Facial recognition software, mental healthcare in schools among 63 new Alabama laws

On July 1, more than 60 new laws went into effect in Alabama, among those are laws regarding facial-recognition software and mental healthcare in schools.
Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 10:11 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - On July 1, more than 60 new laws went into effect in Alabama, among those are laws regarding facial-recognition software and mental healthcare in schools.

State Senator Arthur Orr sponsored several new laws in the 2022 legislative session, one of which involves facial recognition software (SB56). With the help of technology, law enforcement can use facial-recognition software to catch people committing robberies or other crimes but it’s not foolproof.

“The problem is the computer software made mismatches, particularly in the case of dark-skinned individuals so people from South Asian or African Americans would have a lot of mismatches or incorrect matches,” said State Senator Orr.

Academic and government studies have shown facial recognition systems misidentify people of color more often than white people.

That’s why a new state law now prevents police from only using facial recognition for probable cause.

“This requires law enforcement to have some other type of evidence to use before they can make an arrest,” says State Senator Orr.

Another new law requires all public schools in Alabama to have a Mental Health Service Coordinator.

Madison County Schools already have one and according to the Director of Equity and Innovation, Dr. Rachel Ballard, the district was part of the pilot program for the past two years.

“They can coordinate not only with our school-based therapists through partnership but also our school counselors,” said Dr. Ballard. “We’re proud all of our administrators and counselors are now mental health first aid certified and that Mental Health Services coordinated that for all our staff.”

Dr. Ballard says they help bring resources to the school and connect students with personalized mental health services.

“If there’s a student that is going through a difficult situation, maybe a divorce in the family or death of a loved one, our Mental Health Services Coordinator sets up services with the student, the family and the school as they’re supporting that student.”

Dr. Ballard says the coordinator position was funded through grants during the pilot program, but, she says she doesn’t know how it will be funded in the future.

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