In 2002, the movie Minority Report featured a plot where a special police unit used prognosticators, humans with special powers to foresee the future, to identify future murderers and stop the crimes before they are committed.

Science Fiction Law -- Still Reeling: Minority Report, Sixteen Years Later
Just a work of science fiction, right? No one would actually try this, oh wait …

“The Pasco Sheriff’s Office keeps a secret list of kids it thinks could “fall into a life of crime” based on factors like whether they’ve been abused or gotten a D or an F in school, according to the agency’s internal intelligence manual.” (Tampa Bay Times, November 19, 2020. You can read the full story here.)

As of November, there were 420 children on the list of future criminals.

Only the Sheriff’s Office knows who they are; no one else, not the superintendent, not the principals of the schools, not even the Florida Department of Children and Families, whose confidential data is being scraped in addition to grades and discipline records from the school system.

A few years back, Lauren Moril (Macon, Georgia) penned these words later used by Kayla Chadwick in a HuffPost piece (often misattributed to other people): I don’t know how to explain to someone why they should care about other people.

If you are not outraged by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office in using grade, discipline, background data such as trauma, confidential data from state agencies in ways that violate federal and state privacy laws, I don’t know how to explain to you why you should be. Stop reading.

In education, we know the power of expectations. Children, in general, rise or fall to the level of expectations we hold for them.

In this Winter Break of no break, Grumpy Old Teacher has already held three two-hour-long tutoring sessions online. The exultation of a student exclaiming yes! when he has worked out the answer to a problem on his own when he has been struggling for a long time … the past is not prologue (to argue with the Bard) unless we make it so.

GOT believes in his students. If they are willing to put in the work, they will find success and he will give them the assist that they need until they are doing it on their own.

The self-fulfilling nature of prophecy is what makes Pasco’s practice so disturbing. Labeling children as future criminals and making that known to school resource officers … they can try to explain it away as identifying youth in need of extra support, but we know how that really works out.

What they have said is, “Keep an eye on these ones. Act swiftly as needed.”

And 2020 has taught us, as if we didn’t know, that law enforcement seldom reacts with resources and support.

Many in Florida are already aware of this Pasco County Sheriff’s Office policy. But GOT wonders if the rest of the nation knows.

The scary sci-fi ‘this will become your future’ is here. Naturally, it would be Florida (we sometimes call it ‘Flori-DUH’) that would take the lead. After all, we gave the nation third-grade retention, school report cards, and vouchers for religious schools as policies to emulate.

GOT doesn’t work in Pasco County. But if he did, knowing this, he probably would never assign a grade below C or write a referral again.

One thought on “Minority Report

  1. And it is why I am still on the phone with parents about their children who could, with a little or a lot of effort, bring their grade up before it becomes their report card grade. I get chastised for taking personal time but if the time to evaluate what could make a difference in the grade makes a difference to them, then the payoff is beyond measure.

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