Dec 15, 2020
In Pasco County, Florida, the sheriff’s department used students’ school records, including their grades and information about their family lives, to identify them as potential troublemakers. School officials say they knew nothing about this longstanding practice -- until the Tampa Bay Times’ investigation broke the story wide open. Kathleen McGrory, the deputy investigations editor, and Neil Bedi, who reports and analyzes data, discuss how they structured the project, and what they learned. Among their key findings: School officials didn’t know how the sheriff’s office was using student data, and they do not plan to modify the information-sharing agreement. And sheriff’s deputies made repeat visits to the homes of students solely based on the department’s questionable metrics for identifying “high risk” individuals. The two journalists also offer tips for mining open records on campus safety and school discipline, explain the risks to students from criminal-profiling programs, and share story ideas for local reporters looking to follow their lead.