School skippers forced to wear tracking bracelets

Filed under: Teens, Day Care & Education

gps ankle braceletCertain students in San Antonio, Texas schools will soon find it a lot harder to get away with skipping school. A new program designed to crack down on truancy will allow the Bexar County courts to fit habitual school-skippers with ankle bracelets outfitted with Global Positioning Systems. The bracelets will be worn at all times and will allow authorities to track the student's whereabouts twenty-four hours a day.

Believing there is a link between truancy and later criminal activity, the six-month pilot program will target truant students with gang affiliations. "We are at a critical point in our time where we can either educate or incarcerate," said Linda Penn, a Bexar County justice of the peace.

The electronic monitoring is the latest weapon in the battle against truancy that Penn started four years ago. And although similar programs in Midland and Dallas have proved successful, there are some critics. Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, expresses concern about the intrusiveness of what comes down to 24-hour electronic surveillance.

"We're all for keeping kids in school, and we applaud any efforts to make that happen," Burke said. "But the privacy issue: What happens with the bracelet or anklet after school is out? Is that appropriate for the school or courts to know where and what this person is doing outside of school?"

The privacy concerns may valid, but what I want to know about is the parents. In other Texas districts, a truant child is the parent's responsibility. You can be fined and even jailed if your kid doesn't go to school. Does this monitoring bracelet shift that responsibility from the parents to the courts?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.