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October 16, 2012 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Schools in Missouri, Maryland, and other states are using fingerprint scans and RFID chips to track students as a means to speed up service in the cafeteria and to track student whereabouts in and around school.

A school participating in this program has prevented a student who refused to wear the RFIDs from participating in homecoming.

Schools claim that these chips help drive up daily attendance numbers, which affect school funding.
posted by gauche (83 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Creepy like woah.
posted by entropone at 7:06 AM on October 16, 2012


mark of the beast bros
posted by nathancaswell at 7:07 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey, public schools have long been run like prisons. This would have happened years ago but now the systems are more affordable and easier to administer.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:08 AM on October 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well, if we're treating them like cattle, we may as well start tracking them like cattle.
posted by griphus at 7:08 AM on October 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


In college, a Sociology professor of mine observed once that a lot of technologies and customs originally suited to prisons make their way into everyday life. Bentham's panopticon is now the security cameras at the mall, for instance, or the extensive CCTV coverage all over London.
posted by gauche at 7:10 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Schools claim that these chips help drive up daily attendance numbers, which affect school funding.

"We get more money this way" isn't a great justification for chipping the students.
posted by DU at 7:12 AM on October 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


...a lot of technologies and customs originally suited to prisons make their way into everyday life.

I am entirely sure the Nutraloaf people are working on getting it into public schools.
posted by griphus at 7:14 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


to track students as a means to speed up service in the cafeteria

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
SLOPPY JOE IS FOR LUNCH
posted by chavenet at 7:14 AM on October 16, 2012 [75 favorites]


They're not the only ones. The secondary school local to us in the UK is using thumbprints to authenticate their students.

The schools love it of course, because it minimises hassle: they can tie school dinners to the thumbprint and there's nothing for the kids to lose & no stigma for those who get free school dinners.
posted by pharm at 7:14 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


and how many of us wear the nerd badge on a lanyard, needing to swipe to get into our office, or leave our office, etc ?
posted by k5.user at 7:15 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ostensibly, if your company lays down an RFID tracking rule, you are well within your rights to say "go fuck yourselves," and quit and live with the repercussions of your choices. Most high school students do not have that privilege.
posted by griphus at 7:16 AM on October 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


In college, a Sociology professor of mine observed once that a lot of technologies and customs originally suited to prisons make their way into everyday life. Bentham's panopticon is now the security cameras at the mall, for instance, or the extensive CCTV coverage all over London.
Oh yawn. Yet again this nonsense is repeated, even though London is nothing special. Do we really have to do this again? It's like folk from the US like to mention "CCTV in the UK" to reassure them that their own country is still the land of the free. Look at the US, your own country, it's fingerprinting and tracking children! New York and Chicago have thousands of CCTV cameras recording the streets. Face recognition is being rolled out in public areas to track undesirables. For fuck's sake, Big Brother is in your own backyard, stop seeking to deflect your horror, it's really unbecoming.
posted by Jehan at 7:17 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


(AFAIK you can't legally drop out before the age of 16, and you can't drop out without parental consent before the age of 18.)
posted by griphus at 7:17 AM on October 16, 2012


If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding!!
posted by dry white toast at 7:22 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Schools claim that these chips help drive up daily attendance numbers, which affect school funding.

"We get more money this way" isn't a great justification for chipping the students.


Also to make the "RFID -> higher attendance" connection clear:

Like most state-financed schools, their budgets are tied to average daily attendance. If a student is not in his seat during morning roll call, the district doesn’t receive daily funding for that pupil, because the school has no way of knowing for sure if the student is there.

But with the RFID tracking, students not at their desk but tracked on campus are counted as being in school that day, and the district receives its daily allotment for that student.

“What we have found, they are there, they’re in the building and not in their chairs. They are in the cafeteria, with counselors, in stairwells or a variety of places, some legitimately and some not,” district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said in a telephone interview. “If they are on campus, we can legally count them present.”


So it's not about getting more students to show up or go to class, it's about doing a better job of gaming the attendance metric by widening what counts as being present at school for the day.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:23 AM on October 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


Yet again this nonsense is repeated, even though London is nothing special.

In fairness, the UK does seem to have been in the vanguard of constructing the Orwellian society - though we have certainly been doing our best to catch up.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:24 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


folk from the US like to mention "CCTV in the UK" to reassure them that their own country is still the land of the free.

