Student Tracking Controversy Pt. 2: MISD Looks to Expand GPS Bus Tracking to Students 11/8/12
CBS 7 Reporter
November 8, 2012
Midland, TX - It’s become a statewide controversy: school districts using radio frequency technology to keep a watchful eye on students. But how far is too far?
In Midland ISD, a school bus tracking technology is used to keep everything running smoothly. Several of the bus drivers we spoke to say a few times a week kids will miss their bus or even get on the wrong bus. It causes a frantic situation for parents and the drivers. Now the district says they’re ready to expand that system to the students themselves.
Parents put their trust in someone else from the time they drop them off in the morning, and they come home that afternoon.
“When he gets there he calls or texts us to let us know he’s there,” says parent Steve Richter.
But Richter says every now and then his son forgets to check in.
“Even when he doesn’t text or he forgets we call him and say 'hey, it's 3:30 why haven’t you called," he explains.
This parent isn’t the only one checking in on the kids.
The transportation call center is buzzing as Midland ISD employees track 100 buses, holding 7500 students.
"Safety is first we need to know where our kids are,” explains Assistant Director of Transportation Mike Almuina.
The Zonar System allows staff to follow the buses through a live tracking system. They can see everything from the route the driver is taking to how fast they’re going.
"We do a lot of miles we do a lot of tracking, that’s a 24/7 job,” Almuina claims.
And soon enough the call center will also have the ability to track individual students, using the z-pass ID.
The technology will alert parents if their child’s bus is delayed, cancelled or even if the student didn’t make it on in time.
"If a child gets on the wrong bus we'll know it and if he doesn't get on the bus we can track tha," he explains.
The American Civil Liberties Union says using GPS tracking on school buses isn’t a bad idea but when it comes to people, they draw the line.
“Some parents and I think some students might be uncomfortable with being tracked generally,” says Matt Simpson, a policy strategist with the ACLU of Texas.
Simpson fears the technology could be easily accessible to people outside of the school and parents should do their research before signing up.
“ I think there's more than meets the eye with the security question,” he says.
But Richter says at first glance, he’s for anything that increases student safety.
“I think it would be good to track them to know when they’re going to be home,” Richter says.
The Z-Pass ID is optional. The district says they hope to install the system by the end of December. The initial cost is $12,000 and parents can sign up for text alerts at 10 cents a day.