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Thinking About Skipping School? Big Brother’s GPS Might Be Watching You!

Submitted by on March 28, 2011 – 8:41 am6 Comments

What you are about to read isn’t a government plot to keep tabs on all of the young school children out there or a conspiracy theory that’s simply meant to rustle a few feathers. What you are about to read is real and it’s a story that could have real implications on the way schools treat students if it works.

A school district is California has put new measures into place to help schools track down truant students. The Anaheim Union High School District is requiring all students who have more than four unexcused absences on their attendance record to carry around a GPS-like device everyday before, during, and after school—or face further punishment and additional detention for their frequent absences. So while it’s technically a voluntarily program, 75 students are currently enrolled in it to avoid these penalties.

Each day, the students who carry around the devices are required to check in five times. They also receive a call from the school every morning to—get this—make sure they’re up and ready to go to school. And finally, they’re forced to meet with a life coach three times a week who teaches them about—okay, get this—attending class on time. “The idea is for this not to feel like a punishment,” a regional director for the GPS devices said last week, “but an intervention to help them develop better habits and get to school.”

Now, to the school’s credit, the program is actually working right now. Attendance for those students in the program has jumped from 77 percent up to 95 percent over the course of a six-week trial run for the program. But, here’s my question: What happens after the program ends? Won’t these same kids go right back to skipping school? Or, better yet, what happens when these kids go away to college or get a job after high school ends? While this GPS program puts a nice Band-Aid over the existing problem, it doesn’t cure truant students of bad habits. It simply forces them to attend school in order to help the district avoid the costs that mount up whenever students miss too many days of school.

This also sets a pretty bad precedent for other areas of life as well. If schools can subject students to GPS, what’s stopping a major corporation or even just a regular business from doing the same? Is there going to come a time when you’re literally on the clock 24 hours a day to help companies from losing money? Will you have to check in before and after lunch, prove that you’re really sick on your “sick day,” or show your business that you’re actually stuck in traffic on the freeway and not scarfing down another eclair at Dunkin Donuts?

Keeping constant tabs on someone isn’t the best way to catch them doing dirt. It’s the best way to make sure that they don’t do it—for a little while. But once the GPS is gone, the trouble could very well start up again. It’s just one of the reasons I hope this California school district doesn’t pursue this GPS plan further in the future. And I hope other companies and businesses don’t do it either. Students and workers need to be held accountable. But they need to be able to hold themselves accountable, not just have someone else do it for them.

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