Pascual Gonzalez, Northside’s communications director told NBC that he estimates the district has been losing about $1.7 million a year because of underreported attendance. He also said the RFID cost was $261,000 and should pay for itself within one year. (Photo : Reuters)
Anson Jones Middle School and John Jay High School are two schools in San Antonio that are using electronic chips to help administrators monitor and count students' attendence.
NBC reports that students attending the schools are now required to wear identification cards with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology used in the digital attendance verifying process.
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Called "The Student Locator Program", the system aims to improve the tracking of students for funding purposes. NBC's says the Northside Independent School District receives funding of about $30 per day for each student that attends classes.
The system also improves the roll call process as it will even count students that arrive tardy to school. Under the original system, they were counted as being absent that day but the RFID counts them as those who missed the early morning roll call but actually attended class--only later.
This is not the first school system to use this type of tracking. The New York Times reports of two Houston school districts that began using tracking devices for elementary students in 2004. The article states that after expanding to the high school level, the school has so far recovered $400,000.
Pascual Gonzalez, Northside's communications director told NBC that about $1.7 million are lost a year in the district because of underreported attendance. He also said the RFID cost was $261,000 and should pay for itself within one year.
"The revenues that are generated by locating kids who are not in their chairs to answer 'present,' but are in the building - in the counselor's office, in the cafeteria, in the hallway, in the gym - if we can show they were, in fact, in school, then we can count them present," he said.
The tags only track students while on campus. Some parents expressed their concerns with the "Big Brother"-like system.
"What kind of lesson does it teach our children if they're chipped like cattle and their every movement tracked?" said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. "It doesn't create the kind of independent, autonomous people that we want in our democratic society."
Steve Hernandez, whose daughter is a sophomore, objects to the tags, saying they are similar to the "mark of the beast."
"My daughter should not have to compromise (her) religion just because Northside Independent School District wants to get paid," Hernandez said.
Gonzalez said school administrators are not using the tags in order to spy on students.
"There's a misconception that somebody's sitting in a room with a bank full of monitors looking at where 1,200 kids are here at Anson Middle School. That's not true," he said. "It's not even feasible. We're not staffed nor are we interested in knowing where all the kids are at a particular moment."