Big Brother Is Watching You, so Get Your Butt to Class
Welcome to George Orwell Junior High.
Big Brother is not the only one watching you. All sorts of adults can track your every movement, thanks to GPS technology. So don't try any funny business, kid.
The Orange County Register reports officials at the Anaheim Union School District thought it would be cool to track seventh and eighth graders like rogue bears on "Wild Kingdom."
That way, they could keep the little sneaks from cutting class.
Any kid who has more than six unexcused absences has to carry a Global Positioning System device about the size of a cell phone. Yes, it would be more fun to strap it on their ankles or clamp it on their ears, but some people say that's just not nice.
One of them is Miller Sylvan, the regional director of AIM Truancy Solutions, the firm helping with the GPS program. "We don't want to criminalize the kids or have them wear any bracelet or something around their ankle that would stigmatize them," he tells the Orange County Register.
Whatever. The important thing is that the kids can be monitored while adults drum their fingers and murmur, "Eeexcellent."
The whole thing is very science fiction-y. Every school day starts with a call from a computer (let's call him "Hal") who reminds the student to get to school on time.
Then, five times a day, the student must enter a code that allows adults to monitor him. He must enter a code when he leaves for school, arrives at school, eats lunch and goes home as well as a final check in at 8 p.m.
Failure to check in results in him being captured by a giant bubble and returned to the Village. Just kidding. That's another science fiction reference. School officials have not gone that far. Yet.
Students do get someone to watch over them, however. They get assigned an adult overlord (or "coach") who calls them three times a week to reportedly see how they're doing and help them find effective ways to get to class on time.
While there are no bubbles involved, the disobedient do risk a trip to juvie.
Hopefully, Sylvan tells the Register, it never comes to that. "The idea is for this not to feel like a punishment, but an intervention to help them develop better habits and get to school."
The GPS devices cost between $300 and $400 each. The Register reports the program is part of a six-week pilot program that costs the the district, overall, about $18,000. A state grant foots the bill.
Police tell the paper if tracking kids by GPS seems a little extreme, people should remember kids face extreme risks. Kids who cut class are prime candidates for joining street gangs, police say.
And schools lose about $35 per day every time student fails to show up.
Miller tells the Register similar programs in San Antonio and Baltimore resulted in school attendance by chronically absent kids jumping an average of 77 percent to 95 percent because of GPS tracking.
Some students were back to their old tricks after the devices were taken away, Miller tells the paper, but many learned new habits -- especially with the coaches continuing to talk with them for a year.
"This is their last chance at an intervention," Kristen Levitin, principal at Dale Junior High in Anaheim, tells the Register. "Anything that can help these kids get to class is a good thing."
Not all parents agree.
"I feel like they come at us too hard, and making kids carry around something that tracks them seems extreme," Raphael Garcia, the father of a sixth grader who has six unexcused absences, tells the paper.
"This makes us seem like common criminals," she adds.
Not really, police investigator Armando Pardo tells the paper. Parents are not being charged with a crime. However, they could be. Letting kids skip school without a valid reason is a crime, he says.
The kids could be sent to juvenile hall, and their parents could be slapped with a fine up to $2,000.
So here's looking at you, kid.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.