An Alabama school district hired an ex-FBI agent and paid him six figures to investigate the social media activity of students, which eventually led to more than a dozen students being expelled, according to al.com.
Huntsville City Schools paid Chris McRae $157,000 for school security improvements, which included the social media investigation. As a result of his findings, 14 students — 12 of whom were African-American — were expelled last year, according to records obtained by the news outlet.
Superintendent Casey Wardynski told al.com that the program relied on tips from students and teachers. The investigators, led by McRae, then looked for any guns or gang signs on the students’ social media accounts.
The program resulted last year in investigations of 600 students out of the 24,000-student district, according to the news outlet. Huntsville City Schools expelled 305 students last year — of which 14 resulted from the social media program.
The district has had a contractual relationship with the firm that employs McRae since 2012. District spokespeople stressed that McRae does other work besides leading the social media investigations.
Some local officials saw a racial element to the probes.
“That is effectively targeting or profiling black children in terms of behavior and behavioral issues,” Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison said. But one black school board member disagreed.
“These numbers tell me that I have kids with some major issues,” Laurie McCaulley told al.com. “What I think the board is doing is trying to provide a safe environment for all children.”