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Is electronic tracking for students a good idea?

A pilot program in Texas is testing GPS tracking devices to combat truancy in chronic offenders who might otherwise be sent to detention facilities. According to an article in the New York Times (free registration required), not only does the program seem to be working, but also doesn't seem to bother students as much as one might expect.
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Written by Christopher Dawson on

A pilot program in Texas is testing GPS tracking devices to combat truancy in chronic offenders who might otherwise be sent to detention facilities. According to an article in the New York Times (free registration required), not only does the program seem to be working, but also doesn't seem to bother students as much as one might expect.

According to the article,

The future of the Dallas program is uncertain. Mr. Pottinger’s company, the Center for Criminal Justice Solutions, is seeking $365,000 from the county to expand the program beyond Bryan Adams. But the effort has met with political opposition after a state senator complained that ankle cuffs used in an earlier version were reminiscent of slave chains.

Dave Leis, a spokesman for NovaTracker, which makes the system used in Dallas, said electronic monitoring did not have to be punitive. “You can paint this thing as either Big Brother, or this is a device that connects you to a buddy who wants to keep you safe and help you graduate.”

So which is it? The Libertarian in me certainly struggles with the idea, but as a teacher whose students have a tendency to get locked up, miss huge chunks of school, and ultimately drop out of an arguably broken system, I have to wonder if anything that actually keeps kids in school isn't a step in the right direction.

One student quoted in the article described how the device will help him graduate against fairly steep odds:

“It was easier to come to school each day, stay out of the streets and be home every night,” said [Ricardo Pacheco, 18], a father of two young children and a former gang leader. Now he is about to become the first male from his father’s side of the family to graduate.

What do you think?

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