Green Room

NY school to fight childhood obesity by spying on fat kids

posted at 11:17 am on January 16, 2012 by

The situation hasn’t quite reached the point where little Johnny is electrically zapped when he reaches for a cupcake—but one Long Island community comes dangerously close.

According to the New York PostBay Shore Schools has ordered wrist monitors that “count heartbeats, detect motion, and even track students’ sleeping habits in a bid to combat obesity.”

The paper quotes But Ted Nagengast, the school system’s athletics chair, as saying:

It’s a great reinforcement in fighting the obesity epidemic. It tells kids, in real time, ‘Am I active? Am I not active?’ We want to give kids the opportunity to become active.

Now if the school board could hook up a remote feed to the North Pole telling Santa Claus when the kids are being naughty or nice, they’d really be getting somewhere.

Polar Electro, which manufactures the monitors, makes no mention or endorsement of the products’ third party use at its website. Credit (or blame) for that innovation rests with school administrators—and not just the ones on Long Island. The Post notes that the devices are already in use in school districts in St. Louis and South Orange, New Jersey.

Information from the monitors is fed to a password-protected website accessible by both students and educators:

Teachers use hand-held computers to collect data from each student’s wrist monitor during class, then upload the information to the school computer system for storage and long-term tracking.

So what could possibly go wrong? One St. Louis parent, who claims the electronic monitors were being used without her knowledge or consent, expresses fears  about how secure the website is and where the data might conceivably end up. The American Civil Liberties Union shares her concerns. Says spokesman Jay Stanley:

When you get into monitoring people’s biological vital signs, that’s a pretty intrusive measurement. There are key privacy interests at play.

A program like this should only be voluntary. Nobody should be forced to reveal biological indicators.

Virginia Rezmierski, an “expert on information technology and privacy” at the University of Michigan, comments:

It’s all about secondary use. Does the data pass along with the child from school to school? When will insurance companies want to get access to it? Will a school want to medicate a child that the monitor identifies as hyperactive? It’s potentially very dangerous ground.

Then of course there’s little Johnny himself, who will grow up with all manner of neuroses, especially the constant nagging fear that someone is watching him. The ultimate triumph will be if he reacts to his anxiety as so many people do—by eating.

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It’s a great reinforcement in fighting the obesity epidemic. It tells kids, in real time, ‘Am I active? Am I not active?’ We want to give kids the opportunity to become active.

Now if the school board could hook up a remote feed to the North Pole telling Santa Claus when the kids are being naughty or nice, they’d really be getting somewhere.

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This is the whole “smart grid” movement. Now in CA we have smart meters on our electric and even our water usage. The City will call us when they think we are using too much water!!

What next, smart meters to record what we are saying?

PattyJ on January 16, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Wait a minute! Are these things used on ALL students?! And why are the parents even letting this happen??!

Sterling Holobyte on January 16, 2012 at 12:24 PM

What next, smart meters to record what we are saying?

PattyJ on January 16, 2012 at 11:39 AM

The internet already does that. =]

Jeddite on January 16, 2012 at 12:24 PM

When these arguments were about whether there should be laws requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets, a lot of those against such laws predicted that over time, based on the principle that the state has to protect us against ourselves, the reach of the nanny state would become ever longer and more intrusive.

They were called fools.

J.E. Dyer on January 16, 2012 at 1:19 PM

Big Brother knows what’s best for us. Just let them take total control of our lives and everything will be much better. Really – “we’re from the government and we’re here to help”. Next step will be microchip implants in everyone so they can monitor all of us all the time – what we’re doing, eating, drinking, smoking, and on and on. Then comes the devices to actually control what we do…..

I can’t believe so many parents are letting a school get away with this.

dentarthurdent on January 16, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Here’s our take on what’s going on in the suburban St. Louis school district on the polargofit bracelets:

http://www.missourieducationwatchdog.com/2012/01/why-does-parkway-school-district-want.html

You can access the video and rough transcript of the school board talking about the bracelets and the reasons to track elementary school students 24/7 for one week. From the transcript and Parkway District employee:

We don’t want to just assess fitness we want to assess behavioral change w/regard to physical activity patterns with our students and then we know we’ve done our job and this tool here will help us do that.

There you have it. The schools are to create behavioral changes, not to educate. That’s what is at the basis of this tracking. Check out the P-20 pipeline (tracking children from birth to age 20 through the workforce) in place in schools and the circumvention of the FERPA laws allowing the government access to voluminous amounts of personal student data.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

manateespirit on January 16, 2012 at 2:48 PM

Its stuff like this that convinces me that the world has gone mad.

magicbeans on January 16, 2012 at 4:51 PM

posted at 11:17 am on January 16, 2012 by Howard Portnoy

Then of course there’s little Johnny himself, who will grow up with all manner of neuroses, especially the constant nagging fear that someone is watching him.

I disagree. Johnny won’t grow up neurotic, he will grow up with the idea that it is permissible for anyone to intrude on his privacy and control his every life-function. He will be completely sold out to the nanny-state and be absolved of any personal responsibility for actions and activities. The ultimate drone.

bigbeachbird on January 16, 2012 at 6:23 PM

bigbeachbird on January 16, 2012 at 6:23 PM

You got that right. Just add the little shock collar to stop him from doing anything objectionable (in Big Brother’s view) and you have a perfectly controlled population.

dentarthurdent on January 16, 2012 at 7:54 PM

I almost bought one of these for myself for Christmas. They are not inexpensive? The money would be better spent on updated texts or paying for tutors or teacher bonuses, etc

Capitalist Hog on January 16, 2012 at 9:00 PM

Obesity IS an epidemic, which is unfortunate since it’s totally preventable. I’m somewhat divided any time cases like this come up, because the people taking such drastic actions in an attempt to improve health do have valid concerns. But as far as I’m concerned, making this program mandatory is crossing the line. Encourage health, don’t dictate it.

(And besides, probably counterproductive. A mandatory program seems likely to promote the mindset that they only need to be healthy until they leave school and get rid of the wrist monitors.)

Mr. Prodigy on January 17, 2012 at 9:02 AM