I'm pretty sure I just put together a whole post about how we're doing this in the U.S. And in that comment you're quoting, mere words before the bit you object to, I use the example of security cameras at the mall, which is, I think, a quintessentially American locus of commerce. If the mere mention of a single instance of this same sort of thing in the U.K., among numerous examples of it in the U.S., suggests to you that there is some sort of anti-UK bias, I kind of feel like that's something you are bringing to the text.

Face recognition is being rolled out in public areas to track undesirables.

Yes. I once got into a big argument with a former Homeland Security official who was speaking at my law school about this issue; specifically about there being no way to take false positives off of the watch list, which he in no way considered to be a problem. This is absolutely going on here.
posted by gauche at 7:25 AM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm considering taking my kids to the vet to have them microchipped. But the youngest kid is 25 and none of them will cooperate....

Just wait until Thanksgiving when food will be passed out only after the scan.. No scan, no Turkey.
posted by HuronBob at 7:25 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


So it's not about getting more students to show up or go to class, it's about doing a better job of gaming the attendance metric by widening what counts as being present at school for the day.

Well, that's cool - I can get a perfect attendance award when I graduate without ever stepping foot in a classroom! Just show up for the tests, like so many do in college. "I was here, Ms Smith, check the RFID logs!" Where was this in 1995?
posted by Golfhaus at 7:29 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, I hate stuff like this.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 7:29 AM on October 16, 2012


Well, if we're treating them like cattle, we may as well start tracking them like cattle.

Dangly earrings are against dresscode.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:29 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


If kids grow up thinking this sort of thing is normal and even desirable, eventually it will be.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:30 AM on October 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


k5.user: "how many of us wear the nerd badge on a lanyard, needing to swipe to get into our office, or leave our office, etc ?"
My "nerd badge", to stick to your questionable terminology, does not track where I am in my office, how much time I spend in the toilet, where I eat my lunch, who I am meeting for coffee etc.

But by the time these kids enter an office environment, tracking those things will seem perfectly natural to them.
posted by brokkr at 7:32 AM on October 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


it's about doing a better job of gaming the attendance metric by widening what counts as being present at school for the day.

I don't like this sort of tracking, but trying to count people who are on campus, but not in class at roll call seems sensible. Presumably, they will attend at least some part of the school day and the school should get funding for that; it's not gaming, it's counting more accurately. Doesn't justify RFID tracking, but I don't seem public schools trying to ensure that they get funding for all the students in the school as some nefarious plot.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:56 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow. I wish I could be more surprised. But honestly, when they started chipping pets I knew this wasn't far behind. First pets, then kids, who's next? My dollar's on minorities.
posted by windykites at 8:01 AM on October 16, 2012


"Parents expect that we always know where their children are"...

No parent, anywhere, at any time, who is not a complete fucking lunatic, expects this from a secondary or post-secondary school.
posted by windykites at 8:04 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


So they only want kids to graduate that toe the line and kiss the butt of authority. That should end well. A massive army of corporate drones incapable of original thought. I guess original thought should be kept safely in the hands of the 1%.

See, this tracking nonsense is stifling. Some are going to rebel, and some will get put down, one way or another. But the net result is going to be complacent compliance, and that comes with a lack of imagination as well as lack of initiative. Very attractive to certain sorts of masters employers. Utter disaster for the human race.

It is not the schools god damned business where the hell a kid is at 8pm. You want to know that? Call their parent and ask. If you can't speak to the parent, it ain't your business. FULL FUCKING STOP. I avoid profanity on Metafilter, mostly. This seems to deserve it more than most topics.
posted by Goofyy at 8:04 AM on October 16, 2012


Also 18 year olds are not children.
posted by windykites at 8:04 AM on October 16, 2012


Maybe the raw daily attendance numbers aren't the best metric to determine appropriate funding for a school.*

*I have no alternative to offer, but if these are the lengths people are willing to go, the premise should probably be revisited.
posted by Jacob G at 8:05 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


So they only want kids to graduate that toe the line and kiss the butt of authority. That should end well... But the net result is going to be complacent compliance, and that comes with a lack of imagination as well as lack of initiative.

This has been true since at least 1776. What part of schooling pre-RFID chips in student IDs (as they started at a local high school) fostered imagination or initiative?
posted by muddgirl at 8:07 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nah it wont' be just minorities. It'll be ex-cons first, then disabled, then everyone who's not high enough up to pay not to be chipped/tracked. I'm sure that will included Congress and the Supreme Court and the President, perhaps the Kochs.

If "efficiency" is the only metric we care about, then chipping everyone is extremely efficient. No more ID cards/driver's licenses/hunter's licenses/etc. needed. No more insurance ID cards. No more employer ID cards. Just have it added to your chip designation. No more relying on cellphone records, or facial recognition, if your chip is broadcasting your locale to the authorities.

