A Number of Student Tracking Systems are Out There, It Turns Out; Monitoring More than Just Attendance?
Tensions are building in several public schools in San Antonio in which a program to track students through use of RFID tags has set off local protests, as the school punish the kids who do not wear their RFID badges to school.
The new tracking system was announced earlier this year and put into place Oct. 1 at two schools: John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School in San Antonio.
Students are required to carry new student ID cards that have an RFID chip embedded in them, connected to a reader network that can identify where a student is within the building in real-time.
Auto-ID based tracking systems for humans are actually nothing new. 15 years ago or so, a number of jails implemented tracking systems for prisoners using bar coded wrists bands, which were scanned at inmates entered each area, such as the cafeteria, library, etc. to track their whereabouts. SCDigest editor Dan Gilmore, in fact, says he was modestly involved in such a system in about 1996 for tracking prisoners at the LA County jail.
More recently, several amusement parks have used special RFID enabled tickets to track attendees, mostly to help parents quickly track down their kids when they get lost or separated.
But in the jail example, most people agree prisoners have simply lost most of their privacy rights. In the case of amusement parks, the tracking systems are “opt-in.”
But at the San Antonio schools, the tracking systems are mandatory, and students who do not bring their new RFID-based IDs to school are saying they are being punished to drive compliance.
Many protested against the tracking systems when the program was first announced, and those protests have escalated now that it has been implemented and the enforcement measures are being used.
State school officials say the program was initiated to stem rampant truancy in many schools across Texas, which not only impacts the students but also school funding formulas, in which schools lose money as truancy rises. If the program is judged successful, the RFID tracking system could soon come to 112 schools in all and affect nearly 100,000 students in San Antonio.
Students who refuse to walk the school halls with the card in their pocket or around their neck claim they are being tormented by instructors, and are barred from participating in certain school functions. Some also said they were turned away from common areas like cafeterias and libraries.
According to a local website, for example, Andrea Hernandez, a sophomore at John Jay, said the school has ignored her pleas to respect her privacy and told her she cannot participate in school elections if she refuses to comply with the tracking program.
According to radio station WND, After Hernandez refused to wear an RFID chip, Deputy Superintendent Ray Galindo issued a statement to the girl’s parents: “We are simply asking your daughter to wear an ID badge as every other student and adult on the Jay campus is asked to do.” If she is allowed to forego the tracking now, the repercussions will be harsher than just revoking voting rights for homecoming contests once the school makes location-monitoring mandatory, he said.