By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Mass. teachers join the national surveillance state

Photo via Wikimedia Commons (click here for info)

Teachers in Massachusetts must now submit to being fingerprinted. And another part of our liberties just died.

This happened so quickly and quietly that I had no idea it was in the works until I read a small Associated Press item in the Boston Globe this morning. Googling revealed a detailed story published by Patch. The new law, signed on Thursday by Gov. Deval Patrick, pertains to everyone who works at schools and child-care centers. As this press release from the governor’s office makes clear, the law applies to private-school teachers as well.

Please read this sentence twice: The information would be forwarded to the State Police and from there make its way to the FBI.

It’s always easy to defend such measures as being in the best interests of kids. And if you’ve got nothing to hide, why should you care?

Let me offer a hypothetical. A teacher’s fingerprints could turn up in an investigation that has nothing to do with kids. That teacher will then be hauled in the police for reasons that have nothing to do with why the fingerprints were submitted in the first place — putting teachers at greater legal jeopardy than those of us whose fingerprints are not on file.

In effect, teachers are becoming part of the national surveillance state as the price of being employed. Taken in isolation, maybe it’s not a big deal. Several other states, including New York, already fingerprint teachers. But it chips away at our freedom, and it’s too bad Patrick decided to pander rather than use his veto pen.

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  1. Does this include religious schools as well? Does it extend to school administrators and other school staff as well as teachers? Perhaps it should extend to clergy? And what about university professors? And blog commenters?

    Think of the children!

  2. DK – progressives are always reminding TEA Party types that freedom isn’t absolute, and there needs to be regulation for the public good.

    As you say, this practice is commonplace in other states and would seem to have more relevance to public protection in this instance. IIRC, lawyers have had to do this for many years – where’s the public protection in that? Also, doesn’t this also apply to firefighters now?

  3. I would like to say I am surprised, but no, I am not. This isn’t the only attack against public employees this week by someone who rode the support of public employees to two successful terms in the corner office

  4. Fingerprinting is part of processing criminal suspects. It is literally a search of one’s person and taking of evidence after someone is actually suspected and thus arrested for an alleged crime.

    This bill was rushed through in a matter of weeks, in response to a convicted sex offender who videotaped himself sexually assaulting children. This is yet another act of law imposed on entire groups of people as an entirely emotional response to one isolated incident. Because of one perv-criminal, the unthinking bureaucrats now want to treat everyone else as criminals. This is the same kind of reaction as the Congress rushed through the awful Patriot Act.

  5. Cynthia, (hello!) I dunno where you got the idea that lawyers have to be fingerprinted (I can’t imagine the hue and cry that would follow such a proposal), but I’ve been a lawyer for almost 35 years, and no one’s taken mine yet.

    Where is the teacher’s union on this?

    I dare say Mitt Romney wouldn’t have signed such a bill.

    (lights fuse, gets away)

    • During the waste of time campaign of 2012, Willard Romney had stated that he supported each and every police state intrusion that Bush-Obama have imposed on us, NDAA indefinite detention of Americans, illegal NSA surveillance, the TSA porn-viewing, groping and molesting. Of course Romney would have signed this bill.

      And also, the reason that lawyers don’t have to get their fingerprints taken is that it is lawyers who write these #@$^&* laws!

  6. Dan Kennedy

    @Pete: I’m curious to know why you think Romney would have even hesitated.

  7. Peter – MANY states (CA, NJ, MI, NY, FL et al) require this for the bar exam. Don’t you ever watch Michael Moriarty on Law and Order? I’m not surprised to hear that MA does not.

  8. 10-11 Years ago when I was considering a teaching position in New York City, I would have needed to get my fingerprints taken. I also would have had to pay to have it done, if I remember correctly. There was definitely a fee for something other than the application for the certification. (For all the hoops to jump through, the principal of the school I was applying to couldn’t even adequately explain the position he wanted to offer – I think his understanding of media literacy was off. 🙂 I later took a job in Mass.

    In 2004, I barely had two nickels to rub together and had to pay for everything required to be cleared to cover the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston. I was just an audio guy on a tv crew!

    Privacy issues aside, I take most offense at having to pay for it, myself. Do you have any idea what it costs to become a teacher? You really have to want the job, because the salary doesn’t make up for the expense of qualifying and then maintaining those qualifications. Will these fingerprints be another thing aspiring educators have to pay for out of pocket? Only rich folks will be able to afford to teach. It’s almost that way, now.

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