No more cash transactions, or door keys either. If you want to buy something or go to work, you need that chip.

I guess we could get to Gattica retina/blood scans too, eventually. Seems almost unnecessary.

So far, my kid's school hasn't tried to implement anything similar, but I'm just waiting for it. We seriously do not want to homeschool, but...
posted by emjaybee at 8:09 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe the raw daily attendance numbers aren't the best metric to determine appropriate funding for a school.*
*I have no alternative to offer, but if these are the lengths people are willing to go, the premise should probably be revisited.


Not to worry...Soon, our legislatures will have slashed school funding to zero, effectively eliminating the need for any metrics at all.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:10 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I reacted before reading: around here, homecoming is a university thing, not a highschool thing; I thought this was about colleges at first. Not that I'm any less appalled that it's high school.
posted by windykites at 8:10 AM on October 16, 2012


how many of us wear the nerd badge on a lanyard, needing to swipe to get into our office, or leave our office, etc ?

My ID badge was often in my pocket or sitting on my desk at all of the last 4 or 5 jobs that required one.
I've never once been hassled about it.

I imagine the same is not true for a student who does not want to wear a cattle tag.
posted by madajb at 8:11 AM on October 16, 2012


So they only want kids to graduate that toe the line and kiss the butt of authority. That should end well. A massive army of corporate drones incapable of original thought. I guess original thought should be kept safely in the hands of the 1%.

Like I said, I don't like this as a plan, because it's invasive and unnecessary, but I don't see how it stifles creativity for the school to know where your ID card is. It also wouldn't tell you where the student is at 8:00 PM unless that place was in the school where the RFID card readers are.

Maybe the raw daily attendance numbers aren't the best metric to determine appropriate funding for a school.

It might not be, but you have to have some way of knowing how many kids are actually attending; around here, they literally just take a count on one specific day, which is actually a worse measure.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:12 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't like this sort of tracking, but trying to count people who are on campus, but not in class at roll call seems sensible. Presumably, they will attend at least some part of the school day and the school should get funding for that; it's not gaming, it's counting more accurately. Doesn't justify RFID tracking, but I don't seem public schools trying to ensure that they get funding for all the students in the school as some nefarious plot.

It's metric gaming because it serves no purpose other than boosting the metric. The point of the funding per student metric is presumably to proportionally distribute a fixed amount of education dollars in the budget amongst a lot of different schools. If all of the schools are missing some students in roll calls, then it doesn't really affect anything because all of the average attendance numbers are skewed low across the board. When a handful of the schools implement some sort of scheme to count higher average attendance without actually increasing attendance, they are artificially boosting their standing in the metric ranking relative to the other schools, which gives them a funding benefit. If all of the schools start doing it though, then none of the schools will gain any funding from it while simultaneously all of the schools will have to continue their costly metric-gaming activities to avoid falling back in the rankings. It's the same trap that schools fall into when they game standardized test scores. If schools are ranked based on test scores, then there's a huge incentive to spend massive amounts of resources gaming test scores to try to get a slight edge over other schools in the rankings, whereas if no schools gamed the scores they could spend more resources actually improving their schools.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:12 AM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


No more ID cards/driver's licenses/hunter's licenses/etc. needed. No more insurance ID cards. No more employer ID cards. Just have it added to your chip designation.

And the difference would be? Seriously. What's the difference between having to present a photo ID or a fingerprint or an iris-scan or a chip embedded under my skin?

Is it just the under the skin thing? Surely some of the squeamish can be fitted with a neckband.
posted by three blind mice at 8:15 AM on October 16, 2012


Where in TFA does it say students are specifically tracked with pinpoint accuracy ? (I'm trying to give the both of the horribly slanted links some leeway).

There's biometric hand/fingerprint scanners and RFID "chips" in an ID card (ie my aforenamed nerdbadges) mentioned. Use cases are paying for lunch, library checkouts, generic student ID, registering for classes and attendance.

