Just about all the schools Fuentes writes about are united by a belief in that most pernicious of principles, "zero tolerance". Their scanners, cameras and computer applications are supplied by a US security industry that seems to grow bigger and more insatiable every year. And as she sees it, their neurotic emphasis on security has plenty of negative results: it renders the atmosphere in schools tense and fragile, and in coming down hard on young people for the smallest of transgressions, threatens to define their life chances at an early age – because, as she puts it, "suspensions and academic failure are strong predictors of entry into the criminal justice system". There is also, of course, the small matter of personal privacy.
It would be comforting to think of all this as a peculiarly American phenomenon. But in the UK, we seem almost as keen on turning schools into authoritarian fortresses. Scores of schools have on-site "campus police officers." One in seven schools has insisted on students being fingerprinted so they can use biometric systems for the delivery of lunches and in school libraries. Security systems based on face recognition have already been piloted in 10 schools, and on-site police officers are now a common feature of the education system. Most ubiquitous of all are CCTV cameras: in keeping with our national love affair with video surveillance, 85% of secondary schools are reckoned to use it, even in changing rooms and toilets.
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