The largest school district in Bexar County near San Antonio, Texas, is making plans to alter student I.D. cards by next fall to include tracking technology that will, in essence, make sure students aren't skipping class. It's a measure that has some parents concerned over privacy and saying teachers -- not technology -- sure be ensuring students are not leaving school during the day.
San Antonio Express-News reports the school board for the Northside Independent School District, which has about 100,000 students, unanimously approved including Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID) tags on ID cards. As of right now, the plan is to test the use of the technology at only a couple schools totaling about 6,200 students before implementing it at all within the district.
Here's more from the Express-News on the intent of the technology:
“We want to harness the power of (the) technology to make schools safer, know where our students are all the time in a school, and increase revenues,” district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said. “Parents expect that we always know where their children are, and this technology will help us do that.
Chip readers on campuses and on school buses can detect a student's location but can't track them once they leave school property. Only authorized administrative officials will have access to the information, Gonzalez said.
“This way we can see if a student is at the nurse's office or elsewhere on campus, when they normally are counted for attendance in first period,” he said.
Parents are being notified by the district if their child's card will be included in the pilot program of this system. Although some parents consider the tracking worth it to quell safety concerns, others don't believe it should be doing the job of teachers in keeping tabs on students.
“I would hope teachers can help motivate students to be in their seats instead of the district having to do this,” grandmother of an eighth grade student Margaret Luna said to the Express-News. “But I guess this is what happens when you don't have enough money.”
The cards cost $15 each, which if lost the parent and child will need to incur in order to replace it. The pilot program is reported to cost a half a million dollars to implement and about $136,000 to run each year, but officials say they believe it will pay for itself, citing improved attendance at other schools using similar technology.
KENS news states that poor attendance results in a loss of $175,000 per day in state funding:
The district bean-counters expect to gain more than $250,000 in attendance revenue from the state, and $1.2 million from Medicaid, because the district will be tracking special-needs kids, too.
Watch the report on this program:
The Express-News points out that the American Civil Liberties Union helped prevent a California school district from implementing a similar program in 2005. The Huffington Post states the ACLU has its "concerns" about the San Antonio school district's pilot program but it hasn't made contact with them yet.
(H/T Huffington Post)