On the first day of preschool in Richmond, students received crayons, writing paper and tracking microchips embedded into jersey tops.
As reported by KTVU, preschoolers in Contra Costa county have been outfitted with these monitoring devices, which transmits a signal to sensors installed throughout their buildings.
Officials told the news station that the devices would help administrators secure the child's whereabouts at all times. Parents will also digitally sign the child in and out of school, thereby eliminating the need for attendance records filed by hand.
“Now, when we feed the children lunch, we just have to push a button and it’s done,” said teacher Simone Beauford. “We don't have to check the papers, check the papers, check the papers.”
Tracking microchips have become popular in recent years as the technology of choice for pet owners, prison guards and cattle wranglers. But the rapid social acceptance of such technology troubles some civil rights and privacy advocates.
In 2007, California became one of the first states to ban forced implantation of microchips under a person's skin. Yet a year later, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed Senate Bill 29 that would have outright banned the use of microchips and other radio-frequency identification technology in schools.
Three years prior to the bill, a controversy raged when Brittan Elementary School in Sutter County was confronted by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center over making students wear a device around their necks that transmitted private information to a computer on campus.
Jeffrey and Michele Tatro, parents of a 13-year-old student at Brittan Elementary, said at the time:
It is our goal that no child in the United States be tagged or tracked. We want it to be stopped here, in Sutter, California, and we don't want any child to be tracked anywhere. Our children are not pieces of inventory.
Cedric Laurant, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said this about Brittan's microchip program in 2005:
Monitoring children with RFID tags is a very bad idea. It treats children like livestock or shipment pallets, thereby breaching their right to dignity and privacy they have as human beings. Any small gain in administrative efficiency and security is not worth the money spent and the privacy and dignity lost.
A few weeks later, Brittan ended the program. Five years later, Contra Costa believes such a program is the right thing to do.
Sung Kim of the county's employment and human services department touted the 3,000 labor hours that could be saved because of the microchips.
"Within a year we could completely pay off this system from the savings we have with the staffing,” Kim told KTVU. “We are the first child-care center that is implementing with this technology, but it is already proven technology.”