Do you think the school is putting in high power readers/scanners to display kids as dots on a geo-screen map ? I doubt it. More likely is there are card readers at the classroom (ie like the EZPass system, walk into the classroom through a reader and it notes you) or front-door level readers where a kid badges in, just like lanyard wearing workers do. So you get a "last badged in at" level of accuracy.
posted by k5.user at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2012


I'm pretty sure I just put together a whole post about how we're doing this in the U.S. And in that comment you're quoting, mere words before the bit you object to, I use the example of security cameras at the mall, which is, I think, a quintessentially American locus of commerce. If the mere mention of a single instance of this same sort of thing in the U.K., among numerous examples of it in the U.S., suggests to you that there is some sort of anti-UK bias, I kind of feel like that's something you are bringing to the text.
Because you make a great post about surveillance in the US, and then drag the UK into it for no reason. Why? It's like some automatic reflex thought that you can't mention CCTV with mentioning the UK or London. I read some stupid articles from the US that claim London has 500,000 publicly-owned CCTV cameras. 500,000! There are 7,431 publicly-owned CCTV cameras in London--not those recording public areas, just owned by local authorities--which is less than the 8,000 owned by the city of Chicago. NYPD have over 3,000. New York subway has over 4,000. CCTV is at every station on Portland's MAX, in every carriage of that system, and three quarters of the city's buses.

I'll stop there, but please stop encouraging stupid reflex thinking. Look at it this way, whenever somebody writes an article about obesity in the UK, they always seem to bring up the US. Okay, fine, the US has more obesity. But it covers up the very real--and not actually less serious--problem of obesity in the UK: "we're not fat, it's the US which is fat!" In the same way, if people living in Chicago keep getting told that London has a CCTV problem, they're not going to take their own CCTV problem seriously.
posted by Jehan at 8:18 AM on October 16, 2012


Florida, too, but can opt out.
posted by tilde at 8:19 AM on October 16, 2012


If all of the schools are missing some students in roll calls, then it doesn't really affect anything because all of the average attendance numbers are skewed low across the board.

That's assuming that the problems exists in all schools equally, but I don't think you've justified that assumption. I went to middle of the road suburban schools; they weren't fantastic, but mostly everyone was in their seats. This is emphatically not the case at bad schools, especially bad urban schools (in my experience of knowing teachers at those schools/working with students at those schools in an related capacity). While the current program is limited to a handful of schools, implementation of the program across an entire district would account for actual attendance, which is probably not being undercounted at the same rate at different schools.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:19 AM on October 16, 2012


Also, I think we should use this to track when kids go to the bathroom and for how long. I don't want my tax dollars being wasted because your precious little offspring can't hold it in between the hours of 8 AM and 3 PM. And don't even get me started on lunch. We're already feeding them, aren't we?
posted by griphus at 8:23 AM on October 16, 2012


If schools are being run in such a lacksidasical fashion that students cannot be accurately counted by taking attendance, that seems to me to be a much bigger issue. Students lurking behind the gym smoking pot SHOULDN'T be counted as in attendance, and if the school has a problem with funding because they can't keep their kids inside they should worry about that issue first. But it's always easier to go to a creepy technological solution than fix the social problem.
posted by winna at 8:25 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


What's the difference between having to present a photo ID or a fingerprint or an iris-scan or a chip embedded under my skin?

You can take off or not carry a photo ID.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:26 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Obviously the next step is keeping children in cages, a solution of which I heartily approve. You can put in some shredded newspaper on the bottom so they can burrow for warmth.
posted by elizardbits at 8:27 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


...and if the school has a problem with funding because they can't keep their kids inside they should worry about that issue first.

If the school has a problem with funding because they can't keep "their" kids inside, it is because there is something hideously wrong with the way the school is funded. It is not a school's job to make sure kids show up to school.
posted by griphus at 8:29 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


elizardbits: Obviously the next step is keeping children in cages, a solution of which I heartily approve. You can put in some shredded newspaper on the bottom so they can burrow for warmth.

My daughter would love to go to hamster school.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:29 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Because you make a great post about surveillance in the US, and then drag the UK into it for no reason. Why? It's like some automatic reflex thought that you can't mention CCTV with mentioning the UK or London.

On the one hand I think this is a fair point--British CCTV is fairly irrelevant here. However, Britain is relevant. As pharm noted, British schools having been trying (with some success) to fingerprint children for several years. That the FPP doesn't seem to be aware of this kind of undermines your argument that Britain must necessarily be dragged into any discussion of a modern surveillance state.
posted by hoyland at 8:30 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


That the FPP doesn't seem to be aware of this kind of undermines your argument that Britain must necessarily be dragged into any discussion of a modern surveillance state.

