Side Note

Tracking devices are required in this French high school

Students who opened up the handbook for the Paris-based private high school Lycée Rocroy Saint-Vincent de Paul were jarred to find that they are now required to wear tracking devices to class.

The high school, along with French education-technology startup NewSchool, is rolling out fobs that students must keep with them during school. The fobs connect to an app that offers school officials real-time access to the students’ locations. Any child who fails to bring the fobs with them to class will be fined $12.

NewSchool’s founder Philippine Dolbeau, who is now 19 years old, has described launching her company at the age of 15 after news reports surfaced of a 9-year-old boy who fell asleep in a bus and remained trapped there for eight hours because school officials couldn’t locate him. Dolbeau’s solution: develop fob trackers, which she encrypts, that allow teachers to quickly take attendance at the start of class, during fire drills, and on field trips.

NewSchool’s tracking system is reminiscent of a French facial recognition software, Nestor, which monitors student facial expressions to determine whether they’re paying attention in class. If the student is deemed to be slacking off, the system delivers them a quiz about the content of the lecture. Last week, The Outline reported on the lack of oversight for these facial recognition technologies, which U.S. high schools are also implementing under the guise of protecting students from school shootings. This opens the door to systems similar to one at a school in China that feeds live classroom scans of students’ facial expressions to local police for monitoring.

Requiring students to wear tracking technology is a dystopian solution to a small problem — especially because, according to reports, the school didn’t consult parents before imposing the new mandate. A petition protesting privacy concerns has so far garnered over 3,500 signatures.