RFID School Tags: A Slippery Slope to 24-7 State Surveillance

On Tuesday August 4, 2009 Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli gave a speech at the National Conference for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools addressing the issue of truancy in public schools and the need for diverse and unconventional solutions.

Attorney General Holder really drives home to all of us that when we think about law enforcement, we need to think broadly….I know that your goal is education, but schools also play a key role in law enforcement in any number of ways. I want to focus in today on one aspect of what you do in particular, that evidence shows is critical both for future student success and for overall community safety: the challenge of keeping kids in school.

Perrelli went on to list the many destructive repercussions of truancy, the link to crime and the many studies that have been conducted to validate his point.  All of the statistics, research and effects he mentioned are indeed accurate and reason for concern. But what Perrelli and other like-minded officials seem to miss is the source of this problem.  Why is it our children are not engaged in the educational process? What is it about the system that is so unappealing to them and how do we collectively change that?

According to a study conducted by the ACLU, “School-to-Prison Pipeline”,

For most students, the pipeline begins with inadequate resources in public schools. Overcrowded classrooms, a lack of qualified teachers, and insufficient funding for “extras” such as counselors, special education services, and even textbooks, lock students into second-rate educational environments. This failure to meet educational needs increases disengagement and dropouts, increasing the risk of later court involvement.

Cutbacks in educational funding leading to larger classrooms, decrease in school staff, closing of libraries and even schools throughout the country has surged in the recent years. In 2009 the city of Detroit laid off 600 teachers and closed over 21 schools effecting 7,500 students while simultaneously funneling an upwards of $200 million into existing buildings for security, structural and other improvements.

Less than one year later the city announced its plans to close an additional 45 schools at the end of the academic year. Then in 2011, Michigan education officials called for a plan to close half of Detroit’s schools, increasing high school class sizes to 60 students.

In 2011 the state of Texas passed legislature to cut $4 billion in funding for public schools triggering a lawsuit filed by close to 600 school districts. Attorneys representing the district argued Texas’ school financing system is so “hopelessly broken” that it violates the state Constitution and prevents students from being prepared for future well-paying jobs.

In 2010 the New York Governor’s office initiated a plan to cut school financing by $1.1 billion. This piggybacks Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to cut 19 public schools. The budget cuts also included the elimination of student Metrocards which provide transportation to and from school to over 500,000 K-12 students.

Is it then perhaps a coincidence the aforementioned states according to the 2012 Statistical Abstract: State Rankings by the U.S. Census Bureau rank numbers 8, 2 and 3 respectively in prison population per capita?

Is it a coincidence that shortly following Perrilli’s speech there has been an increase in digital tracking (RFID – Radio Frequency ID tags) and surveillance in public schools? Done under the guise of increasing school attendance? AIM Truancy Solutions is marketing a program to schools throughout the country that uses GPS tracking systems to monitor students daily movement from when they leave their home in the morning until when they leave school in the afternoons.

Other companies are tapping in the growing market for selling RFID tags to schools and profiting quite handsomely. It is a convergence of big government and corporate America and the further erosion of our privacy and civil liberties. It conditions our current and future generations to accept a status quo that entrenches constant monitoring and state surveillance into the subconscious, and anyone who dares to reject this condition will be ostracized and punished.

Interestingly RFID tagging to monitor prisoners has also been implemented in recent years. It seems that school-house to jail house pipeline is making sure its future residents will already be prepped before arriving to their cells.