14 Sep 2012

Opinion: Tagging School Children with Radio Frequency Devices

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Since 2004, some states in the USA have started a scheme where the pupils have to wear radio frequency devices on student identification cards so that they can be tracked. These tags were designed to monitor the movements of students on campus so if they were not at their desk for morning roll call, the tag would show their location. Some state schools are funded based upon the daily attendance record of each pupil, so these devices can determine whether a child is elsewhere in the school or is perhaps on unauthorized leave.

While some schools are still using this system, some others tried to implement it but had to abort their plans due to the reaction of parents and guardians. In many cases, it was seen as a huge invasion of the pupil’s privacy and human rights. At the end of the day, farmers have been using similar devices to track their cattle, and many parents felt like this scheme was dehumanizing their kids.

In the UK, these devices are used on criminals who are out of jail on parole. They can only be outside of their home during certain hours and must be back indoors before 7PM which is their curfew time. Radio Frequency tags are appropriate for criminals to deter them for re offending but is it really necessary for school children to be tracked using the same type of tags?

New born babies in hospitals are fitted with these tags so that if they leave the maternity ward unexpectedly, an alarm is sounded. Again, these devices are appropriate for this purpose as the safety of babies is the main concern. School kids should not have to wear these tags. The majority of children won’t play hooky and will be at their desks unless a parent has contacted the school to report an illness. Schools will argue that they have the safety of the students at heart when they are using Radio Frequency ID Devices (RFID) but the actual reason is all down to the how the school is funded. So at the end of the day, like most things, it all boils down to money.

Perhaps tags could be used in Pre School children if there’s a risk. For example, custody issues when parents have separated acrimoniously. However, the school should be informed of these types of personal circumstances so that they were made fully aware of who should be collecting the child and at what time. Plus, schools have to follow security regulations so the chances of a child being kidnapped are very rare.

School contributes a huge amount towards how a child develops. Younger children need to be made to feel safe and secure as well as comfortable and happy when they attend school, especially during those precious early years. Teachers are known as ‘Loco Parentis’ which is Latin for ‘in place of parents’. It’s a teacher’s role to guide a pupil and keep them on the straight and narrow so that they grow up into being confident human beings. Tags mean that there may come a day in the not too distant future when children don’t have to answer their name every day, they will simply ‘scan’ themselves in at the school entrance, like an item of food in a grocery store.

Tracking devices don’t make kids feel like they are special or that they are individuals because they are being monitored by a serial number. The relationships that students have with their peers and teachers alike are an important part of the whole schooling experience. Tags should be reserved for missing dogs or newborn babies and in farming but there should not be such an impersonal way to monitor school children.

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