Society

Alabama School District Pays Ex-FBI Agent to Spy on Students Online

| by Michael Allen

The Huntsville City Schools system in Alabama expelled 14 students last year because of their online activity on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.

The expulsions were part of the Huntsville City Schools' program "Students Against Fear," which is not actually run by students, but rather the school system and a corporation called T&W Operations, which employs former FBI agent Chris McRae.

According to AL.com, the school system paid $586,000 to T&W Operations in 2012 to help spy on students and another $400,000 in 2013.

School district spokesman Keith Ward told WHNT that T&W Operations allegedly found threatening or inappropriate online comments that lead to the expulsion of 14 students, of whom 12 are black.

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"That is effectively targeting or profiling black children in terms of behavior and behavioral issues," Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison told AL.com.

Jeannee Gannuch, co-founder of the South Huntsville Civic Association, claims that T&W Operations was following her group on Facebook.

"My tax dollars are paying for a hired hand to watch a political organization? That doesn't seem right," Gannuch told AL.com.

The school system claims it doesn't know anything about the cyber snooping of the South Huntsville Civic Association.

“As any good parent would do, we take all the measures appropriate to ensure the safety of our kids,” stated school superintendent Casey Wardynski in September.

Wardynski also claimed the National Security Agency (NSA) tipped the school system off about a student posting violent threats on Facebook, but the NSA denied contacting the school district, noted Opposing Views.

Wardynski said there was a "foreign connection" to a student who was found to have a "knife" in his car.

The student, Auseel Yousefi, told AL.com in detail how his joking tweets caused mass paranoia with school officials and noted that the "knife" was a theatrical jeweled dagger that a friend bought at a Renaissance fair and had left in his car. The "foreign connection" turned out to be Yousefi's family members in Yemen whom he communicated with online.

Sources: WHNT, AL.com