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Texas Schools Using Electronic Chips To Track Students; Parents In Uproar 540

Posted by timothy
from the does-your-body-belong-to-the-state? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Two Schools in San Antonio are using electronic chips to help administrators count and track students' whereabouts. Students at Anson Jones Middle School and John Jay High School are now required to wear ID cards using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology embedded with electronic chips in an effort to daily attendance records. The article said the Northside Independent School District receives about $30 per day in state funding for each student reporting."
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Texas Schools Using Electronic Chips To Track Students; Parents In Uproar

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  • by Wumpus (9548) <IAmWumpus@COLAgmail.com minus caffeine> on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:28AM (#41669437)

    Just saying.

    • by MitchDev (2526834)
      Beat me to it....
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Jimmy, come in, we haven't seen you on our records lately, why yes Mr Tegan did say you were in his 5th form class, but we don't see you. We'll have to refer you to the police regarding truancy. Now I don't like this, but if you just wore this new ID badge, we don't need to get the police involved..."

        • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @12:27PM (#41670211) Homepage

          Jimmy shows Mr. Tegan his ID. Tegan gets deeply confused. when system says Jimmy isn't there. Jimmy says BOO and Tegan drops dead of fright.

          More likely, Jimmy is issued a new ID, and so are a growing number of other students week after week until the school system decides the system is too expensive.

          • by arekin (2605525) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @12:44PM (#41670507)
            Lets take this to another extreme, Jimmy doesn't want to go to school, so his girlfriend sally who was in all his classes takes his badge with her and places it at his desk and turns in the homework she did for him. When Jimmy's teacher says Jimmy wasn't there, Jimmy points to his RFID and the fact that he turned in his homework. Jimmy's presence is his RFID, and seeing as it isnt embedded in his arm, he can be wherever his girlfriend wants him to be. Now say Jimmy is also in a gang and robs a liquor store while he is "in class", killing to clerk in the process. Jimmy now has an alibi because attendance is determined via RFID (and he turned in his homework).
            • by fizzer06 (1500649) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @12:57PM (#41670695)
              That Jimmy is a bad mutha . . .

              Hush yo mouf!

              I jus talkin bout Jimmy

            • by Rhinobird (151521) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @12:57PM (#41670699) Homepage

              I'm not sure I like Jimmy.

            • by MarkGriz (520778) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @01:11PM (#41670923)

              "and seeing as it isnt embedded in his arm"

              So the obvious answer to this dilema is to embed RFID tags in students arms.

              • I could see that going over well with the Christian fundamentalists
            • by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @01:30PM (#41671157)

              Jimmy now has an alibi because attendance is determined via RFID (and he turned in his homework).

              Then the police look into the alibi and determine that it's just a chip. They talk to the techs just to make sure their suspicions on the validity of chips for tracking is correct; they are not reliable enough to stand up in the court of law.

              So they go to the school and ask the teacher and kids if they remember seeing Jimmy on the day of so-and-so. His girlfriend swears he was there, but they find her not to be a reliable witness - being his girlfriend and all. Others, however, only recall his badge sitting lonely at his desk.

              The police then review the hallway security cameras, and put the feed next to the badge ID logs. Sure enough, when his girlfriend enters, two IDs are logged; hers, and Jimmy's. When she leaves again, two IDs are logged; hers and Jimmy's.

              The police collect the information as evidence, take down formal testimonies, and write up a report as to Jimmy's claimed alibi.

              Jimmy is found to have lied to the police, and the police find themselves armed with another argument in an eventual court case, and more leeway in the investigation. His girlfriend will be brought in for further questioning and may eventually be charged with aiding and abetting.

              Whether or not Jimmy would be tried, let alone convicted, is another matter altogether. But his alibi would be shot down long before that.

              Real life just doesn't always fit with people's idealistic views that all cops are stupid and/or lazy and/or corrupt.

        • Jimmy says "But I have my ID right here!" then pulls his ID out of his wallet [thinkgeek.com] and shows it to the administrator.

    • Tie it to a rat (Score:5, Interesting)

      by concealment (2447304) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:37AM (#41669523) Homepage Journal

      Tie the RFID chip to a rat, and leave out rat treats on the floor in your favorite classes. You'll get a perfect attendance award.

