In early 2012, wristwatch-like devices called Polar active monitors will be used by older students in PE classes at all 18 Parkway elementary schools. District officials say the devices should help improve the students' fitness and academic achievement.All rather ingenious, so it is.
Later this school year, the district plans to collect data about activity levels and even sleep patterns for a week at a time. It will have the students wear the devices round the clock.
The monitors measure activity by tracking every movement of the person wearing them. They display steps taken, calories spent and time spent at various levels of activity. An animated figure on the monitor indicates the activity level. A bar shows the target time for doing moderate to vigorous activity and the amount of time achieved at that level.Of course, like any innovation, there are always going to be teething troubles.
Under the pilot program, the three schools each received 25 monitors, which cost $90 apiece. The monitors have been rotated among third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in physical education classes.
Each of the district's elementary schools will receive 25 monitors in January and begin using them in PE class.
However, the focus of the monitors' use will change gradually, so that by the end of the year students will continually wear the monitors for a full week at a time to assess activity levels.
Neil Richards, a professor of law with Washington University in St. Louis who teaches privacy and civil liberties courses, said he feels the plan for the devices constitutes "a major privacy issue."Bah! They're only primary school kids, for God's sake. Get with the program, Grandad. Anyway, such worries are being addressed as we speak.
"The school district eventually will be engaging in surveillance of kids' sleep and exercise patterns outside the school day," he said. "Though physical activity is important and obesity is a problem, the district could not require kids to wear them because I think it would be a violation of their and their families' Fourth Amendment rights, which is pretty easily unconstitutional."
Ramspott said the district plans to share all physical activity and sleep reports with parents [...]See? The benevolent state is nothing if not generous. Plus ...
Ramspott said Parkway will require parental consent to participate ...But, of course.
... largely because of the responsibility of caring for the monitors.Hey, at $90 a pop it's expensive kit!
"If a university would do this study, they'd need to have lots of approval and consent from our internal review board, because this is a form of human subject research," Richards said. "Though the district should be applauded for ensuring kids are healthy, this kind of biological surveillance seems to go far beyond what they should be concerned with."
He wonders what's next.Oooh, what a fantastic idea! We'll pitch it to the Department for Education next week.
"Will they start monitoring kids' nutrition at home or how many hours they spend reading at home?" Richards asked.