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Ohio school district plans to surveil students with bluetooth tracking devices to prevent the spread of COVID-19
Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Ohio school district plans to surveil students with bluetooth tracking devices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 ​

That's creepy

A school district in New Albany, Ohio, is planning to combat the spread of COVID-19 when school returns in August by surveilling its students, according to a report by Wired.

According to the tech magazine, students will be required to wear bluetooth tracking devices developed by Volan that will monitor them wherever they go throughout the school day and send alerts in emergency situations.

Here's more from the report:

The school district, with five schools and 4,800 students, plans to test a system that would require each student to wear an electronic beacon to track their location to within a few feet throughout the day. It will record where students sit in each classroom, show who they meet and talk to, and reveal how they gather in groups. The hope is such technology could prevent or minimize an outbreak of Covid-19, the deadly respiratory disease at the center of a global pandemic.

"We are very much interested in the automated tracking of students," Michael Sawyers, the district superintendent for New Albany-Plain Schools, told Wired. Sawyers reportedly believes that the technology will enable school officials to determine if social distancing practices are being followed and pinpoint at-risk individuals should someone in the district test positive for the virus.

In addition to the tracking technology, the school district will reportedly employ traditional safety measures such as regular temperature checks, face masks, and strategic social distancing.

Though the report did not include comments from other school officials or parents within the district, it would not be surprising if many expressed concern over the notion that students would be under surveillance.

TheBlaze reached out to the school district to see if it has received any such pushback from students, parents, or members of the community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released guidelines for reopening schools that recommend staggering schedules, reducing classroom sizes, eating lunch in classrooms, opening windows, and continuing distance learning where possible as measures to maintain health and safety for students and education workers.

Speaking to Wired, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said she isn't aware of any other public K-12 schools considering student surveillance. But interestingly, in its own set of guidelines for reopening schools, the union warned about the potential that the crisis could be used to expand data-mining practices.

Outside of New Albany-Plain Schools, Wired reported that a private boarding school in Pennsylvania, the University of Arizona, and some colleges in Massachusetts are exploring the use of tracking technology to combat COVID-19. "Several other colleges" also reported being in the very early stages of their exploration.

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