The first time the school called my house to tell me my kid had been marked absent, I laughed. She was lying, miserable, on a love seat across the living room. Yes, of course she'd been marked absent. Duh.
The next day, they called again. Absent. And again, I rolled my eyes. Now I'm re-thinking that whole scene. Because at least my school didn't clamp a GPS tracker on my kid for not showing up to school.
That's what they're doing at California's Anaheim Union High School District. Kids in the seventh and eighth grades with four or more unexcused absences are being assigned GPS trackers to carry. The kids get a phone call each morning from the school system reminding them to get their butts to school. AND throughout the day, they're required to enter a code tracking their location.
OK. OK. I get it. Truancy is bad. It's a direct warning sign that a kid is in danger of being a dropout. Figures from 2008 (the latest available from the U.S. Department of Education) show an estimated 8 percent of kids 16 and up are high school dropouts, with no diploma and no GED. So it's no wonder they're taking it very seriously in Anaheim.
But GPS trackers? This isn't Oz! The average seventh grader is just 12 or 13 years old. If they're skipping school, there is probably a bigger problem than their location at one particular time (which I should note Anaheim is also addressing with a counselor who calls the kids three times a week -- I wish they'd left it at that).
At the root of most of these GPS programs -- whether it's a school district slapping one on or the parent-purchased kiddie trackers out there on the market -- is a sign that the adults don't trust the kids. Is it warranted by the kids' actions? Absolutely. But it doesn't make the children more trustworthy, it lets them know you care more about their behavior than the reason behind it. It's a deconstructive way of getting kids to behave.
Look at it this way. You tell a kid you want them to brush their teeth. But instead of something constructive -- explaining to them why they need to brush, bribing them with rewards, taking them to the dentist for a look-see -- you hold them down and brush their teeth for them anyway. What did the kid learn? Nothing. And what did you learn about why they aren't brushing? Exactly!
Counseling truant kids is the right answer, not dehumanizing them.
Would you let the school track your child?
Image via Jimmy_Joe/Flickr