Tracking Students Using RFID

by Barb Ramey

The use of RFID tags at K-12 schools is not new but it has received renewed interest in the recent past. One school of thought believes the tags are beneficial while another says they violete student privacy.

Initial Attempts

Brittan elementary School in Northern California introduced RFID tags on January 18, 2005, making Brittan the first school district to use the technology in America. The tracking system had already been implemented in some schools in Japan to help parents monitor their children’s arrival and departure.

All students at Brittany Elementary School were required to wear the tags, a move that sparked controversy. The administration said it wanted to improve student safety, reduce the potential for vandalism and simplify attendance-taking.

However, Brittany dropped the system on February 16, 2005 after Incom Corporation rescinded its agreement with the school.

Incom developed its InClass RFID system to automate the taking of attendance in both elementary and secondary schools. UHF readers were mounted in the classroom doorways while passive RFID tags were attached to the student ID card holders.

In 2010, Contra Costa County School District received a grant of $50,000 to implement the use of RFID tags on pre-schoolers. Most of the grant was used in installing sensors at different parts of the school to read the RFID tags put onto basketball jerseys.

Renewed Interest

There is a renewed interest in the technology. Northside Independent School District plans to embed RFID chips into student ID cards. The school district expects to use the system to track where students are throughout the day. The pilot programs will take place at Anson Jones Middle School and John Jay High School. In case the pilot program proves successful, the district expects to implement the system in all its 112 schools.

Why Use RFID Tags in Schools?

According to the district spokesman, Pascual Gonzalez, the technology will help them accomplish what parents expect of them: knowing where their children are at all times.

The administration explained it considered the system as a way of improving student safety. The RFID tags are expected to help schools find students in emergency situations. The teachers are also expected to use the system to keep track of student attendance more accurately. The RFID system is likewise expected to increase revenue considering the central role attendance plays in determining state funding.

Although some board members expressed their concern about privacy issues, the plan was approved because the RFID tags can only be used on school grounds. Parents of the 6,290 or so students in the two schools will receive details of the program in the mail. The information will also address some frequently asked questions.

In spite of the privacy concerns, using RFID tags in schools has definite advantages.

Image by sirexkat and licensed through Creative Commons.

This post was written by Barb Ramey

Barb Ramey is a sales rep at an online retailer carrying security and photo identification products including the Val Cam ID Camera. Get more information at

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