Legal implications of profiling students for violence


  • Kirk A. Bailey

    Corresponding author
    1. The Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence
    • Kirk A. Bailey, The Hamilton Fish Institute, 2121 K Street, NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20037–1830.
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Predicting violent activity with a youth violence profile in schools raises a host of legal concerns focusing on the validity and use of profiles as social science evidence: the impact of potential discrimination, search and seizure, and the implications for privacy. Schools differ from airports or other settings where profiles are used. Profiles are useful if they properly establish reasonable suspicion to stop an individual. They raise more problematic constitutional issues when they support referring a student to alternative educational services. Where a profile identifies students based on race, gender, or proxies for these characteristics, it is invalid. It can also be invalid if it is not a reasonable method of achieving the government's interest in safe schools. In addition, profiles present significant problems for confidentiality. These issues rest on fundamental concerns about the general validity of profiles as scientific tools: their objectivity, accuracy, sensitivity, overinclusiveness, and general scientific acceptance. Consequently, the use of profiles in a school setting is highly problematic and controversial. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.