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By David M. Bresnahan

July 23, 2002 


WASHINGTON - Schools trying to control the thoughts and words of students can now turn to the federal government for funds to teach kids to spy on each other.

Using funds provided through the Department of Education, Safe and Drug Free Schools program, middle school students can now be taught how to spy on classmates and turn them in to the local police.

The program is designed to "prevent hate crimes" by reporting "homophobic" and racial slurs uttered by students.

The program will begin in West Virginia schools this fall by order of the state attorney general, Darrel V. McGraw. He calls it the "Civil Rights Team Project," but many are already voicing concern that it smacks of McCarthyism.

Under the program, students will be trained to observe, monitor, and report other students based on their words and actions.

The so-called civil rights teams will be specially selected and trained. Comprised of three students and two faculty advisors, the teams will report incidents of "racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and homophobic slurs."

Instead of protecting civil liberties, the new "spy kids" program is a direct threat to First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech.

Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute, a religious-liberties legal group, said someone is going to have to be wrongly accused before the project legally can be challenged. When that happens his group is offering to provide free legal defense for any student harmed by the project, according to Focus on the Family.

Other states are in the process of putting the program into effect for the coming school year. Similar efforts around the country have included training entire school populations to make anonymous calls to a toll-free number to report students who act or speak in a certain way.

The West Virginia program is modeled after a similar program already in use in Maine.

2002 David M. Bresnahan - All Rights Reserved

David M. Bresnahan  is an award-winning independent investigative journalist. He maintains an archive of his work at  and offers a free e-mail alert so you will not miss any of his news stories or commentaries.