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    Update: More on Electronic Tracking of Students in Texas

    We’ve discussed before the use of technology to track students. In March, it was reported that a northeastern Brazilian city had issued RFID-enabled school uniforms to track grade-school students. A couple of years ago, there was a report on a pilot program for the RFID-enabled  “BostONEcard,” which will be used to take attendance for Boston public school students and “to make it easier for some public school students to use city services by providing them with one card they can use to ride the MBTA, withdraw books from city libraries, play sports, attend after-school programs at community centers, and access meal programs at their schools.” Also, the San Francisco Chronicle had an editorial about the use of an RFID system to track children’s attendance in a head start program. There also were reports of colleges using wireless ID technology, as well.

    Now, the San Antonio Express-News reports on the use and expansion of RFID tracking technology to keep tabs on students in the Spring and Santa Fe school districts in Texas:

    Radio frequency identification — the same technology used to monitor cattle — is tracking students in the Spring and Santa Fe school districts.

    Identification badges for some students in both school districts now include tracking devices that allow campus administrators to keep tabs on students’ whereabouts on campus. School leaders say the devices improve security and increase attendance rates. […]

    But some parents and privacy advocates question whether the technology could have unintended consequences. The tags remind them of George Orwell’s Big Brother, and they worry that hackers could figure a way to track students after they leave school.

    Identity theft and stalking could become serious concerns, some said. […]

    Spring has been steadily expanding the system since December 2008. Currently, about 13,500 of the district’s 36,000 students have the upgraded badges, which are just slightly thicker than the average ID tag to allow for the special chip.

    Chip readers placed strategically on campuses and on school buses can pick up where a student is – or at least where they left their badge. The readers cannot track students once they leave school property, said Christine Porter, Spring’s associate superintendent for financial services.

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