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Should schools use GPS to track chronic truants?

February 25, 2011 |  9:23 am

Gpstruant

Talk back LAAnaheim Union High School District is taking a new approach to solving the age-old truancy problem: using GPS to track wayward students.

Times staff writer Nicole Santa Cruz reports that under a six-week pilot program –- the first of its kind in California –- 32 students have voluntarily promised to carry around a cellphone-sized GPS device and check in five times a day: when they wake up, when they get to school, at lunch time, after school and at 8 p.m.

Backers of the program hope that by giving parents and school officials a better idea of where students are — and by giving students a visible incentive to resist peer pressure to skip classes — the GPS can succeed where curfews, strict punishments and even fines for parents have failed.

Some critics, including the ACLU of Southern California, have said it's criminalization of kids. Tethering them to a GPS is Big Brotherish and seems more like a punishment for a sex offender or drunk driver.

But the program has been tested with great success elsewhere. In San Antonio, the district has increased the number of GPS units and mentors to work with students at 22 schools. Grades improved and the attendance rate hit 97% for students in the program.

What do you think? Is this a good way to keep kids from ditching class or is it an invasion of privacy? Tell us your thoughts below.

Photo: Joshua Barron, 14, shows a GPS device at South Junior High School in Anaheim. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times

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