WHAT OTHERS SAY: Keep 'Big Brother' out of the classroom

Friday, March 8, 2013 | 10:52 a.m. CST

The tracking device has been a motif in storytelling since Hansel and Gretel dropped bread crumbs to follow their way home.

Electronic surveillance is a mainstay in science-fiction movies. Examples range from the ever-present Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel "1984" to the miniature tracking device implanted in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face in 1990 movie "Total Recall."

A present-day application is the use of electronic shackles to monitor lawbreakers and to alert authorities if designated confines are breached.

A state lawmaker wants to make certain the electronic tracking application is not extended to public school students.

Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, is supporting a bill that would prohibit Missouri public school districts from monitoring students by using "radio frequency identification technology," or RFID.

At this juncture, the legislation would be preventive. RFID technology is not being used now by any Missouri schools, but Emery said the issue, and surrounding controversy, "gained some momentum after a few Texas schools began to implement this."

The proposal has gained supporters, including:

  • Elise Kostial, founder of Concerned Young Women for America, who said a tracking program by school districts would be "an egregious infringement on the privacy of young people."
  • Otto Fajen, a lobbyist for the Missouri National Education Association, who said the bill advances "a belief that the surveillance of individual citizens, including students, should respect traditional and historic American rights to privacy."
  • Kerry Messer, a lobbyist for the Missouri Family Network, who said "I believe we are conditioning our culture just a little too far when we start using this type of technology on students in public schools."

RFID technology is used primarily by businesses to track inventory and shipments.

That’s an efficient and appropriate application.

Extending it to students would be an Orwellian invasion of privacy.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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