Virginia School District Sought to Spend $200,000 to Monitor ‘Social Media Threats,’ ‘Hate Speech’

By Bill Pan
Bill Pan
Bill Pan
Reporter
Bill Pan is a reporter for The Epoch Times.
February 10, 2022 Updated: February 15, 2022

Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has been looking to spend $200,000 to contract software providers that could help monitor “social media threats” and “hate speech” targeting the school district, according to documents unveiled by a parent group.

In a now-closed request for proposal, or “RFP,” dated Nov. 30, 2021, the FCPS said it was willing to award a total of $200,000 to contractors for software that would allow the school district’s office of safety and security to expand its “social media research program.”

According to the documents, which were first obtained and publicized by Parents Defending Education (PDE), the request for proposal is a part of the district’s effort to “detect [and] help deter any negative actions or consequences coming from social media which may be directed to racial groups or any student or teacher within FCPS.”

“We plan to monitor social media threats, harassment, hate speech and bullying,” reads a clarification document attached to the RFP. The district didn’t further define those concepts.

While brand management tools capable of monitoring negative social media comments is nothing new, the PDE found it particularly concerning that the school district specifically wanted its software to be able to “automatically classify aliases, usernames, emails [and] websites” and to “visually identify relationships and connections between persons.”

“If individuals make a threat against FCPS or a specific FCPS facility, we would like to be able to categorize them within the platform,” the district explained in its clarification document.

The PDE said the attempt to commission for such a social media software is not only a waste of money, but also has a chilling effect on parents’ speech.

“Unfortunately for FCPS, students and their parents have First Amendment rights too,” said PDE President Nicole Neily. “The district intends to spend taxpayer funds to monitor and chill constitutionally-protected speech. Efforts to chill speech through Orwellian programs like this have rightly been challenged—and struck down—by courts around the country.”

The PDE also pointed out that the RFP was posted less than two months after National School boards Association (NSBA) in a letter to President Joe Biden notoriously characterized disruptions at school board meetings as “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crime.”

In the now-rescinded letter, the NSBA also urged the federal government to invoke counterterrorism laws to quell “angry mobs” of parents seeking to hold school officials accountable for teaching their children quasi-Marxist critical race theory and for imposing COVID-19 restrictions such as mask mandates.

The rescinded letter also served as part of the basis of an Oct. 5, 2021, memo by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. The widely-criticized memo directs federal law enforcement agents to help address an alleged “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against teachers and school leaders. The memo remains in effect, despite the NSBA having since apologized for the “languages” used in the letter.

According to internal files leaked to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division has created a new “threat tag” titled “EDUOFFICIALS,” and told agents to apply the tag to all “investigations and assessments of threats” relating to school boards.

The FCPS did not respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comments.

Bill Pan
Reporter
Bill Pan is a reporter for The Epoch Times.