A new bill passed this week in Oregon permits the use of RFID technology for student roll call and attendance monitoring.
According to a report from MSN, the bill passed in a 28-2 vote, and will require those schools interested in RFID tracking to notify students, parents and the state Board of Education prior to implementing the technology.
RFIDs, or Radio Frequency Identification Devices, have previously seen use in the tracking of cattle and other consumer products but the tracking of American students is a relatively new use case for the technology.
The RFID devices can be embedded within student ID cards or attached to the student’s clothing and could be used to monitor students’ exact location on campus as well as assist in attendance functions.
Though already passed, no schools in Oregon have implemented RFID tracking yet. There are, however, schools in Texas and California that have.
In fact, the sponsor of the Oregon bill, Representative Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, revealed that the bill was prompted by a story he read about a Texas high school student who was suspended after refusing to wear an RFID-embedded ID card.
Privacy concerns are already bubbling after the passing of the bill, and Barnhart is certainly aware of the consequences.
“You can certainly imagine a whole lot of very beneficial and useful reasons for being able to know where students are, but I can also think of a whole lot of difficult ones that would be a serious detriment,” says Barnhart.
Supporters of the RFID tracking solution believe that the technology will provide a cost-effective security tool that could be used to quickly locate students in times of emergency.
Jim Gingo, a representative for the Security Industry Association, wrote in his official testimony that “We need to know who is inside our schools at all times.”
“This is no different than asking a person to submit a state-issued ID, taking roll call at the start of class or scanning a barcode. The only difference is that (an RFID) allows all of this to be done quickly and automatically,” adds Gingo.
The issue of RFID tracking has raised two polar arguments. On the one hand, Gingo and other proponents of the RFID solution believe that stifling the technology now could inhibit schools from discovering a valuable campus safety tool. The other side of the debate, however, is raising concerns over the forfeit of student civil liberty and a right to privacy.
Following a recent and embarrassing mix-up in a Florida school district, Oregon officials are keen to take all the proper measures to ensure that any RFID rollout follows the proper procedures.
As it stands now, following an expressed interest by a school district, the bill appoints the state Board of Education as the regulatory body of the RFID technology. Prior to adoption, schools would be required to notify parents and students of their right to opt out of either wearing or carrying the tracking devices.