Today in the department of bad ideas, we have a pair of San Antonio schools that’s decided to tag its students with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips so that they can track their every move on campus. Starting this fall, the Northside Independent School District will be issuing RFID-equipped identification cards that the kids have to wear on lanyards any time they’re on campus. And then, in some corner of the principal’s office, the students show up as moving dots on a map of the screen like some real life game of Pac Man. This is the same way they keep track of cattle in Texas, by the way.
At first glance, this seems like a pretty unusual addition to the American high school experience. Do teachers and administrators really need to know where their students are at any given moment? Well, this isn’t just a way to keep kids from smoking pot under the bleachers or sneaking off to 7 Eleven for taquitos and Big Gulps. It’s actually a pretty clever way to secure more funding from the state. Because budgets are tied to average daily attendance, schools lose cash — as much as $175,000 a day — if students aren’t in their seats when homerooms do roll call in the morning. However, if the student is on campus, they’re technically present. So instead of chasing down the stragglers, teachers at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School in San Antonio can just tap into their handy RFID-powered database (powered by AT&T).