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


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) – On July 1, more than 60 new laws took effect in Alabama, including laws regarding facial recognition software and mental health care 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 thefts or other crimes, but it’s not foolproof.

“The problem is that computer software has created mismatches, especially in the case of dark-skinned people, so people from South Asia or African Americans would have a lot of mismatches or incorrect matches. “said State Senator Orr.

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

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

“It requires law enforcement to have another type of evidence to use before they can make an arrest,” State Sen. Orr said.

Another new law requires all public schools in Alabama to have a mental health services coordinator.

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

“They can coordinate not only with our school therapists through a partnership, but also with our school counselors,” Dr. Ballard said. “We are proud that all of our administrators and advisors are now certified in mental health first aid and that mental health services have coordinated this for all of our staff. »

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

“If there is a student going through a difficult situation, perhaps a divorce in the family or the death of a loved one, our Mental Health Services Coordinator sets up services with the student, family and school while they support this student.”

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

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