The Anaheim Union High School District is the first school district in California to test GPS tracking system technology as part of a six-week pilot program to reduce student truancy, according to school officials. Student GPS tracking system programs have been successful in cities such as San Antonio and Baltimore. Schools where the GPS tracking technology has been implemented, average attendance among the chronically truant jumped from 77 percent up to 95 percent during the six-week program.
Students with a high level of unexcused absences will be assigned a GPS tracking device that they must carry on them at all times during school days. The GPS tracking system is small, about the size of a deck of cards. A GPS tracking device will not be strapped to a student’s ankle, because according to experts, this can create a negative stigma. The GPS tracking program is all about teaching the students about responsibility, not punishment.
Here is how the student GPS tracking program basically works. Each morning on schooldays, the student will get an automated phone call reminding them that they need to get to school on time. Then, five times a day, the students are required to enter a code that tracks their locations – as they leave for school, when they arrive at school, at lunchtime, when they leave school and at 8 p.m. The students are also assigned an adult coach who calls them at least three times a week to see how they are doing and help them find effective ways to make sure they get to class on time.
The student GPS tracking devices cost $300-$400 each. Overall, the six-week program costs about $8 per day for each student, or $18,000. The program is being paid for by a CA state grant. The student GPS tracking system is hopefully going to save lives by keeping kids out of juvenile halls or continuing ed programs, away from the gang life. Because schools lose about $35 per day for each absent student, the program can pay for itself and more if students return to class consistently, according to Miller Sylvan, the Regional Director of AIM Truancy Solutions.
Students who routinely skip school are prime candidates to join gangs, according to police. Police Investigator Armando Pardo reminded parents that letting kids skip school without a valid reason is, in fact, a crime. If the District Attorney chooses to prosecute, truant students could be sentenced to juvenile hall and parents could face up to a $2,000 fine, Pardo said.