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Student-Tracking Devices? Is This Big Brother?

Student-Tracking Devices? Is This Big Brother?

Tracking chips in student ID cards? Is this legal?

Radio frequency identification is now being used to track some students in the Spring and Santa Fe school districts of Houston, Texas. ID badges in both districts include tracking devices that allow campus administrators to keep tabs on students’ whereabouts on campus. School leaders say that the devices improve security and increase attendance rates.

Tracking Devices A Great Asset?

“It’s a wonderful asset,” stated Veronica Vijii, principal of Bailey Middle School in Spring, one of the campuses that introduced the high-tech badges this fall.

However, not all parents and students agree with her. For one thing, they worry about identity theft and stalking, figuring that hackers could work out a way to track students after school.

Or An Invasion Of Privacy?

“There’s real questions about the security risks involved with these gadgets,” said Dotty Griffith, public education director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas. “Readers can skim information. To the best of my knowledge, these things are not foolproof. We constantly see cases where people are skimming, hacking and stealing identities from sophisticated systems.”

The Spring school district has been using this system since December, 2008. Currently, about 13,500 of the district’s 36,000 students have the upgraded badges. As administrators see it, the chief purpose is to check on the location of students marked absent by classroom teachers. There’s a financial gain here: if the student is found on campus, as often happens, the district can receive funding for that student; so far, $194,000 has been recovered.

However, state officials are concerned  about the invasion of privacy issue, and have urged districts to offer an alternative to worried families.

The Way Of The Future?

Requiring students to wear an ID badge is fairly common practice in high schools in urban areas nowadays, but the addition of a radio tracking device is not. The ACLU fought the use of this technology in 2005, when an elementary school in California wanted to introduce the devices. Parents managed to get rid of the program.

Nevertheless, school districts are increasingly turning to technology to heighten on-campus security. In September, 2010, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (LA, MS, TX) ruled unanimously that a school district’s policy requiring all visitors to its schools to undergo an electronic sex offender background check before obtaining access to the school does not violate parents’ Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to direct their children’s education.

The idea of treating our students like animals, monitoring them in the same way that cattle are monitored, seems like a really bad move for our country’s educational institutions. Let’s hope that electronic tracking is not in the future for all our schools.

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Creative Commons - chris.corwin

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57 comments

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11:34PM PST on Mar 8, 2013

Tell them it's like Big Brother and they'll be more than happy to be tracked.

3:41PM PDT on Oct 15, 2012

Students have a right to privacy, just anyone else. Benjamin Franklin once remarked that those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.

7:32AM PST on Dec 27, 2011

Just dreadful.

7:30AM PST on Dec 27, 2011

Student’s safety is major concern for the parents & school officials due to growing number of students abuse and kidnapping cases.
I have heard about eClick GPS Locator, which helps students/college staffs in situation where they can't use their cell phones & call the campus police. Student/college staff can simply activate this device by pressing the alert button for 3 seconds which sends an alert to campus police about the student in crisis.

6:44AM PST on Nov 11, 2010

George Orwell where are you and how did you know this would happen?

5:00PM PDT on Nov 3, 2010

If it's a very large school with a high number of students simply leaving campus without permission, this could be quite useful. For smaller schools, it's not very necessary, though.
For elementary schools and whatnot, this is a very good idea. It's always a good idea to keep track of younger kids.

8:44AM PDT on Nov 3, 2010

It would be in Houston....

9:47PM PDT on Oct 29, 2010

Students are not possessions of schools. They have lives outside of school and school administrators have no right to monitor them outside of their campus.

11:32AM PDT on Oct 29, 2010

Orwell was right...

5:11AM PDT on Oct 29, 2010

Keep voting for the Democrats!

Bye bye Constitution.

Bigger government is their motto.

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