or who say intemperate and stupid things. The W.A.V.E program is not only institutionalizing but rewarding a culture in which kids are being taught to turn in classmates whose behavior they consider abnormal or dangerous. It also reinforces the notion that school students have no Constitutional rights of due process such as privacy, confronting accusers, behaving in non-conformist ways, or even knowing that accusations against them exist.
Although school-age children are presumed to have few rights, it's obvious that this kind of anonymous and intrusive law enforcement would blatantly unconstitutional for adults. Just yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Florida law that permits police to search people for firearms solely on the basis of anonymous tips. Citing the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, the court ruled that such a law would enable "any person to harass another to set in motion an intrusive, embarrassing police search..." Authorities, the court ruled, needed some corraborating evidence before they could invade the privacy of any citizen. It's frightening to imagine how school authorities can possibly teach citizenship when they have so wantonly violate the very idea of constitutional rights.
This Orwellian phobia (who do we turn in next?: "dangerous" parents, neighbors and sibs?) has been a staple of the most venal political systems in the 20th Century, from Nazism to fascism to Communism. It is presumptuous and arrogant on so many levels it's astonishing to see public officials like North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt adopt the idea so unthinkingly and enthusiastically. But he's not alone -- plenty of parents and educators are along for the ride.
It isn't clear where information goes once it's collected by kid-profiling software, or toll-free hot-lines. Presumably, it remains in a computerized dangerous-kids database for life. This is just one more reason that it's insane to ask young children to evaluate their classmates for emotional disorders and other signs of potentially "dangerous" behavior. Not only are kids patently unqualified to make judgments like that, the temptation to turn in kids that are socially competitive, "geeky," different, disliked, abrasive or unhappy seems almost irresistible, especially when doing so brings tangible rewards like cash, and is cloaked under anonymity. Monitoring and evaluating behavior is a science that's supposed to be done by trained professionals -- teachers, psychologists, guidance counselors, and therapists. Even then, kids ought to have the right to be openly confronted with the accusation that they're a menace to society, and to respond, rather than wonder if some angry classmate has branded them for life on an anonymous toll free line run by a profit-making private company with a vested interest in promoting the notion that schools -- and kids -- are dangerous.
"A safe school environment is fundamental to helping North Carolina's students succeed in school," announced Governor Hunt. "Every school ought to be a safe one and W.A.V.E. American will help get every kid involved. This program is more than just a tip line, it teaches students and parents to look for the early signs of violent behavior and to resolve conflicts constructively."
This is the worst kind of political exploitation of kids. It takes schools off the hook and turns the complex process of school administration over to adolescents. Kids will ultimately have to live in fear that the deskmate they jostled with will turn them in for money, or that bragging about exploits on Doom will get them turned into W.A.V.E. as "unbalanced."
If a kid or a parent becomes aware that a classmate has a gun and plans to use it, there are plenty of cops and law enforcement officials they can call. There is no statistical evidence to support the notion that schools are so dangerous that children need to be manipulated into turning one another in. Nor is there much doubt about who will be targeted -- geeks, nerds, Goths, oddballs, along with anyone else who is discontented, alienated and individualistic.
That kids are being rewarded for doing this is revolting enough. That they are being asked to do by a profit-making private corporation for money suggests a culture a lot sicker and more dangerous than most schoolkids. that?