Brinna Stanton’s 4-year-old son, Zachary, was diagnosed with autism a couple of years ago. Unfortunately he has the dangerous habit of wandering off, so Stanton purchased a GPS tracker for added safety and security.
She thought it was the perfect solution — the tracker alerts her when her little boy has moved out of an established zone, and it can detect his exact location. However, when Mom tried to send him to school with the GPS device attached, she was informed it was against the school’s policy.
The North Carolina boy is in a special needs pre-K class at a local elementary school, and while the device’s basic functions are fine according to school rules, it also includes a listening option. In other words, if Zachary is missing, his mom can dial a number to get a better feel for his location, which can be lifesaving if the device loses its signal. She says if he is by water or near traffic, that can give them more information to get him home safely.
However, the school is concerned — and rightly so — with this aspect. While Stanton can disable this feature every day, there is no way for the school to confirm that it will remain unused, and it’s unsurprising that they don’t approve of it.
Privacy doesn’t begin and end with an audio feed. For example, most schools require that parents sign a paper at the beginning of the school year that gives staff permission to photograph their child while they’re in class (in fact, you probably signed one this year). There are also policies in place that prevent employees from releasing kids into the care of someone who is not on “the list,” and there are also times that they can’t or won’t talk about children who are on school grounds that day over the phone. You can’t simply waltz into a school to peep at the kids, and you can’t linger outside a playground to listen to them play either. Privacy is a very valid and real responsibility, and schools must keep the safety of the children in their care as their top priority.
While the safety of Zachary should also be a top priority, his mother does have to follow school policy whether or not she agrees with it. And even though it isn’t ideal, she should probably purchase a GPS tracker for her child to wear at school that is not equipped with a listening device (like this one from PocketFinder).
No, hearing a classroom full of kids may not necessarily put them all in danger, especially in that age group, but if there’s a chance that one kid can be singled out and information given to a noncustodial parent, then the risk is too great for the device to be worn, even if a parent says they’re going to turn off the listening feature.
Hopefully she will be able to purchase a tracker that doesn’t have a listening feature, and everyone will be happy — and safe.