Don’t treat my kids like cattle |

Don’t treat my kids like cattle

While it’s admittedly a great way for ranchers to track cows on thousands of acres of grazing land, radio frequency identification badges seem out of place on a child’s neck.

And this is coming from a guy who has tracked both. I worked on a 1,300-acre dairy ranch as a teen looking for some summer work. Then I became a parent and found it much easier to coax a child to the supper table than a cow from a slippery riverbank at 2 a.m.

Sutter, Calif., located right down the highway from us (you can see the Sutter Buttes from Penn Valley) is pioneering new technology in its schools. According to a recent Associated Press story, radio frequency identification badges were introduced at Brittan Elementary School last month. The system was imposed, according to the story, without parental input, by the school as a way to “simplify attendance-taking and potentially reduce vandalism and improve student safety.”

Principal Earnie Graham said he hopes to eventually add bar codes to the existing IDs so that students can use them to pay for cafeteria meals and check out library books.

Many parents have complained, but Principal Earnie wonders what all the fuss is about. He says he’s on the “cutting edge” of technology and, besides, he says the devices don’t cause cancer.

It sounds as if Earnie might be spending too much time indoors.

The company that makes the cattle-tracking product promised to give the school lots and lots of money if the experiment pays off. In fact, according to the story, one of the company’s co-founders also serves as the technology specialist for the local high school.

Soon, I suspect, they can add little microchips that provide an electronic zap to a child’s neck when he or she fails to correctly spell “guinea pig.”

If my child attended Brittan Elementary School today, I would probably be speaking with Principal Earnie, offering to remove the mini-cams I’d have placed in his bedroom if he promised to remove the tracking device from my son’s neck. If he didn’t go for that, I probably would see how the tracking devices work as an electronic enema, asking the good principal to turn to the left and cough. I’d be able to track his every move until his next colonoscopy.

It’s bad enough we have satellites capable of determining what color boxer shorts I’m wearing today, without having our children treated like cattle in a classroom. If administrators are so concerned about vandalism and student safety, how about they gather up all the little vandals and bullies and stick electronic shock collars on their necks? Feel like ripping out a locker? Zap, 5,000 volts through Junior’s Nike sweats. Junior’s mommy and daddy don’t like that? Stick one around their necks instead, and whenever little Junior breaks school property, mommy and daddy get 5,000 volts each while they’re home watching Jerry Springer reruns.

Principal Earnie (I feel like I know him well enough to call him Earnie) says the kids just don’t like wearing the devices because they aren’t stylish. At least that’s what the reporter said Earnie told her. I’m guessing Earnie needs a visit from the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” crew. I’ll bet those electronic devices would be a hit, if they weren’t so … so … intrusive. Who wants to be on the toilet and have the entire school know about it? “Mr. Ackerman,” announces the school loudspeaker. “You’ve been on the toilet for 35 minutes now. Please get off and return to your classroom immediately.”

“But Principal Earnie!” I’d plead. “I’m not done yet!”

Zap. Five thousand volts rush from my head to my dropped trousers.

One area parent said Sutter is a dangerous town and that the devices will help keep citizens safe. I’ve been to Sutter many times. The only time I ever felt unsafe was when I thought a llama was preparing to attack. He spit at me over the fence and then gave me that llama stare they generally reserve for natural enemies (such as the groundhog).

An electronic tracking device would not have helped one bit in a llama fight. They bite and kick and spit. And they stink when they’re wet.

I’m not saying electronic tracking devices are not useful, mind you. I think every single legislator in Sacramento ought to wear one at all times, especially this time of year, when they are wrestling with budgets and things. Can’t find your senator? Push a button and, zap, you’ve got his immediate attention.

And there’s no question my wife would love to put one of those around my neck. I tend to wander from the barn … you know…like a cow. Next thing I know, I’m lost.

But keep them off of our children’s necks. All I really expect from my children’s school is a good education (which they are receiving, by the way). Teach them to read and write, add and subtract; maybe let them know where Sutter is located on a map and make sure they come home with a smile on their faces most of the time.

If my children need tracking, I’ll do that on my own, with the chip that I had implanted in their ears when they were 6 months old.


Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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