Teachers Are Watching You: A Deep Dive into LanSchool

An exploration into the new student surveillance software.

The news is true: Academic Magnet teachers will now be able to remotely view students’ screens. LanSchool is the software which will be used by some teachers to peer onto your devices. It has been marked at varying prices, some being $240 dollars per classroom and $2,000 per building; despite no clear price, one can assume that the district spent thousands of tax dollars on the new monitoring system. As Ms. Orr often states, “You have no rights in school,” (jokingly, of course) but do you have a right to time management? Do you have the right to work on homework for another class during an AP Research lecture that will not be remembered whether you pay attention or not? Is maximum attention necessary in a class which you can learn through a textbook? Or can you work on other homework to maximize your sleep? These are some questions that we will explore throughout the article. The district appears to take the stand that students are playing games all class and require a helicopter monitoring system to be kept inline. Are we playing games and passing AP exams? Impressive. Another worry is the idea that the district just wasted thousands on a program which will not be used. 


Lanschool, a company based out of Triangle Park North Carolina, was originally founded as LanFan Technologies in February 1986. LanSchool is a software network that uses a remote desktop protocol that works over a localized area via Transmission Control Protocol and User Datagram Protocol. The program works by installing a console application on a teachers computer that links with a program on the students computer allowing the teacher to view the students screens. LanSchool is available on Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, iOS, and Android meaning no system is safe. The functionality of Lanschool is something similar to the way in which an average person would look through TV channels. Once the teacher has the main program downloaded on their device they can scroll through the screens of their students. Lanschool reports that the most efficient way to use the program is through a lab set of computers or a chromebook cart since this allows all the computers to work together and the program to function the most smoothly. The Lanschool user base was designed to be easy to access and this is demonstrated by the relatively simple menu that allows the teacher to use a variety of features such as Demonstrate, Monitor, Speak, Restrict, Administer, and View. This is important since Teachers often struggle with brand new technology that can be difficult to use. Lanschool’s user-friendly framework is going to make it all the more easy for teachers.


On October 4, 2022, the Biden administration took the stand that school districts should not be subjecting students to “continuous surveillance.” The suggestion was within the newly released, “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights,” a non-binding article released by the White House. The blueprint houses many other statements which LanSchool goes completely against. For example, the administration stated that “surveillance technologies should be subject to heightened oversight that includes at least pre-deployment assessment of their potential harms and scope limits to protect privacy and civil liberties.” Essentially, if the district is to directly watch over students, students’ privacy and civil liberties should still be protected. The debate comes when we observe two issues: the computers are district owned and the school is responsible for the safety of students. Because students sign a consent form when they check out CCSD chromebooks, they give up the right to protect their data. Also, because the district owns the computers, any program can be downloaded and run, especially if it is justified by the need for safety. 


Safety is a loose term. The issue with this program is that it covers what is done on a CCSD chromebook. Most threats or inappropriate statements are not made on school devices, nor over Google Docs, Gmail,  or Google Classroom. They are typically made over social media, something which LanSchool does not cover. The district has already had a system in place where administrators are notified by key words, such as couples chatting across email in inappropriate manner or students explicitly exaggerating the challenge of an assessment. The keyword notifications do not appear as much of a hindrance and exist essentially unnoticed, so the question stands: how is LanSchool screen surveillance for safety? First, most threats made are in some way typed (and would be picked up by the keyword notification system; if they are in image or video format, they would not interact with LanSchool, unless seen by a teacher during school hours. Secondly, threats are typically made via social media, something inaccessible from a school computer. Overall, the purpose of this surveillance is very clear. 


The question is “the slippery slope of the abuse of power

Teachers want to mandate that you must work on their work in their class. Fair, right? No, because not everyone has to abide by it. As mentioned, the LanSchool system is only active on school-issued chromebooks; hence, there is an imbalance of opportunity. Students with personal computers are able to review Spanish vocabulary during an AP Seminar lecture, saving time for health and sleep, while other students may be disciplined if found on another site. For example, Alan Zhang, a senior Raptor noted that he is “personally not affected,” but understands how students can feel that “their privacy is being violated.” But it can affect anyone if the teacher requires that all students use chromebooks from a cart for class.  An anonymous staff member made a rather insightful comment, that the question is “the slippery slope of abuse is the abuse of power,” which may be something that the White House foresaw when publishing the “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights.” It appears that although currently a miniscule issue, a differentiation will need to be made between acting for the purpose of safety and compromising privacy. 

Ultimate Prediction

Our bold prediction is something which we saw and experienced in middle school. In 2018 at Daniel Island Middle School, teachers had the power to see students’ screens from their desks. We vividly remember teachers exposing students who were playing Snake.io and CoolMathGames by projecting the students’ screens upon the SmartBoard. By teachers, we mean roughly one or two, not many. Also, after about one quarter of the school year, the system was proven too distracting and too complicated; it was never used again. Berkeley County School District most likely paid thousands of dollars to acquire the software and now Charleston County School District has done the exact same. We believe that the system will go largely unused as it is distracting and teachers have already noted their confusion with how it is to be downloaded. 

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