GPS tracking devices have many applications in today’s society. We use them to help us better manage massive fleets (like municipal bus systems and tractor trailers), packages and other assets, as well as to track our children. GPS tracking devices are even beginning to make their way into the world of public schools.
Bryan Adams High School is currently testing out a pilot program to help keep students in school and off the streets through the use of a GPS tracking device. Faced with a truancy rate in excess of 15% the school was loosing many of its kids and the money associated with their attendance. Strapped for a solution to this problem the Dallas Independent School District’s (Dallas ISD), which has the seventh worst dropout rate among large school districts according to America’s Promise Alliance, has turned to GPS tracking devices to get the children into class.
These GPS devices, more like the devices used to monitor an individual on house arrest than a GPS tracking watch, were given to 6 students of the more than 300 who were sent to truancy court over the past year. The project cost the district $26,000, with the bulk of the money going to a case worker assigned to monitor and assist the children’s activities and to provide support to the families in keeping their child in school. This method is much more cost effective for the state when compared to detaining the chronically truant in a juvenile detention facility. Giving them a kids GPS can also provide some much need structure to a student’s life, increasing their ability to function in society.
There are additional benefits to using GPS tracking for kids that are truant. Most students who suffer from truancy issues also have other issues that they deal with. These issue can range from the extreme to the minor and include behavior involving drugs or alcohol, gang involvement, family life issues, or all of the above. Last year, the GPS tracking system for truant students was used to locate a member of the trial group on the verge of overdosing on illicit drugs. Also last year, the GPS system helped case workers discover that a student had ditched school because he was thinking about taking his own life. In both instances, a GPS tracking unit helped those concerned with the well being of the students to track them down and provide the assistance that they so desperately needed.
But not every one is enamored with idea of kids GPS used in schools. According to a New York Times article, one Texas state senator is opposed to the idea because the “ankle cuffs used in an earlier version were reminiscent of slave chains” (source). This could be a comment based solely on the political aspirations of a politician since the ethnic make up of Bryan Adams High School is predominately non-European. The majority of students are Hispanic American (53%), with African Americans representing the next largest contingent (32%). In addition to ethnic diversity, the school is economically disadvantaged, with 62% being classified as such. These demographic statistics could be at the heart of the senator’s comments or it could really be that the school district is out to reintroduce and perpetuate slavery through GPS.
In all, the Bryan Adams High School and Dallas ISD should be applauded for their efforts in utilizing GPS tracking devices to help students to maintain their attendance, pass school, and get quality jobs that can help alleviate the poverty in the community. The use of GPS tracking technology to improve current systems needs to be further explored and tested in real life situations if we are to fully develop and utilize this powerful technology.