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OC Grand Jury Issues AI Caution for Public Schools

Artificial intelligence (AI) is growing everywhere, and a key panel in Orange County wants to make sure it’s used properly in local public schools.

“Like the internet, it is embraced by many educators and students alike,” the OC Grand Jury said in a just-released report.

While saying AI can revolutionize education, the OC panel also said it “presents significant disruptions, necessitating thoughtful considerations to avoid potential pitfalls.”

The grand jurors cautioned, for example, that AI will not replace teachers, and it’s not “going to solve every problem.”

In California, grand juries serve as a civilian watchdog and investigative function, in addition to their better-known role of issuing criminal indictments.

Companies in Orange County are racing to expand use of AI in their businesses, often listing it as a requirement in their hiring advertisements (for more, see stories on page 1 and 3 as well as the June 17 print edition of the Business Journal).

K-12 Study

The 2023-2024 Orange County Grand Jury undertook its review of AI utilization in Orange County’s public kindergarten through grade 12 schools.

“Unveiling crucial insights from educators and IT professionals, this Grand Jury report highlights a glaring concern: the absence of consistent, standardized policies governing AI’s application in most Orange County’s K12 school districts,” the panel said.

“This deficiency places students at risk of encountering disparate and inequitable learning environments due to the unchecked use of AI,” according to the study.

There has been a spate of news stories about the downsides of AI when it is used by students to create compromising images of their classmates.

“Locally, one needs to go no further than Orange County news feeds and papers to see recent stories of local high school students nefariously utilizing AI to artificially create photographs of student faces over pictures of bodies in various stages of undress,” the report said. That was a reference to the appearance of “deepfakes” that have gathered recent public attention.

Still, the report added: “On the other hand, AI is being used throughout several Orange County school districts in a positive manner, for example, by students using AI platforms to learn more about a topic of interest or overcome writer’s block. In one Orange County school district, music students can use an AI platform to help fulfill an assignment, such as writing a song complete with lyrics.”

Students also utilize artificial intelligence to research subject matter, write essays and generate full topic reports using an AI platform, the report said.

The Grand Jury was clear about the important role AI will play in education, quoting one unidentified OC public school district superintendent as saying: “AI is not going away; it’s the present and the future. Students need to learn ethical use of the tool in order to compete academically and professionally.”

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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