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One California school district volunteered for a six-week program that tracks students with unexcused absences using GPS devices

While riding on a parade float singing "Twist and Shout" sounds like a better time than going to school, students might want to rethink their plans for a Ferris Bueller-like rendezvous now that a California school district is using GPS units to track students with a poor attendance history. 

The Anaheim Union High School District has volunteered to be apart of a six-week program, which aims to reduce the number of unexcused absences by equipping seventh and eighth grade students who have a poor attendance record with handheld GPS devices. Reducing the number of absences a student has saves the school district money. Every time a student misses class, the school loses $35.

The program works by assigning GPS units to students with more than three unexcused absences. After receiving the GPS device, students are sent an automated phone call every school day to remind them to get up and go to school. They must enter a code five times a day in order to activate the device and track their location. They must enter the code on their way to school, once they arrive, during lunch, on their way home from school and at 8 p.m. In addition, a coach is assigned to each student in order to make sure that they are where they're supposed to be doing what they're supposed to do. 

"This is their last chance at an intervention," said Kristen Levitin, principal at Dale Junior High in West Anaheim. "Anything that can help these kids get to class is a good thing."

The district has 75 students participating in the program. Those participating are able to avoid other consequences that the school may have otherwise administered had the students' not volunteered. After the six-week program is over, district officials will make the decision to either expand the program to other high schools and junior highs or dismiss it. 

Some parents are having a hard time accepting the program rules, saying that it seems a bit harsh.

"I feel like they come at us too hard, and making kids carry around something that tracks them seems extreme," said Raphael Garcia, who has a sixth grade student in the district with six unexcused absences. 

The GPS units cost $300-$400 each, and parents must replace them if they are lost or broken. The total cost of the program is about $18,000, which is funded by a state grant. 





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