Ask any urban high school administrator to identify a perpetual issue within their building and more than likely it will be attendance.
After working four years in an Omaha high school, I could give you several reasons why our adolescents struggle to make it to school on time, if at all. That’s another blog.
Attendance concerns also include tardies to classes throughout the day and tracking the handful of students who attend periods one through four and then suddenly disappear.
If students aren’t in the classroom, they aren’t learning.
I can attest to the tireless efforts of faculty to eliminate tardies and truancy. During every passing period, teachers stand outside their classroom doors encouraging students to move along and usher them to their seats.
Administrators stand in busy intersections directing traffic. School security officers roam the building, stairwells, and student’s favorite places to hide. I can’t even count the number of security cameras.
One year, I worked with a 16-year-old and her mother for several months on attendance. The teen was so determined to leave school grounds, for several weeks I would meet her at the conclusion of every period and personally escort her to the next class.
So when I read about a San Antonio high school piloting a new program that issues every student an ID badge complete with a tracking chip, I was intrigued.
Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, is a new technology that works only within the walls of the school. It cannot track movements like GPS and does not allow students to be monitored by a third party. Students simply wear the identification card via lanyard and administrators are able to identify those students not in their seats at the bell.
Of course, this does raise the obvious questions: what if a student leaves the badge at home? What if students trade badges?
What if a student refuses to wear a badge? That’s exactly what 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez did. Then she and her father filed a lawsuit saying the badge violated her constitutional rights and religious beliefs. Really?
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia rejected the lawsuit and sided with the school district’s accommodation to let her wear the badge without the chip or attend the school in her home zone. Lawyers with the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, plan to appeal.
I support Judge Garcia and the school district.
Our public schools are under tremendous scrutiny, constant evaluation that effects funding, and our educators work tirelessly to teach students, meet standards outlined by the government, and appease parents.
Our schools are not perfect, we need reform, and we need to do better for our children.
But this district isn’t implanting chips in kids; they are asking them to wear an ID card around their neck, in the building, during the school day. And if a chip in an identification card can free up hours of educators’ time by managing student’s attendance and whereabouts, then why wouldn’t we try it? What would our schools look like if educators actually had the time to educate instead of playing truancy police?
Garcia wrote, “… the issue of school safety trumps some of the claims.” He also referred to the superintendent’s acknowledgment that the RFID tags had helped school officials locate students quickly in emergency situations. In a world of crazed school shooters, seems like another perk to me.
I don’t have a seamless solution that will cure our attendance problems 100 percent of the time. What I do know is that it takes administrators, teachers, counselors, coaches, parents, and students to initiate change. At my previous school it even took the lunchroom janitor! It takes all of these people communicating, watching, listening, and working together to address concerns. It requires follow-up, follow-through and consistency.
Good for you Jay High School! This is one educator anxious to review your program’s results!
Jessica Brashear is married with two children. Read her blogs here on momaha.
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