      (Adults are dumb.)

      • Tie the RFID chip to a rat, and leave out rat treats on the floor in your favorite classes.

        ...and then show up to class every day to leave the treats for the rat to eat.... make perfect sense.

        (Adults are dumb.)

        You're over 18, aren't you?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Penguinisto (415985)

      WWBTD [xkcd.com]?

  • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:31AM (#41669453)
    Really... parents caring about what the school does? Unheard of.
    • Well.. only because OMG666 preachersaysThisISbad.

      Which is also cognitive dissonant because they want the end of the world to happen anyway because they are perfect and they are going to be magically vacuumed to heaven.

  • by Darth Snowshoe (1434515) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:32AM (#41669467)

    Hey, why not just embed the RFID tags in them subdermally, in their ear, like cattle? There must be a fair bit of expertise for that sort of thing in Texas.

    In other news, the last kid in John Jay High School to figure out they could just leave their ID card in their locker and stay in bed all day was mercilessly mocked and bullied by his peers.

    • They don’t do it subdermally, they do it exdermally (is this a real word?) like people. i.e. they do it like a ear piercing, not under the skin which could muck up the leather or hamburger.

    • As they already treat them like cattle and as a commodity this is just the next logical step.

    • by medcalf (68293) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @12:40PM (#41670427) Homepage
      Or why not stop paying the schools by the student-days of attendance? Perhaps a more sane method of funding the schools, if you're going to have public schools in the first place, would work.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        THIS. Obviously you don't want to pay for students who are never there, but as long as the students show up for some minimum number of days, they should be fully funded. They shouldn't tie the funding so closely to attendance. It's not like you can call in a substitute child when little Johnny is sick for the day. They take up resources whether or not they are in class for the day.
      • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @02:31PM (#41672105)

        Because we need a metric that can be measured with a daily KPI to show progress. This is what happens when you expect to apply "business rules" other places on society not based on monetary results.

  • by mrbene (1380531) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:33AM (#41669473)

    I guess I should RTFA, but:

    in an effort to daily attendance records.

    I don't know what that means...

  • in my day the schools never took attendance. home room was for a quick break with friends. teachers couldn't care less if you were in class and never took attendance either

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:38AM (#41669571)

      Let's see here... You don't use capitalization and make use of sentence fragments. Sure, I'll believe that your teachers didn't care!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:51AM (#41669715)

        Capitals are the oppressors of the lower case. The lOWER cASE has as much rights as the Capital Case.

        What his teachers tought him is that all are characters are equal! What you are trying to say is that some characters are more equal than others. Shame on you.

  • Somewhere... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:35AM (#41669501)

    Somewhere in this school there's an Honor Roll student with a couple of dozen ID tags hanging around his neck and a wallet full of cash...

    • Re:Somewhere... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MartinSchou (1360093) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:58AM (#41669815)

      Well, if it's done correctly, that would be flagged extremely quickly - a dozen kids constantly going through the same doors at the exact same time is a bit suspicious.

      Especially when it's the single occupancy toilet.

  • by concealment (2447304) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:35AM (#41669509) Homepage Journal

    The relevant data: did they learn valuable skills?

    The irrelevant data: did they attend every class, and take three (3) or fewer dumps a day, numbering fewer than 15 minutes each and not more than 42.3 minutes total?

    Our society is in love with metrics, but in its mad dash, produces lots and lots of data that is actually not relevant to the task at hand.

    If they said they were using these RFIDs to figure out exactly when and where pedophiles are snatching their kids, I might consider that relevant data, but emphasizing attendance is a surrogate for emphasizing learning.

    • by Chemisor (97276) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:42AM (#41669625)

      For the schools it is irrelevant whether students learn valuable skills. Schools are graded on test scores and attendance. The former is improved by teaching the test. The latter is improved by tracking. Funding is determined by those two metrics, so: profit!

    • by Belial6 (794905) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:56AM (#41669779)
      Not really. Emphasizing attendance is a surrogate for emphasizing making money. That is the primary concern for schools these days. They have become a business. They get $30 dollars each day for each student. They are trying to make sure that they get as many of those $30 checks as they possibly can.

