Friday, February 18, 2005

California School Cancels Radio ID Badges It Imposed On Students

Back on February 10th, we reported that Brittan Elementary School, near Yuba City, California, was the first in the state to require students to wear "radio-tracking" (RFID) identification badges on lanyards around each student's neck.

Among the many problems with the process used to adopt the badges was the fact that the school did not include parents in the decision-making process used to adopt the badges. Worse, the school failed to even inform parents that the badges were to be used.

Many parents first learned of the badges when their children come home from school with them around their necks.

One dozen formal complaints were filed by concerned parents in response. The story then spread to the local press, and then the EduSphere, then the mainstream media picked it up.

The Tale of The Badges continued to spread. Soon, camera crews from as far away as Germany arrived to report on the story at the 600 student school.

Yesterday's edition of the San Jose Mercury News (registration required)
has an update:

The Sutter County school that required students to wear identification badges that tracked their movement on campus stopped the controversial program Tuesday night when the creators of the technology abruptly pulled the plug on the deal.

School officials stressed Wednesday that it was the company -- not the district -- that decided to terminate the badges.

"Some parents were dead set against it, and they were going to make sure that no one would benefit from this technology,'' said Paul Nicholas Boylan, the school district's general counsel.

We here at The Education Wonks wonder if the peculiar circumstances surrounding the employment of a certain Michael Dobson had anything to do with the decision to adopt the ID badges. Dobson is one of the founders of InCom, the company that was selling the badges to the school

Michael Dobson works for the same school district that was set to buy the badges.

A simple coincidence? Or a conflict of interest?

This whole episode teaches us (once again) that involved parents and a free and unfettered media are the best safeguards of the public's trust when it comes to our schools.

Food for thought.

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