Not cool for school: Residents reject state pol’s plan to put body scanners in local learning houses

Not cool for school: Residents reject state pol’s plan to put body scanners in local learning houses
Associated Press / Brian Branch-Price

Call it body politics.

Local tech and education boffins are sounding the alarm after a Bay Ridge state senator announced his legislation calling for body scanners in schools.

But scanners would do nothing to deter an assault weapon–wielding shooter from attacking a school, according to one former teacher, who added that the technology Republican Marty Golden is pushing for would instead infringe on students’ rights and make them feel targeted.

“I think it’s totally against students’ civil liberties, and it’s framing children as criminals,” said Genna Goldsobel, who lives in Golden’s district and taught special-ed at a Gravesend high school. “It’s creating more stress and anxiety.”

Golden introduced legislation on March 7 asking for funding for unobtrusive threat-detection systems — which he called “smart scanners” — in schools, subway stations, and entertainment venues statewide.

Golden’s reps did not respond to repeated requests for clarification on exactly what kind of scanner technology he was referring to, but one local tech expert said that based off the limited information he provided, Golden was likely referring to a system that uses millimeter-wave “advanced imaging technology” — the same kind the federal Transportation Security Administration uses in its airport full-body scanners — using electromagnetic waves to highlight weapons and other potential threats on a detailed, three-dimensional image of a person (sans clothing) that appears on a monitor.

But the agency doesn’t require kids under 12 years old to go through the scanners, in part because frequent false-positives often require invasive follow-up pat-downs, leading the tech expert to suggest that Golden and his staffers probably hadn’t studied up on the notoriously shaky technology.

“I think Marty is really overestimating what technology can do without really understanding it, and making a proposal without having done his homework to score points after a school shooting,” said Bay Ridgite Dan Hetteix, who works as an audio and visual technician at Columbia University.

And the full-body scanners used in airports cost approximately $134,000 each, according to a Transportation Security Administration rep, leading another local to call for Golden to instead funnel that money into necessary schools supplies.

“The idea that they would be able to fund this technology when schools don’t have enough desks, books, and pencils is absurd,” said Ridgite Mallory McMahon, who taught and consulted in city public schools for the past decade. “I cannot imagine how this could realistically be implemented.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.