Thursday, February 17, 2005

Student Privacy in Public Schools

In an elementary school in Sutter, California, the school implemented a policy to use RFID tags to track students movements throughout the school. The system was supposed to make it easier for administrators and teachers to take attendance and monitor the location of students. The initial plan included tracking students into the bathrooms, which was protested successfully by parents.

This type of automated tracking is a clear invasion of privacy. I am not suggesting that we have a right to privacy (although I do support the right to privacy), but I am suggesting that in this situation, the parents should be able to decide whether or not school employees will have access to their children at all times. I would want measures to be in place to ensure that the local pedophile would not have access to the children's location when the school was short-staffed. We all know that background checks are not 100% accurate, and that school employees are under-paid. The RFID technology is not mature enough to prevent third party reading and tracking either. There should be more planning and risk-analysis involved in a policy such as this.

The idea of monitoring our children is not a bad one, as they require monitoring by responsible individuals who care for their well being. The monitoring becomes a problem when it is automated and access may be given to individuals who the parents are not informed about. I can see this issue getting more of the spotlight as more monitoring solutions are created.

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