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Education Reporter

Mosaic 2000 No Work of Art
Questionnaire mimics law enforcement profiling
A new pilot program for identifying potentially violent students called Mosaic 2000 began testing at up to 30 schools nationwide in December. The program was designed by computer software company Gavin de Becker Inc., which has also developed "high stakes" assessments, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

Mosaic 2000 will be tested in grades 1 - 12, with high schools the main focus. While all the test sites have not officially been announced, at least one school in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and two schools in Orange County, California are participating in the program. As many as 10 schools in Los Angeles County are expected to be included.

Mosaic 2000 programs are questionnaires that rate "potentially violent" students on a scale of one to 10. The questions are modeled on those used for years by law enforcement and government agencies to identify violence-prone individuals. The 40-question format includes: "Has the student made references or threats about committing suicide?" "Has the student experienced victimization by peers within the last 18 months?" "Has the student made threats to harm others?"

There is no scoring - the questionnaires are to be used by school officials to make decisions about counseling and other corrective action. Educators in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, have stated that they are confident that Mosaic programs will protect the confidentiality of student records, and that the software "would not be connected to any central data program." (New York Times, 10-24-99)

Unlike the many privacy-invading surveys routinely given to schoolchildren without their parents' consent, Mosaic 2000 questionnaires are filled out by teachers and school administrators. This has raised concerns among parents, who worry that their children will be unfairly stereotyped or labeled "harmful." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also expressed misgivings. An ACLU spokesman complained to the Associated Press (12-15-99), "Shouldn't we be talking face-to-face with our kids about what's going on in their lives? The human element seems to be missing in this equation."

A federal firearms official told the New York Times that school officials need Mosaic 2000 to identify the "relatively good students with easy access to guns" who "may erupt because they feel victimized by bullies or by the school system." He claimed that gang members are easy to identify, and that "it's these other people that kind of surprise administrators, and these are the ones they really need to identify."

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