Two schools in Texas are planning to track the whereabouts of students using tracking devices in ID cards.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, over 6,000 high-school and middle-school students will have to carry around Radio Frequency Identification System tags starting next fall. That way, administration staff can find out whether they're attending class, or if they've left the campus.
They won't be the first students to be tracked in this way. Some California preschoolers have been outfitted with these tags, and around 20,000 students in Brazil are being forced to sport chip-embedded t-shirts starting earlier this year.
"It's extremely concerning," says the director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association's public safety program, Abby Deshman.
But Deshman doesn't think Canadian students will be carrying around these tracking devices anytime soon.
"The legal framework in Canada is different," she says. "I think that any school that tried to implement this would have to be extremely careful about students' privacy and justify exactly why they are doing this."
While district officials in Texas argue the tracking devices would improve safety, they also say it would help them know if students are skipping classes, and allow them to recover more state funding, which is partly dependent on attendance.
"We want to harness the power of technology to make schools safer, know where our students are all the time in a school and increase revenues," the school district's spokesperson, Pascual Gonzalez tells Express-News.
"Parents expect that we always know where their children are, and this technology will help us do that."
Deshman doesn't think attendance or increased funding are convincing reasons for these chips. And as for safety, she thinks there are other options.
"Can you achieve the same goals, whether it's attendance or student safety, without incredibly privacy invasive tools?" she says. "And if you can do that, you need to be taking those other measures."
And when it comes to safety, these devices can actually pose a risk, Deshman argues.
"Anything that can be scanned from a distance," she explains, "you want to know who else is scanning it."
She says that creating a scanner that could read these chips is quite inexpensive, as long as you have the know-how.
"The devices might actually facilitate people stalking or following children or finding out where they are," she says.
But while Canadian schools may not be able to track students using this technology, that doesn't mean parents can't use similar devices on their kids. Something like this gadget that let's parents monitor the whereabouts of their child, define a "safe zone", and have their child hit an emergency button when in danger.
"It's a different analysis when it's a parent tracking their child," says Deshman. "We give parents a lot of rights."
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