Keeping track of pupils is a task for people, not machines (editorial)
MaineToday.com, 11 February 2005


A California elementary school has come under fire from parents for requiring students to wear radio tags that can track their every move.

While the administrators say they introduced the tags in order to promote pupil safety, monitor attendance and reduce vandalism, there are less intrusive and Orwellian ways to accomplish those goals.

Brittan Elementary School in Sutter, Calif., introduced the badges on Jan. 18. The tags use the same radio and scanner technology that industries use to control inventory and ranchers use to track livestock. In fact, Principal Earnie Graham said the school wants to add bar codes to the tags in future years so the students can use them to check out books and pay for lunches.

But some parents, who weren't consulted in advance, see the tagging of their kids like cattle as overly intrusive, reeking of George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984. Who can blame them?

Other schools keep track of their kids in old-fashioned ways, by assigning real people to the task. Kids are watched in class, on the playground and getting on and off buses. People arriving to pick them up are identified by the children before they drive away - a necessary precaution to avoid child abductions, which are typically committed by noncustodial parents, not total strangers.

Those methods avoid the problems identified by one parent, Michael Cantrall, who said, "There is a way to make kids safer without making them feel like a piece of inventory. Are we trying to bring them up with respect and trust, or tell them that you can't trust anyone, that you are always going to be monitored, and someone is always going to be watching you?"

While elementary pupils do need to be watched, it makes a real difference if the supervision is done by a trusted teacher or administrator - or a technician watching a dot on a screen.

Kids aren't cattle, or widgets on a shelf. They do deserve better than that.





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