Who would have thought school truancy would play a part in the high tech world of gadgets? The Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD), that's who. Faced with a dropout rate ranking them seventh among large school districts, according to America's Promise Alliance, and a truancy rate of 15%, the school was not only losing students but also the funds connected with school attendance. It was clear they needed something to stem the leakage. The solution fell into the lap of Bryan Adams High School which is currently using GPS tracking devices in a pilot program to retain their student population.
The GPS tracking devices worn by students are similar to those used by law enforcement keeping tabs on individuals under house arrest, rather than a simpler less obvious GPS tracking watch. Six students, out of the 300 sent to truancy court, from Bryan Adams were chosen to participate in the program. The price tag for the digital age truancy program? $26,000. The investment covers a case worker whose duties include tracking the students, assisting them in their daily activities, as well as providing assistance to families.
The program is proving more cost effective for the state compared to the alternative of detaining repeat truancy offenders in a juvenile detention facility. The program also benefits students by providing a measure of structure, which will translate to a greater ability to become a functioning member of society — like showing up for work on time. This structure is priceless for many of the students enrolled in the program because it is hard for them to create this structure otherwise.
Other than making students show up for class and train for adulthood, the GPS program for truant students hits more personal issues. Most truant students are dealing with more than just running late for class. Issues facing the majority of truant students run the gamut from drugs or alcohol, gang involvement, issues in their family life, or any mix of the above. In the past year, the GPS system helped find a student in the pilot program on the verge of a drug overdose. The program also led case workers to a student that had ditched school and was contemplating suicide. In both situations, a GPS tracking device helped case workers find and assist these students.
Sounds like a great system? Not everyone thinks so. One Texas law maker, as summarized in the New York Times, dislikes the idea since “ankle cuffs used in an earlier version were reminiscent of slave chains.” No one wants to make these students out to be slaves, just to help them. The comment could stem off of the fact that the majority of Bryan Adams High School is non-Caucasian. The high school's representation includes 53% Hispanic American, 32% African American, in addition 62% of the student population is grouped as economically disadvantaged.
In any case it seems Dallas ISD and Bryan Adams High school are trying to do a good thing. They're just using the greatest and latest technology to do so. Who doesn't want help students maintain attendance, graduate high school, and attain prime jobs? Of course, the utilization of GPS technology in improving the systems in place, such as student truancy, needs to be further tested in a variety of situations if we are to fully develop and utilize this powerful technology.
Joe teaches people about GPS tracking watches and about how to get kids to use their GPS kids devices.