Schools express interest in microchip ID that could track students
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012 11:00 pm
HARLINGEN — Thinking about cutting class and sneaking off?
Or going off campus for lunch when you’re not supposed to?
Those days are over if a new technology becomes the norm at schools across the country. The technology involves placing a microchip in student IDs so school officials can track their every move.
Schoolchildren probably wouldn’t like to be monitored that closely, but some local school officials feel that imbedding a microchip in student identification cards would be a good idea for several reasons.
The chip would be used to track students for numerous reasons, mainly attendance. But it could also be used to find children who didn’t catch a bus on time or who got off at the wrong stop.
An Associated Press article says Northside Independent School District in San Antonio is experimenting this fall with the use of the chip at two of its campuses. A few other districts across the country have started using the program and it has caused some controversy. The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed its concern.
However, Julio Cavazos, assistant superintendent for business services for the Harlingen school district, said he felt the chip would be beneficial for the district.
“We would need to know how much it would cost to do that,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s feasible for us to do that. I really don’t know what the cost would be.”
However, he does feel that it could ensure students were in school.
“If they have a microchip in their ID card maybe they can make sure that their attendance got posted correctly, because sometimes maybe you know they might miss a student or two as they’re doing their attendance,” Cavazos said. “If they have a microchip maybe there’s a way that they would be able to, automatically.”
Antonio Gracia, purchasing director for the school district, attended a seminar a few years ago where he learned about the new microchip program. The microchip could be used to enhance the use of identification cards.
“Every student has to have an ID,” he said. “That ID tells a lot about the student. When an administrator looks at it, it has the schedule on the back side, so they know whether that student belongs in that class or not, whether he should be on the corridor or not.”
The microchip, he said, helps track students even when administrators aren’t in the area to check on them.
“They can tell exactly what that kid did from the time he got to school to the time he left the school, how much time did he spend in this class, in that class, behind the bleachers if you will,” he said. “When it comes to identifying the kids during an alert where you have to evacuate, it can track where students are, and they can find that there’s some students that are still inside.”
Officials in other districts also seemed to feel the new microchip system is an interesting idea.
Anneliese McMinn, Rio Hondo school district superintendent, said she was unfamiliar with this new program but would be willing to consider it.
“I’m not sure what the purpose would be unless it would be a safety issue if somebody’s going on field trips or if you’re worried about children on the buses, things of that nature,” McMinn said. “I could see the benefit or the merit for it in that capacity for the district.”
She said this is something that would have to be presented to the parents in the school district. She’s not sure how they would feel about the idea.
“Certainly that would be something that the parents would have to give input for to let us know how they would feel, whether they would consider that an invasion of privacy or not,” she said. “It would really be hard to say. I would say that would be a very mixed feeling among the community.”
The microchip in the cards would be beneficial as long as the students were carrying the cards, said Antonio Limon, superintendent of the San Benito school district.
“I think that the idea is good,” he said. “I think we would have to look at the cost of such a project and also the fact it only works if the students have the ID cards on them. And first of all I think most of our students carry their ID cards with them.”
How would the parents feel about it?
“I think it all depends on how you sell it to the parents,” he said. “My idea about selling it to the parents would be that it’s a safety issue.”
He said that safety issue involves using the microchip to find a lost child.
“For example, in the case where a child misses a bus or what have you, the parents looking for the child would be able to track them and find them as long as the child had the ID card with them,” he said. “So I definitely think that it’s something that would be looked at for future possibilities for the district. But again a lot would depend on the cost of such a project.”
Oscar Tapia, assistant superintendent for district services for the Harlingen school district, said he doesn’t know of any discussions about this program among district officials. He said he will be interested to see how the program works in San Antonio.
“We’ll definitely keep one eye on it, and if it’s deemed to be successful then I think we could start looking at something like that,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of cost we’re looking at.”
He was hesitant to speculate on how parents would feel about the new program.
“I think it’s too premature to even comment on something like that until we start having maybe some public hearings with