HomeBlocksFront-GridBurbank Unified School District Superintendent Warns of AI Misuse

Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Warns of AI Misuse

Burbank Unified School District Superintendent John Paramo issued a bleak warning to the community this week regarding vulgar images of minor students generated by artificial intelligence.

Paramo’s statement on Tuesday highlighted a rising trend that he says is on the rise in other districts, but has yet to make its way to Burbank, calling it a concern that needs the community’s immediate attention.

The announcement came just a day after administrators at Beverly Vista Middle School in Beverly Hills announced an investigation into images created by superimposing students’ faces onto AI-generated bodies, an issue first raised to school administrators by students.

“There have been incidents in neighboring school districts involving the creation and dissemination of artificial intelligence-generated images that superimpose the faces of students onto digitally fabricated nude bodies. This reprehensible behavior poses significant risks to our students’ safety, well-being, and dignity and cannot be tolerated,” Paramo said in an email statement.

The pace of AI technology is accelerating, as image generation tools become more widely accessible to end-users. A lack of government intervention in the creation and use of this software has made it easy for bad actors to create manipulated images which, in some cases, are difficult to discern from reality.

The creation and sharing of such manipulated images not only violate the privacy and consent of the individuals involved but also perpetuates a culture of harassment, bullying and exploitation, Paramo said.

“It is crucial for us, as a community, to understand the gravity of this issue and take decisive action to address it effectively,” Paramo stated. “This practice poses serious risks and raises significant ethical and legal concerns that cannot be ignored. The creation and sharing of such images violate the privacy and dignity of the individuals involved, perpetuating harmful behaviors and contributing to a toxic online environment. It is essential for us, as a community, to understand the gravity of this issue and take proactive measures to address it effectively.

To the knowledge of district leadership, this has yet to occur in BUSD, Paramo said. He added that being proactive and informative is a focal point in awareness and deterrence.

Producing and distributing AI-generated images without the consent of the individuals depicted and may have legal ramifications, including potential violations of privacy laws and regulations, Paramo said.

In 2020, the California Assembly passed two laws making the creation and distribution of artificial pornographic images illegal, establishing a framework for victims to sue those who create and possess the images.

“Learners who engage in such activities may face disciplinary action from the school and legal consequences outside the educational setting,” Paramo stated.

He added that using AI with bad intentions and without consent is a clear violation of individuals’ privacy rights, and exposes learners to potential embarrassment, harassment, emotional distress and can have long-lasting effects on their mental and emotional well-being.

“[It] is morally wrong and goes against the principles of respect, empathy and dignity,” Paramo said. “The Burbank Unified School District is committed to fostering a safe, inclusive, and respectful learning environment for all our learners. We take incidents of misconduct seriously and will investigate any reports of inappropriate behavior related to the creation or dissemination of AI-generated images. We will also partner with the Burbank Police Department if necessary.”

Paramo urged parents and guardians to have open and honest conversations with their children about responsible digital citizenship, online safety and the consequences of engaging in harmful behavior online. He also encouraged students to speak up if they witness or experience any form of cyberbullying, harassment or misconduct.

“As your superintendent, I am committed to fostering a culture of proactivity within our school district. Together, let us embrace the opportunities and proactively shape a future where every learner thrives.”

First published in the March 2 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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