A company that provides GPS tracking devices to parents for tracking their kids is not an invasion of privacy.
Travis Knox, chief executive at AIM Truancy Solutions, offers school administrators a cell-phone like device that keeps tabs on students.
I have seen a lot of comments about it being Big Brother and it's criminalizing kids. We're not strapping on ankle bracelets, which I have seen done. It's a device, they have a cell phone and now they have two. We are using it to help them get in a routine. This is not a punitive program, we're here to help you succeed if you want it, Knox said.
The company recently implemented its program in the Anaheim Union High School District in Anaheim, Calif. Seventh and eighth graders in that district with four or more unexcused absences will be given GPS devices. The devices, Knox says, work similar to real cell phones. The students get a phone call each morning reminding them to go to school and throughout the day, they must send a text message through the device with a code that says where they are located.
Knox says for 80 percent of the students in the program, the program is voluntary. Students and parents sign a release form. The company does work with a few court systems who order the students to use the device.
We want to get them before the court does, Knox said. We're not here to tell on you. Our program is structured and we know that every student has different needs.
The device, he says, is a way to keep the students accountable, and it is just one part of the program. Regional directors work with the students, parents and school administrators to help the child work around problems they may have in getting to school.
Families deal with all sorts of problems, from transportation issues to a parent who might have to work three jobs. Often time parents and students don't know who to ask for help or are just too embarrassed. We try and gain their trust and respect and we do that by working with the schools, courts and social services to give them assistance, Knox said.
The goal is to turn student's lives around before it's too late. Knox said often when students are continually missing school, their grades fall behind and they end up dropping out. This, in turn, he says can often lead to a life of gang membership and crime.
Over the past five years, AIM Truancy has rolled out this program in several schools, primarily in the Dallas area where they are located. He said not only has it been successful in getting attendance up (Knox says two-thirds of the students in the program achieve perfect attendance), but it has been accepted by the kids as well.
We typically get resistance at first, Knox said. Then most kids after 2-3 weeks realize this is great. The monitor gives them a chance to opt out of running with the crowd that's smoking dope. They say it's an easy way to get out of doing that stuff.
Financially, Knox says the schools can benefit from a program where more students are in school. He says depending on the state, on average students are worth approximately $30-50 every day they show up. If a student doesn't show up, that money, which comes from government funding, is lost.
If a student drops out, that's about $6,000-7,000 in lost money for a school district. With that being the case, the program pays for itself pretty quickly, Knox said.
Knox said the program varies in cost from school to school. Officials at the school districts did not return calls for comment.
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