A Washington state high school put an electronic tracker on one or more student athletes for Covid contact tracing without the apparent knowledge and approval of at least one parent, according to an exclusive report in The Post Millennial.
PJ Media has reached out to Superintendent Gary Neal of the Eatonville School District to get information about the tracking program.
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Dates to Note:
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The Post Millennial reported that a student athlete complained to her mother when a tracking device was put on her ankle during volleyball practice. When the mother came back to find out what was going on, she was told the tracking was on the up and up.
The mother spoke to an employee in the school office, as well as a coach and was informed there was a meeting last week discussing the ankle monitoring program for unvaccinated teens. The program was allegedly designed for contact tracing in the event of a positive COVID test of a student.
TPM reported that the “The TraceTag” tracker, made by Triax, was designed to keep students socially distanced and to sound an alarm when team members got too close together.
The company website outlines its uses in schools.
The main device of Proximity Trace, the TraceTagTM, is worn on the body for proximity detection and contact tracing. The solution is designed to:
Passively collect close contact interactions for efficient and reliable contact tracing should a student or staff member test positive.
Help administrators make informed, data-driven decisions about potential spread and health of facilities
Provide optional proximity alerts so students and staff know when they are too close to one another.
It’s hard to fathom how social distancing would work in an indoor sport such as volleyball, but that was the coach’s story.
The tracker also passively spies on students to determine with whom they interact in order to do follow-up contact tracing for Covid.
TPM reported that the mom, who did not wish to be identified, was told that any unvaccinated students discovered by the school would have to quarantine if they came into contact with someone who tested positive with Covid.
She was also informed that the device would be used for contract tracing so that in the event of a positive test, non-vaccinated students would have to quarantine for up to 14 days. Vaccinated students would not have to quarantine.
The mother said she was told by [the coach] that there were forms to opt-out of the program at a meeting the previous week which she was not informed about and additionally, had received no communication about the meeting or the devices. According to the mother, the athletic director acknowledged the error and apologized for the “slip up” of not getting her consent.[emphasis added]
Students have fewer rights than adults, and a 2002 Supreme Court decision allowed even more intrusions into the lives of students who voluntarily join extracurricular activities.
According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center explanation of the case Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty. v. Earls:
[Students] have a limited expectation of privacy because they voluntarily subject themselves to intrusions on their privacy, such as “occasional off-campus travel and communal undress.” Furthermore, the Court found that requiring students to submit urine samples (by urinating in a bathroom stall while the teacher stood outside the stall listening “for the normal sounds of urination in order to guard against tampered specimens and to insure an accurate chain of custody”) was “minimally intrusive” and a “not significant” invasion of students’ privacy. In a concurring opinion, Justice Breyer compared student drug testing to other responsibilities that schools must bear, such as providing school lunches. Schools “prepare pupils for citizenship in the Republic [and] inculcate the habits and manners of civility as values in themselves conductive to happiness and as indispensable to the practice of self-government in the community and the nation,” Breyer said.
Somebody green-lighted this latest intrusion. The coach indicated that it was an “opt-out” program, a favorite technique to keep less attentive and busy parents in the dark. A more fair system would allow parents to affirmatively “opt in” to programs.
It’s unclear if the school kept all permissions by parents in a data base or file, but this parent claims she was told that it was a mere “slipup.”
Eatonville High School athletic officials are also considering putting such tracking devices on the helmets of football players this season.
A decision on that and how it will be paid for is expected at a meeting on Wednesday night.
A call and emails sent to school officials for comment were not returned before publication of this story.