School Ditches Student-Tracking Badges

A grade school that required students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move has ended the program because the company that developed the technology pulled out.

"I'm disappointed. That's about all I can say at this point," Earnie Graham, the superintendent and principal of Brittan Elementary School (search) in Sutter, said Tuesday night. "I think I let my staff down. Nobody on this campus knows every student."

The badges, developed by Sutter-based technology company InCom Corp. (search), were introduced Jan. 18. The school board was set to talk about the policy Tuesday night but tabled the discussion after InCom announced it was terminating its agreement.

School district lawyer Paul Nicholas Boylan said InCom cited the intense media attention and concern the badges were being damaged by families opposed to them. "They can go someplace where they wouldn't have any risk of vandalism," he said.

"I'm not convinced it's over," parent Dawn Cantrall, who filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union (search), told the (Marysville) Appeal-Democrat. "I'm happy for now that kids are not being tagged, but I'm still fighting to keep it out of our school system. It has to stop here."

The system was imposed, without parental input, by the school as a way to simplify attendance-taking, and potentially reduce vandalism and improve student safety. Brittan appeared to be the first U.S. school district to embrace such a monitoring system.

While many parents criticized the badges for violating privacy and possibly endangering children's health, some parents favored the plan.

"Any kind of new technology has the potential for misuse, but I feel confident the school is not going to misuse it," parent Mary Brower told the newspaper before the meeting.

Students were required to wear an identification card around their necks with their picture, name and grade and a wireless transmitter that beamed their ID number to a teacher's handheld computer when the child passed under an antenna posted above a classroom door.

The school had already disabled the scanners above classroom doors and was not disciplining students who didn't wear the badges.