Er... that isn't clear. How about "undermines the argument that discussion of surveillance in the US must necessarily include a comparison to Britian to make the Americans feel better about themselves"?
posted by hoyland at 8:31 AM on October 16, 2012


I went to a large urban high school in the early 2000s... A huge problem was people in the school who shouldn't be there. Random people of all ages were constantly wandering through the hallways, into and out of classrooms, harrassing students in the parking lots, etc. One (probably crazy) guy would wander right into the middle of lectures and start drawing on the blackboard and talking about the weather. The security staff had no way to determine if someone was a student or not (we all had IDs, but at least half the students did not carry them). I don't really think RFID would have helped for a situation that screwed up, but maybe that helps explain the scale of the problem.
posted by miyabo at 8:31 AM on October 16, 2012


If the school has a problem with funding because they can't keep "their" kids inside, it is because there is something hideously wrong with the way the school is funded. It is not a school's job to make sure kids show up to school.

You have an excellent point there, which makes it even more bizarre a solution to tag the students. But how else can funds be divided up except on the basis of population, even if we went for (in a magical world) state or federally apportioned funding?

I'm not trying to be quarrelsome. I think this is absurd and obscene when I read it a couple of days ago. I just am trying to understand your larger point about the school and attendance. My dad was a teacher- I know very well we put far too much of a burden on schools for things.
posted by winna at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2012


Obviously the next step is keeping children in cages, a solution of which I heartily approve. You can put in some shredded newspaper on the bottom so they can burrow for warmth.

Now, to check on the free range children.
posted by ish__ at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's assuming that the problems exists in all schools equally, but I don't think you've justified that assumption. I went to middle of the road suburban schools; they weren't fantastic, but mostly everyone was in their seats. This is emphatically not the case at bad schools, especially bad urban schools (in my experience of knowing teachers at those schools/working with students at those schools in an related capacity).

Bad urban schools with attendance problems are going to get screwed on the average daily attendance metric in the first place. A more sensible and less costly solution would be to use another metric like total students registered or total unique students attending per year.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:48 AM on October 16, 2012


But how else can funds be divided up except on the basis of population, even if we went for (in a magical world) state or federally apportioned funding?

I don't have any solutions for the school funding problem, but nickle-and-diming it based on daily attendance (a factor which the school has zero control over and very little influence upon) is absurd. The school is legally required to educate the kids in its area, and making up for missing kids by punishing the other kids is just wrong, especially considering that it isn't the PTA bakesale/alumni donation schools that are getting hit. "Population" and "kids who actually made it to class that day" aren't related, and there's no reason they should be tied together in funding.
posted by griphus at 8:48 AM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


how many of us wear the nerd badge on a lanyard, needing to swipe to get into our office, or leave our office, etc ?

This is a little different.
posted by windykites at 8:49 AM on October 16, 2012


Kids lose cards, thumbs on the bus or to everyday accidents. They'd save a lot of time and money too, if they just skipped the whole card/finger thing and just went with industry-standard ear tags.
posted by bonehead at 8:49 AM on October 16, 2012


there's no reason they should be tied together in funding

Many of these schools plan class sizes by figuring in a certain percentage of students who won't show up. When you're reliably missing a quarter of your student body, there's no reason to hire teachers and build classrooms to accommodate them. At least that's how the bean counters think.
posted by miyabo at 8:52 AM on October 16, 2012


And the difference would be? Seriously. What's the difference between having to present a photo ID or a fingerprint or an iris-scan or a chip embedded under my skin?

A chip could track you all the time and you can't get rid of it or take it off. Perhaps that doesn't bother you. It bothers lots of other people though.
posted by emjaybee at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you think the school is putting in high power readers/scanners to display kids as dots on a geo-screen map ?\

No. Not right now. But this is coming. Some stupid public US school will try it and hopefully we will have the collective wisdom to end it. But I don't think we are that wise anymore.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:58 AM on October 16, 2012


If you want to buy something or go to work, you need that chip.

Oh, god, I always thought Idiocracy was the blueprint for our future. I never imagined it would be Futurama.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:59 AM on October 16, 2012


When you're reliably missing a quarter of your student body, there's no reason to hire teachers and build classrooms to accommodate them. At least that's how the bean counters think.

When I hear them say "we want to run the schools like a business," I never thought it would be an airline business.
posted by griphus at 9:04 AM on October 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Do you think the school is putting in high power readers/scanners to display kids as dots on a geo-screen map ?

No. Not right now. But this is coming. Some stupid public US school will try it and hopefully we will have the collective wisdom to end it. But I don't think we are that wise anymore.

