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View From The Hill: Prison or school- what's the difference anymore?

By Grace Boatright, National Grange Legislative Director (View From The Hill Blog 10/12/12)

  OCTOBER 12, 2012 --

Wow, this must be the week of student rights violations. First it’s the USDA placing calorie caps on school lunches and today it’s public schools using tracking devices to keep up with the students. Yep, that’s right- tracking devices.

Two schools in San Antonio, TX have recently installed microchips into students’ id cards that allow them to track the whereabouts of each student every time they walk through the door. John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School both claim that this measure is meant to increase attendance and redeem money lost in recent years from students not participating in homeroom.

In Texas, schools receive funding from the state based on the number of students counted in homeroom each morning. When students don’t show up, they don’t get money. To be fair, these two schools aren’t the first ones to try this out; Houston districts began doing this several years ago and have thus far only recovered $400,000 in three years.

Naturally, school officials think it’s a great program, while students and teachers aren’t so thrilled. A woman named Madelene Garra issued the following statement last week; “It gives the kids a little bit more responsibility, knowing that we as a faculty are keeping up with them.” How is looking over their shoulders giving them more responsibility? It would seem to me that showing up to class on your own accord would be responsible.

There are just so many things wrong with this situation. First of all, where’s the trust? Yes, some students might be rule breakers who like to skip class, but the rest of the student body shouldn’t have their privacy violated because of those kids. By placing chips in their id cards the school is essentially saying; “you’re a minor so you must be rebellious and stupid. Don’t bother deciding to do the right thing- we’ll take it from here.” Yep, that’s what kids need: another reason not to think for themselves.

Plus, this technology isn’t that hard to obtain. Ranchers have been using it for years to keep track of cattle. Anybody outside the school could monitor a student if they simply obtain that tracking number. Pedophiles and kidnappers must be jumping for joy.

We haven’t even addressed the bigger issue yet; where does it stop? First its tracking devices in their id cards and then what- shock collars that go off if they leave school grounds too early? Public schools are already starting to resemble prisons with metal detectors, police officers, drug dogs, and terrible food. No wonder these poor kids hate going to school.

Frankly, if schools are having problems with students attending class, then they need to handle this the old fashioned way: find the violators and punish them; expulsion, suspension, banging erasers (if they even have those any more), community service, running laps, or god forbid- some physical discipline (sorry, I still believe in that).

This whole concept is terrible and a gross violation of students’ civil rights. They may be minors, but they still have rights. There has got to be a better way to increase attendance and get public schools the funding they need. This is absolutely not the way to go.

-  Grace Boatright
National Grange Legislative Director

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