Had I been a student at one of these Anaheim schools in California, I would've been forced to wear a GPS device, too. In fact, if YOU skipped out of school more than four times a year, you would've joined me in the GPS Breakfast Club as well.
Around 75 seventh and eight graders in Anaheim have become the first kids in California to be followed using GPS, after concerns that their truancy could lead to prosecution. The tab is getting picked up by the state of California, after previous trials in Baltimore and San Antonio saw attendance amongst skiving kids rising from 77 per cent to 95 per cent.
Not wishing to colour my old school in a negative light, but if 77 per cent is deemed a low-attendance rate, then kids today just aren't as bad as I thought they were. They're certainly not as naughty as I was, anyway. And look where I am! Oh.
The pilot program is only running for six weeks, but if proven successful (as in, if the kids don't just ditch the GPS devices altogether and go have a cheeky smoke behind the school shed), this will only spell T-R-U-B-B-L-E for kids the country over.
A lot of thought has gone into masterminding this GPS exercise. It's not as simple as the kids simply chucking a mobile phone-sized tracker into their backpacks and being monitored by some lowly paid school admin person. Every morning, the truant kids that have been selected for the program will receive a phone call reminding them to go to school, and once there, they must enter a unique code into the device five times a day. That's when they're leaving for school; when they arrive at school; at lunchtime; when they're leaving for school, and again at 8pm—presumably when they're almost tucked up in bed.
The regional director of the company involved with the program, Miller Sylvan, explained this is because "we want the students to be interactive with the device and take steps to let us know where they are. That helps teach them the discipline they need to be responsible. It gets them thinking about their schedule."
Officials will be able to check they're where they should be at those specific times, but have also assigned them coaches for tri-weekly catch-ups to ensure they're not missing their trips to the icecream parlor, or having nicotine withdrawals.
The GuardTrax devices cost around $US300 - $US400 each, so are an expensive method of ensuring kids are where they're supposed to be. Because of their nature though, if the kid tosses it away at least they'll be easily found again. This cost is happily swallowed up by the state of California, which believes that whenever a kid misses school, it actually costs the school $US35. I'm not sure how they worked that one out, but over time these GPS devices will end up saving schools money - theoretically.
What I can't get out of my mind is the niggling feeling that maybe this isn't right. Obviously parents must give their consent before their kids enter the pilot program, but at the end of the day - they're only kids. They've barely hit puberty. Going all big brother on them can't be healthy so early on, but if it helps them stay in school and other methods haven't worked, then so be it. It's a scary world our children are growing up in. [OC Register]