In a move that sounds like something out of a frightening dystopian fiction, a school in New Zealand has come under intense criticism from parents for attempting to introduce a scheme to tag children with microchips in order to promote good behaviour. Fairfax Media reports that Swannanoa School in North Canterbury plans to attach chipped bracelets to students to track their behaviour. Many parents were not notified of the scheme, only finding out about it via minutes from a Parent Teacher Association meeting. When the local media investigated the proposal, the school finally sent out notifications to parents. A letter from the principal suggested that the plan was more efficient than alternatives such as ID cards, which could be misplaced. The school has even gone as far as measuring up the wrists of children in preparation for the plan, which it says will cost $7000 to set up. Under the proposal, the devices locked to kids’ arms would allow teachers to use portable scanners in order to add reward points to a student’s good behaviour record, stored on a database. Students would be rewarded points when they did something teachers determined to be positive, and incentives would be enhanced with the promise of prizes for reaching a certain amount of points. The chips would contain information including names, points tally and the school house that students belonged to. The school claims that the devices would not have a GPS tracker. Naturally, parents are outraged at the scheme, which is otherwise literally employed in prisons and to monitor the whereabouts and activities of offenders, or those on parole.
“I don’t like the idea of my children being scanned,” said mother of two Emma Goodin, adding that she does not want her children “treated like grocery items or criminals”.
“If it’s just for good behaviour, why would you invest that much money in it?” commented Liz Rutherford, another mother who has also vowed to remove her children from the school should the plan go ahead. When notified of the proposal, a government Education Ministry spokesperson told reporters that “Individual schools decide how to encourage good behaviour in consultation with their community.”