California RFID Tracking Device for Preschoolers?

Patricia Hawke

A federal grant is giving money to California’s Contra Costa County to track preschoolers using RFID chips. These RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips are a device that tracks the exact location of the item the tag is on. This is used all over on items such as CD’s, electronic devices, clothing and more. It helps to prevent theft by alarming the doors if someone were to walk out with an item not paid for or not “de-magnetized” at the check stands. These chips can also be used for tracking people’s behavior through their personal items. The George Miller III Head Start program in Richmond, California is the first school to adopt this new technology here in California. This controversial chip is not placed inside the human body, but worn attached to a Jersey that the children will have to wear. These jerseys will have a FRID chip inside of it and every door at the school will automatically check them in. This helps them cut cost and keep “inventory” of the children.
A lot of controversy has come along with these chips. Even though they seem harmless because they are worn outside the body, parents wonder why this type of security and monitoring is needed for preschoolers. This seems above and beyond any type of monitoring needed for children under the age of five. What the county is hoping to benefit from the chip are the children’s movements for data collection, automatic attendance and tracking meal schedules. According to a county official; they are implementing this to reduce the cost of teachers manually tracking this information so that they can better serve the needs of their students and have more time to teach them. The question is… how much time does it actually save? Do the benefits of this device outweigh the risk and cost/upkeep? What if someone forgets their jersey at home or a chip starts acting up and the system fails? Then it would do more harm than good, taking the teachers attention away for an even longer period of time trying to fix the system and manually count the kids who forgot their jersey.
Is it safe? That’s a question of many parents whose children attend this school. After they had approved this new program they had not designed an opt-out option for parents who were concerned about this. They have been using this FRID system for a long time in the UK and Japan with small children because they are faster and harder to keep track of. They say it is great for safety, protecting kids from being kidnapped and abducted. The other side of the argument says because these trackers are only embedded in the clothing, it would be easy for a child to remove the jersey, or whatever article of clothing the FRID was attached to and then it would be useless for safety.
Are these chips a false sense of security for parents and school officials or do they really help in giving teachers more time to teach your children? Whatever your thoughts are on this device, technology has come a long way and it is only getting better.
Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, a website providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. For more information please visit California School Rankings

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