School's Out, Do You Know Where Your Child Is?
“4-year-old left on school bus”. Headlines like this one from the September 3, 2010 issue of the Joliet, IL Herald-News seem to be repeated several times every year. Imagine the panic experienced by a four year old who thought they were going home, but find themselves in the bus parking lot hours later. Imagine the feeling a parent has when their child does not get off the bus at their designated stop. Not to mention the resulting calls for the resignation of otherwise responsible school bus drivers and lawsuits filed against schools.
To help avoid frightening and potentially costly mistakes like these, several school systems have deployed or are considering RFID-enabled solutions to help monitor children when they are traveling to and from school on buses. Through the combination of RFID tags placed on students' backpacks and equipping school buses with RFID readers, schools can monitor student movement and automate in-transit attendance. By combining the data form RFID readers with data from GPS tracking devices that are already installed on most buses, school administrators can look up the ID number of a specific student, find out what bus they boarded, the location of that bus and whether they exited the bus or not. Some systems even send text alerts to parents, letting them know when their child gets on and off a bus and provide an online view of the buses while en route.
The adoption of RFID by the education markets comes with privacy concerns. Some parents object to electronically tracking their children’s whereabouts, suggesting that it might compromise their privacy. Despite the fact that passive RFID tags carry little information about the person carrying them and are unable to transmit signals over long distances, these concerns are well founded and must be addressed by solution providers and schools alike.
With the right privacy safeguards in place, during emergency situations or as part of a standard transportation attendance process, RFID-enabled solutions can help schools do more efficiently and effectively what they’re already doing manually. And, in the case of tracking children on school buses, puts parents' nerves at ease.
For examples of schools implementing RFID solutions to track students on buses, check out the following articles:
Would you be open to your child’s school implementing an RFID-enabled system to monitor and report your child’s whereabouts? While mistakes happen, I can’t think of one parent, teacher or school administrator who would want to be caught up in the headlines.