Actually, they pretty much are already.
posted by katemonster at 9:27 AM on October 16, 2012


I'm considering applying this to our toddler: if she comes out of her bedroom one more time after lights out, the chip sensor deletes an episode of Dora from the iPad.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:50 AM on October 16, 2012


the chip sensor deletes an episode of Dora from the iPad.
Daisy, Daisy,
Dame tu contestación por fin!
Estoy meedioo looocooo
De amooor pooor tiii.
Noooo seeerááá uunaaa bo...
posted by zamboni at 10:07 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I was in high school the internet and computer networks in general were the new thing.

We shared a network with a university, and everyone got a boot-up disk intended to track usage and limit access.

It took my group of friends less than a week to reverse engineer the disks. Full internet access, and the ability to send top priority rendering jobs to the very expensive sun workstations. You never saw better ray traced penises.

I also learned to pick the locks to the printer and supply room. Dot matrix printed anarchist cookbooks for everyone.

I am happy for the hackers of the future to be able to practice spoofing fingerprints and hacking RFID systems in a safe environment.

Now seriously, can someone explain the process that leads to school administrations being staffed by some of the most stupid and out of touch people in the planet? All ark b material.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 10:07 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't like this sort of tracking, but trying to count people who are on campus, but not in class at roll call seems sensible. Presumably, they will attend at least some part of the school day and the school should get funding for that; it's not gaming, it's counting more accurately.

Except teachers already take attendance in all their classes, including who is tardy and whatnot. This gets sent back to the main office, and a general tally of who showed up to which classes is kept and reported. Many "advanced" schools have automated systems which will call home to inform the parent(s)/ guardian(s)/ student(s) who get to the phone first that "your son or daughter was absent for part or all of the day today." This advanced system was in place in my average high school back in the 1990s.

Then parents and/or the students can provide reasons why they were not in class. A diligent teacher will follow up to see if Billy was really seeing his counselor instead of attending English class, where there was a quiz today. If Billy doesn't have a suitable cover, the he's marked absent, and I think students need a certain number of days of attendance to graduate, but I could be wrong.

In short: schools already go to a significant effort to ensure they have an accurate tally of students present for part or all of the day, and keep track of those with excused absences.

As griphus said, but nickle-and-diming [the school funding problem] based on daily attendance (a factor which the school has zero control over and very little influence upon) is absurd. Short of escorting every student from his or her residence to the school property, where they would then be locked on campus for the entirety of the day, schools have to hope that parents, guardians, and students value the chance for an education enough that they attend.

This is the sad thing that is not understood by most people. Public schools, for all their faults, are providing relatively equal access to education to all children of school age. After high school, it's up to the student and/or someone on their behalf to apply for and pay for further education. A friend of mine brought this up after she had graduated from college, which she had to pay for herself. Too late did she realize that she was getting an education for free in high school, that others were paying her way.

Any way, RDIF tags can be passed around, or friends can take turns taking a group of cards to class, while the rest of their friends have fun on or off campus. RDIF tagged cards are a cute idea, but dumb in the long run. Kids who are good will continue to attend class, kids who are bored but creative will find ways around the cards, and the uncreative kids who don't think of a half-way decent plan will get punished, like they are now.

On the flip side, the palm scans are a fairly smart way to deal with paying for student lunches without singling out the kids who get reduced price or free meals.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:20 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


friends can take turns taking a group of cards to class, while the rest of their friends have fun on or off campus.

I hadn't thought of it, but now you say it, this is a pretty self-evident exploit. And what's worse: it's not even in the school's fiscal interest to look closely at it when it happens.
posted by gauche at 10:31 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Except teachers already take attendance in all their classes, including who is tardy and whatnot. This gets sent back to the main office, and a general tally of who showed up to which classes is kept and reported.

But, from the article at least, it sounds like funding is set based on who is in their classroom at roll call as a particular time. If a kid is at the counselor or late or dicking around in the stairwell, they lose credit for that one day of child time. when will impacts how much funding they receive. It's not about funding, not reporting attendance to parents and figuring out who graduates; the two systems are often different.

Where I am, the situation is similar, schools receive funding based on attendance at a certain point in the school year (in October or September, I think) and the number of kids attending school at that time sets the funding; if kids register in November, their funding doesn't change.

As griphus said, but nickle-and-diming [the school funding problem] based on daily attendance (a factor which the school has zero control over and very little influence upon) is absurd.

