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AI Policy & Governance, Equity in Civic Technology, Privacy & Data

Brief: Tech for School Discipline? Parents and Teachers of Students with Disabilities Express Concerns

A concerning trend in K-12 tech practices is the growing use of technology and data for disciplinary purposes. In the past few years, novel applications of school technology have resulted in student suspensions, interactions with law enforcement, and attempts to predict future criminal behavior. CDT’s own research found that of the 81 percent of teachers reporting that their school uses student activity monitoring software, nearly half indicate that it is used at least in part to identify student violations of disciplinary policy. Part of what makes this troubling is that K-12 disciplinary practices have long been shown to disparately impact students from historically marginalized backgrounds, including students with disabilities. 

Students with disabilities are disciplined by school authorities at higher rates than non-disabled students. Disciplinary uses of school technology and data risk magnifying these inequitable outcomes by increasing potential touchpoints with disciplinary authorities, especially when these digital systems are not designed with students with disabilities in mind. CDT’s research analyzes attitudes of parents and teachers of students with disabilities regarding disciplinary uses of technology and data, in order to better understand how such applications impact these students. Specifically, the research found:

  • Teachers and parents of students with disabilities are especially concerned about disciplinary uses of student data. 
  • However, teachers and parents of students with disabilities are more likely to report that the benefits outweigh the risks of student activity monitoring software. 
  • Nevertheless, teachers and parents of students with disabilities show particular concern about disciplinary uses of monitoring software.

Read the full research brief here.