School districts in Anaheim, California have decided to try to keep kids in school by requiring habitually truant students to wear GPS tracking devices. According to school officials, they have tried all other methods of keeping kids in school. After a recent rise in truancy, despite these efforts, schools have decided to adopt a new, high-tech approach to keeping kids from truancy. “This is their last chance at an intervention. Anything that can help these kids get to class is a good thing” says Dale Junior High School principal, Kristen Levitin.
This new program is being tested out on 75 students with four or more unexcused absences. The GPS tracking device is given to each student, who is prompted to give their location via text message five times per day, with the last check-in time at 8pm.
The devices provide fact-checking evidence as to where the student actually is at the time of check in. Rick Martens, director of safe schools in Anaheim, explains, “so if the kid does text and say, ‘I’m here, I’m at school,’ but the GPS shows that they’re somewhere else, it obviously gives us some indicators that the student is now where he should be, and so we know to go look for them.”
Critics of this new program think GPS tracking is taking the issue too far. They believe that it is sending a message to the students that could be damaging to their self-esteem. “I feel like they come at us too hard, and making kids carry around something that tracks them seems extreme. This makes us seem like common criminals,” says Raphael Garcia, parent of a sixth grade student with six unexcused absences.
The program was developed by AIM Truancy Solutions, who worked closely with the school district. Assurances are being made to parents and students alike that the intent of the program is not to criminalize the students. Miller Sylvan, regional director of AIM, tried to quell concerns, saying, “We don’t want to criminalize the kids or have them wear any bracelet or something around their ankle that would stigmatize them. The students are frequently entering a code and interacting with the device, so we think it’s the best way to let them carry it.”
Article Written by Marisa O’Connor