It might be absurd, but I don't think there are any school systems that don't do it. Funding everywhere that I am familiar with is based on attendance.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:44 AM on October 16, 2012


Wow. I fear doing this, but I am weighing in with: I like it.
For lots of reasons.
One is that it means not wasting time doing attendance.
The other is: What the heck is wrong knowing where students are on campus? Have you been to a high school or middle school lately? The levels of vandalism and crime are so high in many schools it makes it near impossible for interested students to learn, or teachers to teach. If this helps the real students I'm for it.
posted by cccorlew at 10:46 AM on October 16, 2012


I've got a kid (and soon 2) in the public schools. I attended public schools all the way through -- good schools within a terrible school system (DC). As a kid I developed a theory about being a parent with kids in schools (I thought a lot about this stuff then):

1. At some point, no matter what school, you're going to have to go to battle with the administration on something.

2. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Watching your parents fight to change something that needs changing can be a good lesson in civics, to say the least. And sometimes (not always) you have a lot of potential allies who have been waiting for someone to do something.

3. It can also be, at the same time, hugely harmful in terms of energy expended, friendships strained, etc.

4. Therefore, pick your battles well -- but be prepared to go all the way when you see one which matters.

I would go all the way with this one. Lawyers, political campaigns, the whole bit. This would absolutely not happen to my kid or her classmates.
posted by feckless at 11:01 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Many of these schools plan class sizes by figuring in a certain percentage of students who won't show up. When you're reliably missing a quarter of your student body, there's no reason to hire teachers and build classrooms to accommodate them. At least that's how the bean counters think."

Uh, bean-counter here. I've never heard of such a thing.

"If Billy doesn't have a suitable cover, the he's marked absent, and I think students need a certain number of days of attendance to graduate, but I could be wrong."

Yes; also in a lot of states, there are now minor criminal charges attached to a certain number of absences per school year. In my state, truancy officers now start contacting you after 5 unexcused absences instead of 10, and some sort of action occurs after 9. Eventually you and/or your parents can face criminal charges for unexcused absences.

"Parents expect that we always know where their children are"...
No parent, anywhere, at any time, who is not a complete fucking lunatic, expects this from a secondary or post-secondary school.


It turns out that when you run schools, you spend a lot of time dealing with parents who are complete fucking lunatics. I had some parents the other day demanding that I promise we never, ever, ever hire anyone who might possibly be a child molester. I said we'd 100% promise not to hire any child molesters whose molestingness showed up on their background checks, but if they hadn't been caught yet, well, we do not have child-molester-related psychic powers, just good practices about not allowing an adult to be alone with a child in a closed room. The parents were HORRIFIED that we were not PRE-EMPTIVELY screening out potential child molesters.

Anyway, I totally get calls demanding to know exactly where a child is at any particular moment. Or, more to the point, offended and sometimes hysterical when the school did NOT know where their child was (in the bathroom, got off the bus at the wrong stop, snuck out to smoke on the loading dock) and some negative event occurred and the child could not be immediately located. It's "totally unacceptable" that the district "couldn't keep track of my child." It's honestly a really common phone call.

Still, not RFID chipping our students. It's a school, not a prison.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:07 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


The parents were HORRIFIED that we were not PRE-EMPTIVELY screening out potential child molesters.

I genuinely want to know what the line of argument here was.
posted by griphus at 11:11 AM on October 16, 2012


windykites: Wow. I wish I could be more surprised. But honestly, when they started chipping pets I knew this wasn't far behind. First pets, then kids, who's next? My dollar's on minorities.
Please! Not "minorities".

"Welfare recipients", "undocumented immigrants", and "those with a criminal drug record" - and those for whom there is a "reasonable suspicion" to fall in one of those groups.

The media gets all uptight when we say "minorities".
posted by IAmBroom at 11:11 AM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


I genuinely want to know what the line of argument here was.

Parents prolly worked for the robot teacher lobby.
posted by elizardbits at 11:19 AM on October 16, 2012


There's some potential for senior pranks to be more of a social commentary this year: orange jumpsuits for all!
posted by Slackermagee at 11:20 AM on October 16, 2012


If you want to buy something or go to work, you need that chip.

Install it in the hand or go straight for the forehead?

(I'm vaguely bothered by the fact this is something I might be allied with the Nutjob Fundies, but mark it up to broken clock situation.)
posted by mephron at 11:35 AM on October 16, 2012


(I'm vaguely bothered by the fact this is something I might be allied with the Nutjob Fundies, but mark it up to broken clock situation.)

When I was practicing agricultural law, there was a lot of talk about mandatory RFID tags for farm being required by new food safety laws, and how this would end up being a bad deal for small farmers.

