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“Tagging” U.S. Schoolchildren

New American | December 14 2004

Houston’s Spring Independent School District “is equipping 28,000 students with ID badges containing computer chips that are read when the students get on and off school buses,” reported the November 17 New York Times. “The information is fed automatically by wireless phone to the police and school administrators.” Police can monitor children from the time they leave home to their arrival on campus.

“In a variation of the concept, a Phoenix school district in November is starting a project using fingerprint technology to track when and where students get on and off buses,” continues the Times. “Last year, a charter school in Buffalo began automating attendance counts with computerized ID badges — one of the earliest examples of what educators said could become a wider trend.”

That trend has been referred to as “tagging” schoolchildren, supposedly as a measure to prevent child abductions. The favored method involves radio frequency identification (RFID) computer chip technology “similar to that used to track livestock and pallets of retail shipments.”

Understandably, many older students object to the technology. “It’s too Big Brother for me,” complained 15-year-old Kenneth Haines. “Something about the school wanting to know the exact place and time makes me feel kind of like an animal.”

Misgivings of that sort are not likely to abate as the RFID technology becomes more widespread — and invasive. Some advocates of the RFID tagging technology, notes the Times, “see broader possibilities, such as implanting RFID tags under the skin of children to avoid problems with lost or forgotten tags. More immediately, they said, they could see using the technology to track whether students attend individual classes.”