HOUSTON — Two school districts in the Houston area have begun monitoring students' whereabouts on campus by issuing them identification badges with radio frequency identification technology - the same technology used to track cattle.
The Spring school district in Houston has distributed the ID badges to about 13,500 of its 36,000 students since December 2008. The Santa Fe school district, about 30 miles south of Houston, began using the badges this year.
School officials say the devices improve security and increase attendance rates, a figure that's important because some school funding is tied to attendance. The Spring district uses the tracking system to find students counted absent by classroom teachers.
Often, the student is somewhere else on campus, allowing the district to recover $194,000 in state funding since December 2008, said Christine Porter, Spring's associate superintendent for financial services.
The technology easily pays for itself within about three years at secondary schools, she said.
"It's a wonderful asset," said Veronica Vijil, principal of Bailey Middle School in Spring,
The American Civil Liberties Union successfully fought the introduction of these ID badges in California in 2005. The ACLU of Texas told the Houston Chronicle the badges present security risks.
"There's real questions about the security risks involved with these gadgets," said Dotty Griffith, public education director for the ACLU of Texas.
Many students already are used to being electronically monitored. Some campuses have had surveillance cameras for years.
"It feels like someone's watching you at all times," said Jacorey Jackson, 11, a sixth-grader at Bailey.