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Posted at 10:02 AM ET, 02/22/2011

Should schools use GPS to track truant students?

By Hayley Tsukayama

A California school district's attempt to curb truancy by tracking habitually truant students using global-positioning satellite (GPS) tracking has caught national attention.

The program, originally highlighted in a story in the Orange County Register, is a six-week pilot program. Seventh- and eighth-grade students with four or more unexcused absences are being asked to carry GPS devices instead of wearing them, to keep the students from feeling like criminals. Each cellphone-sized device costs about $300-$400; the whole program costs around $18,000. Miller Sylvan, regional director for Aim Truancy Solutions, said that absent students cost school about $35 a day, so the devices will soon pay for themselves.

Students in the program get automated phone calls in the mornings reminding them to go to school, and then must enter a tracking code five times a day: when they leave for school, when they arrive, at lunch, when they leave school and at 8 p.m.

This is not the first time that this solution has been proposed to keep truant students in class. According to the article, similar programs in San Antonio and Baltimore have increased the average attendance among truants from 77 percent up to 95 percent during a six-week program. Attendance does dip after the program is done, but many students stick to their good attendance habits.

In the California program, parents are responsible for paying for the lost devices -- though any lost device can, of course, be found fairly easily by using GPS.

Related stories:

School district turns snow days into 'e-days'

GPS Tagging Is for Wild Animals, Not Truants

By Hayley Tsukayama  | February 22, 2011; 10:02 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture, Policy and politics, Privacy  
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Am not sure how an absent student costs the school money.

Posted by: tundey | February 22, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Should Schools use GPS to track truant students? I guess it's OK.
Far better investment to use it to track truant state legislators though!

Posted by: Aggytater | February 22, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Schools get money for educating students based on attendance. If a student is not there on a particular day, the school is not paid for that student for that day even though the teacher, facilities, etc. generate cost assuming the student will be there.

Posted by: txJosh16 | February 23, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

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