      Your point still stands that they are not concerning themselves with education, but the reason isn't a love of metrics. It is a love of money.
    • Attendence in class probabaly is a pretty good indicator or metric of success.

      Not saying that RFIDing folks is the right thing to do, however insofar as your arguement that attendence is irrelevent to learning, well I think it sort of falls down. If you don't go to class, it is pretty hard to "learn valuable skills".

  • by TeamSPAM (166583) <flynnmj@emFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:37AM (#41669529) Homepage
    Somehow I think the students have turned in the product and are no longer the consumer in this case.
  • Reasonable? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pr0nbot (313417) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:38AM (#41669547)

    This doesn't seem unreasonable does it? When the kids are at school, the staff are in loco parentis, and so keeping tabs on the little bastards doesn't sound crazy. After all if one of them goes AWOL and turns up in a suitcase, the school's likely to be sued.

    Of course if it's being used for data collection for behavioural profiling or resale, that's another matter, but if it's just for "this kid was here earlier but didn't answer roll call, where the hell is he?" or "it's recess and we need to get a message to this kid, where the hell is he?" that seems fine.

    • Re:Reasonable? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @12:21PM (#41670113) Homepage Journal

      As we grow up most of us seem to forget that even as children and teenagers we were still people.

      While children don't (and shouldn't) have all the privileges of an adult I still think they still be treated as humans. I think the march towards public schools treating children as product should stop. People keep pointing to corporate, assembly-line like models for education and it just won't work. The more we put dehumanizing elements into the schools the worse education is going to be.

  • by Darth Snowshoe (1434515) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:38AM (#41669567)

    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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gewalker (57809)

      A key passage for interpreting Revelations is the right at the start of the book,

      Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

      So, I am pretty sure these RFID tags have nothing to do with the "mark of the beast", as almost 2000 years must surely be a stretch for "soon". They are similar in that the mark of the beast was necessary to "buy and sell" (i.e. government approval re

      • So, I am pretty sure these RFID tags have nothing to do with the "mark of the beast", as almost 2000 years must surely be a stretch for "soon". All good and well.

        Except that 2000 years is nothing, not even the "blink of an eye" in the time scale of the universe.

    • by Drethon (1445051)
      Well maybe if its chip 666... then again one of my IDs includes 666.
  • by nimbius (983462) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:38AM (#41669569) Homepage
    are used in their parents badges when they go to work. Its how they open doors and clock in. Recalling from my youth, kids have had ID badges since about 1996, theyve had to be visually verified in most cases before you can leave the lobby and enter your class at the start of the day. somehow the texan that wrote this article thinks by saying "electronic chips" and "children" in the same sentence, im supposed to get outraged.
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      No, it just means that this particular community is far less willing to submit to abusive behavior than the one you lived in as a youth. Your attitude is a real world example of why they are outraged.

      As for the comment about their parents having badges... There is a big difference between choosing to work at a job that requires badges, and being implicitly told, "Either carry this tracking device, or we will send the men with guns to round you up and imprison you."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:39AM (#41669573)

    We are entering an era where children are raised more to the standards of "society" (i.e. government) than the parents themselves. My kind -- people who dare to think for themselves and reject coercive authority by default -- aren't wanted or needed in this kind of world. It probably sounds cynical to some people, but I think it's best that my genetic line ends right here. Good luck to the rest of you who continue the human race -- you're going to need it.

    • by mx+b (2078162) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @12:40PM (#41670433)

      I do not know why so many refer to government as if it is this independent god-like entity running around and maniacally laughing as it forces people to do things against their will.

      The government *is* the parents. I went to public high school, and went to a district that mandated school uniforms. This wasn't big government forcing it on me; it was my parents' contemporaries. I remember my parents asking at meetings why we needed uniforms (took out individuality, and was expensive!), but many other parents -- not the government -- responded they liked how clean everyone looked, and it kept gang paraphenalia out of schools. Hell, I knew *students* that claimed to enjoy having uniforms because they did not like having to think about what to wear every day.

      My point is, do not blame government -- blame the parents. The parents are the ones pushing the standards, and government officials are trying their best (often times anyway) to appease what they think is the majority opinion. My school district holds votes on certain school policies, and it was what parents wanted.

