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Schools turn to GPS tracking to monitor absent kids

Frustrated by habitual truancy, Anaheim police are turning to GPS tracking technology to ensure students get to class.

The Orange County Register reported that the Anaheim Union High Schools District agreed to test the GPS technology during a six-week pilot program that began earlier this month. Seventh- and eighth-graders with four or more unexcused absences are assigned a handheld GPS device about the size of a cell phone.

Each morning on school days, they get automated phone calls reminding them that they have to get to class. The students are required to enter a code in the device up to five times a day to report their whereabouts, and are also assigned an adult “coach” who calls them at least three times a week. Students and their parents volunteer for the program to avoid continuation school or prosecution.

The GPS devices cost $300 to $400 each but because schools lose about $35 per day for each absent student, the program can pay for itself in a matter of weeks. Similar programs in San Antonio and Baltimore have demonstrated clear results, with attendance among chronically absent students improving by as much as 20 percent.

“The idea is for this not to feel like a punishment but an intervention to help them develop better habits and get to school,” said Miller Sylvan, regional director for Aim Truancy Solutions.

However, not all parents were supportive. “I feel like they come at us too hard, and making kids carry around something that tracks them seems extreme,” said Raphael Garcia, whose sixth-grader has six unexplained absences. “This makes us seem like common criminals.”

However police investigator Armando Pardo reminded parents that letting children skip school without a valid reason is a crime. If the district attorney prosecutes, absent students could be sentenced to juvenile hall and parents could face fines up to $2,000.

Kristin Levitin, principal at Dale Junior High in west Anaheim believes that the GPS program offers a last chance for kids who are in danger of falling out of the educational system altogether. “Anything that can help these kids get to class is a good thing.”

Do you believe that children with poor school attendance records should be subject to GPS monitoring? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by rachal, posted 9/14/2011, 1:58 AM:

The GPS is very usefull. The school can consideration the <a href="http://www.wholesaleonelectronics.com/gps-phones/"> GPS phones </a>. Because more and more students have a cell phone, we can tracke the cell phone.
Comment by Megan, posted 2/21/2011, 6:25 PM:

At first glance, this seems like it's a bit extreme. After reading the details, though, maybe it isn't so bad. It's only after a good number of unexcused absences, which is probably only a small number of students. Those students (and parents) are likely to need some kind of supervision and/or intervention where school is concerned and maybe this is the push that will help them. It's likely that the students are already carrying GPS-enabled phones anyway...
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