Wish you could keep tabs on your kids all the time? So does the government! Schools in San Antonio, Texas have unveiled new technology that places a radio-frequency identification chip on its students so it can monitor their whereabouts throughout the day.
As The Huffington Post and RT report, the chip is implanted in the students’ IDs, which are to be worn around the neck constantly. Despite protests from students and parents, the Northside Independent School District says it will be expanding the program to over 100 schools and nearly 100,000 students. School officials have threatened that students who refuse to wear their monitoring devices are subject to punishments like suspension or being transferred to another school.
Currently, students without their IDs are also not allowed to participate in afterschool activities, eat in the cafeteria or go to the library. After all, why let kids into the library to check out the book 1984 when they’re already living it? Andrea Hernandez, a sophomore at John Jay High School who opts to wear her chip-free ID from the previous year, has had teachers tell her she is not permitted to vote for homecoming court or run for student council because of her choice. Obviously, you wouldn’t want a free thinking, disobedient teenager to be in a position of power.
Similar to most threats to our individual liberties, the program is purported to be for the students’ “safety.” Additionally, the district hopes that the chips will help to address its truancy issues. Schools lose state funding when students are absent, so by frightening students into attending class, Northside expects to generate more revenue. Of course, a large portion of that recouped money goes toward paying for the implementation and upkeep of this chip technology, so the real winner is the company that convinced schools that this was a good idea.
But Northside is right about one thing – monitoring devices are a surefire way to increase school attendance! Students are bound to come to school more often after being made to feel like untrustworthy inmates. If anything, the school should take it a few steps further. Why not add some shock technology to the IDs and put an electric fence around the school building, too?
If only these draconian monitoring measures were an isolated incident. Salon has a thorough run-through of other schools in Baltimore, Dallas, Anaheim and Illinois with similar programs. Many of these schools fashion students with GPS devices so they can keep tabs on them off school premises, as well.
The growing trend of planting chips on students is certainly a situation that fans of civil liberties need to – for a lack of a better term – monitor. Pretty soon, we may be longing for the days when school tracking just meant racially segregating our students for differing success paths.