John Jones is in the bathroom.
Sally Smith is skipping class.
Bob Brown is sneaking off campus.
Meanwhile, on a nondescript computer screen deep within the administrative offices, a map of Leesville blinks with 2,500 red dots — 2,500 red dots tracking, up to the second, the location of every student enrolled in the school.
Right now, this isn’t something we at Leesville have to worry about. But, for John Jay High School in San Antonio, Texas, it’s become a reality — and, if an ongoing legal battle ends in the school’s favor, it could soon spread across the country.
Tiny GPS tracking devices have, after all, existed for decades, and, from the school system’s perspective, they would offer a cornucopia of logistical improvements.
Monitoring and catching students skipping class or leaving campus without a pass would become much easier; however, locating missing students could be promoted as a safety improvement, too, especially in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting.
In the case of the Texas debate, the school is stressing that digitally tracking students would also make attendance calculating more reliable (and increase the school district’s state funding, as their financial support is determined by class attendance). At Anson Jones Middle School, which is also testing out the tracking devices by embedding them in required student ID cards, samples indicate the school could earn an additional $240 per class period by increasing their attendance accuracy.
However, Texas student Andrea Hernandez, a 15-year-old sophomore, has contested that the tracking chip program violates her religious principles and right to privacy — yet the district refuses to let her transfer. Hernandez argues that, according to the Book of Revelations, the chip would be a “mark of the beast”. A federal judge is currently considering the case.
The issue has riled up a number of activists — including the American Civil Liberties Union, which has made the topic into a controversial issue. As they said in a statement to NBC News, “What kind of lesson does it teach our children if they’re chipped like cattle and their every movement tracked? It doesn’t create the…independent, autonomous people we want in our democratic society.”
If tracking chips were implemented here in Raleigh, “it would go through the county” instead of Leesville itself, according to Mrs. Moore, assistant principal.
Nonetheless, in either case, Hernandez and the ACLU’s worries would be echoed by a number of students concerned about the policy. Ryan Quinn, junior, would find the system to be “a little extreme.”
“I would probably want to leave my student ID card at home,” he says.
Josh Trundle, freshman, would also have a problem with the policy. “I heard about [the Texas lawsuit] on television,” he explains. “I don’t think I would sue the school, but I would definitely try to get rid of the chip.”
Moreover, the cost of thousands of ID chips could cancel out much, if not all, of the school’s extra funding. Implanting a microchip in a cat or dog can cost up to $50; even at a cost of around $30 each, Leesville would need to spend a whopping $75,000 to supply the entire student body.
For now, though, it’s unlikely that the issue will arise at Leesville in the near future. “I don’t think it’s something that’s on the radar now,” says Moore.