      If you are upset about rejecting authority, you should ask why so many parents are so authoritarian toward their own and other children. It is apparently what they want. Personally, I feel this is a phase because of fear of the future in the current economic and foreign policy climate. The youth are not near as accepting as you think. Growing up in this era has given them much different attitudes than their authoritarian parents. They are biding their time until they know for sure how to go about changing it. I would be a little more optimistic.

      • by Nimey (114278)

        Analyzing it as you did is too hard for the lazy thinkers who consider all government to be monolithic and malum in se.

        It's easier to piss and moan than it is to reach out and campaign to change peoples' minds. That's a feature of democracy.

  • Funny (Score:4, Informative)

    by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@g m a il.com> on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:42AM (#41669629) Homepage

    Me and my co-workers have RFID-enabled badges to access our workplace and PCs, and it leaves logging trails for sure. No-one around here seems to be in an uproar about it.

    Of course, here they have proprietary company property to protect.

  • As a parent... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by acoustix (123925) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:45AM (#41669655) Homepage

    ..I laud this public school's initiative to make sure that they are tracking attendance. Obviously it's primarily about funding in this case. But it also provides documented evidence of whether kids are in class or not. This information can (and should) be passed on to parents.

    Also, in Iowa back in the 1990's our Governor (R) had proposed a change to the state's welfare system called "learnfare". The idea was that a family's welfare check depended on the child's attendance in school. They received 100% of the check for good attendance and were penalized for poor attendance. The idea was that they wanted kids in 3rd, 4th, 5th generations of welfare families to get a good education and not be the next generation on welfare.

    Now obviously school attendance doesn't necessarily mean good grades, or caring about your future. But still, it was a step in the right direction.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Obviously it's primarily about funding in this case. But it also provides documented evidence of whether kids are in class or not.

      When I was at school, the kids would have loved this. No need to turn up, just get a friend to carry your RFID tag.

      • by acoustix (123925)

        Obviously it's primarily about funding in this case. But it also provides documented evidence of whether kids are in class or not.

        When I was at school, the kids would have loved this. No need to turn up, just get a friend to carry your RFID tag.

        True. This is why the school should also take a look at patterns and walk around with a handheld RFID device that will let them know if one kid has multiple cards. Give them in-school suspensions if caught.

        We desperately need accountability in the public school system. It is obvious that the system is failing at multiple levels, including the parents. This is why I went to private schools and my child goes to a private school. There is more accountability.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:48AM (#41669675)

    Kids will never think of having a friend hold their card while they go off to do whatever it is kids do nowdays.

  • how hard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 101percent (589072) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:53AM (#41669735)
    How hard is it to manually count attendance? You have a degree in education but you cannot to the occasional headcount? After a week you should be able to look at your class and recall the *names* of the faces you do not see and deduct that from your total class size. Don't get me wrong, I love technology, but this sounds like another excuse to spend taxpayer money, in addition to other nefarious motives which will undoubtedly be discussed in this thread.
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      How hard is it to manually count attendance? You have a degree in education but you cannot to the occasional headcount?

      Education degrees don't teach you to count.

  • than what every major employer does in the United States? I know when I go to work, I have to wear and RFID badge that gets scanned when I enter the building. I also have to use it to access certain areas. The last three places I've worked had similar systems.
    • by sjames (1099)

      Is the bathroom one of those areas? How about the break room, the water cooler, and your cubicle?

      That is the difference between a simple time and attendance system and an Orwellian tracking system.

  • by Anon-Admin (443764) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:55AM (#41669765) Journal

    Take ID card, wrap it in a towel, and set it on concrete, liberally beat it with a hammer.

    From experience, it breaks the RFID chip and makes it stop working but leaves the card intact. Personally I hate these stupid chips and I have broken a bunch of them!

  • Cheaper. Simpler. Effective training for their new roles in our brave new world. Might as well tag 'em too.

  • I guess in the new version, they'll all just get busted the second they skip out on school. That won't make for a very interesting movie.

  • by acidfast7 (551610) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @12:19PM (#41670081)

    in Germany, we worry about educating the children, if they don't want to be there then so be it. We also train children to be more independent.

    Examples with photos! [womanaroundtown.com]

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