I wrote an article about it, and it was really, really hard to avoid entitling the article, "The Mark On The Beast."
posted by gauche at 11:43 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


If anyone puts a chip in my kid, it will be me. (BTW, anyone know where I can get this done? My daughter is 16 and has already been brought home by the cops once...)
posted by Kokopuff at 11:58 AM on October 16, 2012


The difference between you and "nutjob fundies" is that they can (theoretically) opt-out for religious reasons. You can't. And I doubt if "personal objections" hold much weight, because persons don't matter.
posted by windykites at 12:04 PM on October 16, 2012


"I genuinely want to know what the line of argument here was."

Insofar as there is a line of argument, it's basically that "perverts" have some kind of identifying tell, that we should be able to know and keep kids away from. I mean, even in strong communities, a lot of the things that used to keep kids safe have disappeared -- at-home moms around all the time, a herd of children in the neighborhood, public spaces in which kids played; kids of the Baby Boom generation were rarely alone (they even shared bedrooms!) and certain kinds of secrets were much harder to keep. Today, children are MUCH more often alone, and the majority of children's lives occurs OUT of public view because our public spaces have been so emptied and neutered. Children move from one child-centered space to another, without the protection that a robust, interconnected public community life provides. Parents today don't know who their children are with -- not the way they'd have known in the 60s, when the whole neighborhood would know that Old Man Garrity liked to pinch 14-year-old girls' asses, or that Miss Nielson the piano teacher was dating the football coach -- and that's frightening for them. Parents know that children aren't victimized by random roving perverts but by trusted adults in positions of authority, and what's terrifying is, that even with all the background checks in the world, you just don't KNOW very much about that adult in authority because you don't have the network of relationships that a strong community of limited mobility (i.e., most human communities until pretty recently) would have. Of course child molesters abuse those networks of relationships -- witness Jerry Sandusky -- but it feels like there has got to be SOME way to protect your child by trying hard enough to identify the perverts in advance. I mean, I feel that way in my gut myself when I send my kids off to preschool, even though I know all this stuff. It's scary to think of the truth: that the best protector of my children isn't background checks or gut feelings, but careful rules that are always followed. Because rules are easily broken. But background checks only catch people who've already been caught, and gut feelings are sadly, sadly too often wrong. You send your kid out there, and there are no guarantees.

Whenever there's a weapon at school I have much the same conversation with parents -- we can make your children 95% safe, but we can't make them 100% safe. It's a human system. There are errors. And it's full of teenaged humans, who want to find and exploit loopholes as part of their natural state of being. It's really pretty terrible, knowing you can send your kid out 95% safe ... but not 100% safe. And just the ways that children and parenting have been pushed out of the public eye, made private endeavors rather than societal endeavors, an individual choice and therefore an individual responsibility, etc. -- I don't know, parents feel pretty isolated and alone, without a community to back them up in raising their children and keeping them safe, and one of the side effects of that is this terrible anxiety about things you can't really do anything about, dangers you can't really allay. Or at least that's what it looks like to me, though I don't know that I'm expressing it very well; probably there are sociologists who actually study this kind of thing and have better things to say about it.

Whenever there's a teacher discovered to have been molesting students (which, thank God, I haven't had to witness as a school board member yet ... but I'm fairly sure that'll end up being a "yet" because, well, it seems statistically certain to happen eventually in a large enough system, doesn't it?), there's always an outcry of "someone must have known." And all the revelations about Jerry Sandusky, bishops moving molesting priests, teachers allowed to quietly move into non-teaching positions, etc., reinforces that idea, that SOMEONE must have known, it must have happened before, someone must have had suspicions. I think a lot of parents feel like, SOMEONE must know this guy is a pervert. If the background check was just more thorough, looked harder, we'd find that SOMEONE who knows there's something really, really wrong with this guy. But there's always a first victim, isn't there? In any sufficiently large system of adults with authority over children, clearly there's some heretofore unknown pervert currently seeking his first victim.

It's a pretty shitty thought.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:53 PM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Here's an interesting post by a prominent legal technology scholar on the issue: Biometrics in the School Lunch Line: Why Parents Should Be Concerned About the Privacy Implications of This Trend
posted by twiggy32 at 8:20 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


For fuck's sake, Big Brother is in your own backyard, stop seeking to deflect your horror, it's really unbecoming.

Yes, well how many of you are taking the Corporate tracking device of a cell phone with you everywhere?

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121003/10091120581/us-government-today-has-more-data-average-american-than-stasi-did-east-germans.shtml

Outrage begins in your own pocket don'tyaknow. Hashtag #angrytracked

We seriously do not want to homeschool, but...

And a tip of the hat to you if that is what you do.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:03 AM on October 17, 2012


So, America ... how's that living on your knees going?
posted by Twang at 5:52 AM on October 17, 2012


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