Schools Turn to Electronic Monitoring
By Era Sundar
Schools in Texas can lose up to $42 a day in funding for every student who is absent. To keep track of attendance and cut down on students skipping school, some districts have turned to technology for help.
Two schools in San Antonio have added radio frequency chips to all student ID cards. Those chips give off an electronic signal that can be easily monitored.
This method is causing some concern among parents and civil rights activists.
“There do not seem to be any safeguards for this technology, and anybody with a reading device can track a student in school or out of school if the student has the ID with them,” said Dotty Griffith with the ACLU of Texas.
Griffith says that not only can the device determine whether a student is in school, it can give information on exactly where they are and who they’re with.
Austin schools are experimenting with a more limited method of electronic monitoring. A handful of high schools are issuing phones students can carry with them that contain a GPS locating system. Lisa Goodnow with the Austin school district says that parental permission is needed for the Austin program, so it’s less intrusive than what’s being done in San Antonio.
“It’s very specific and targeted,” Goodnow said. “It’s like a GPS device that also allows for coaching and mentoring.”
That mentoring comes from the people who monitor the devices. They call students twice a day, even giving them wake-up calls in the morning. If the student is not in school, the mentor can call to find out what’s going on.
The district says it’s too early to say how well the GPS program is working. But it says that a lower-tech effort last year, a publicity campaign called Every Day Counts, increased daily attendance by 1 percent, generating nearly $5 million dollars in additional funding.