A Washington state public high school has been condemned for forcing student athletes to wear ankle bracelets to help with COVID track and tracing efforts.
Eatonville High School bought the monitors, made by a company called Triax, for both coaches and students in high-contact and moderate-contact sports.
Students who play volleyball, basketball, football and soccer are required by the school to wear the device.
The ‘TraceTag’ has visual and audible sensors that alert students when they are too close to each other, while also collecting contact-trace data later used to identify which students have had contact with other players who have tested positive for COVID-19.
That means it could be used to alert a student if they’d been in close contact with someone who has the virus.
According to the manufacturer’s website, the device can be attached to a hat or a helmet or be worn in the body.
Both vaccinated and unvaccinated students at Eatonville are currently required to wear the devices, but only unvaccinated students are required to quarantine for 14 days in case of a positive case of COVID-19 detected in the contact-trace data.
The device, meant to collect contact-trace data in case of COVID-19 infections, was likened to the ankle monitors used by individuals under house arrest.
But the move sparked widespread anger among parents after it was reported online, with many outraged at the similarity to devices used to track criminals on bail or probation.
The black TraceTag – pictured on this information sheet – was affixed to some student athletes’ ankles for COVID test and tracing purposes, sparking fury among parents
Eatonville High School in Washington State infuriated parents by making student athletes wear tracking devices
‘Over my dead body, My kids would not participate and very well may take them out of school and do online schooling if I had kids in that school.
‘Ankle monitors are for criminals not children,’ commented Holly Laubsch on a Facebook post.
The measure has been deemed extreme and invasive, as vaccine and mask mandates have prompted a heated debate in states across the US, and fears of government overreach grow among parents.
‘Some of this stuff is getting NEW WORLD ORDERISH, and if anything, intrusive, overbearing and overreaching,’ commented Facebook user Khari Nellum.
Terry Elliot also voiced her discontent: ‘This is ridiculous! It’s almost like you’re shaming the students. If that’s not a form of bullying I don’t know what is.
‘The only students that have to wear the monitors have not had the Covid vaccine yet. Kids have enough stress these days.’
Only one Facebook user seemed to support the measure. ‘Being pro-active is a excellent way to Contact Trace, since it is inevitable that at least one person will get the virus or even have a positive Covid test.
‘Great thinking on someone’s part,’ David Giezentanner commented.
Furious parents shared in social media their discontent with Eatonville High School’s decision to implement COVID-19 trackers for children. ‘Ankle monitors are for criminals not children,’ commented Holly Laubsch on a Facebook post
The Eatonville School District has defended its decision, citing that parents were aware and the process had included ‘an invitation to a parent meeting, communication from the coach and a parent consent form
Despite the backlash, the Eatonville School District initially defended its decision, citing that the process had included ‘an invitation to a parent meeting, communication from the coach and a parent consent form.’
But school board director Matt Marshall told The Post Millennial on Wednesday evening that their use had been halted amid the uproar. He said they had been ‘shelved the devices until proper procedures including community input and board approval process occur.’
The mother of a 15-year-old who missed the parents meeting, drove to the school after her daughter texted her in the middle of a school day that she was being asked to wear an ankle monitor.
She then spoke with coach Gavin Kralik, who explained that options to opt-out from wearing the device had been discussed in the meeting and allegedly apologized for the ‘slip up’ of not getting her consent, PM reported.
The mother allowed to take a picture of the device but only on Kralik’s hand, after her daughter had taken it off.
The school district refuted they are using tracking devices on students, calling them ‘proximity monitors’ instead, adding that there should not be concern about the student’s privacy because the device is only worn during practice.
The school was able to fund the monitors with a grant they received and allocated for COVID-19 logistics in the sports department, after practices were constantly canceled when an athlete tested positive for COVID-19.
‘We received grant funding that specifically included provisions to support higher-risk athletic programs, and we used some of those funds to pay for athletic proximity monitors,’
‘We are using these monitors for high contact and moderate indoor contact sports. The monitors are for both staff (coaches) and students on the field, regardless if they are vaccinated or unvaccinated.’
‘The monitor is only worn during participation in the sport,’ read a statement by the school.
The devices were also implemented as a way to reduce the inconvenience of submitting students and staff to constant testing.
Coach Gavin Kralik allegedly apologized to the mother of a 15-year-old for the ‘slip up’ after not getting her consent so the teenager could wear the monitor
‘We are using these monitors for high contact and moderate indoor contact sports. The monitors are for both staff (coaches) and students on the field, regardless if they are vaccinated or unvaccinated, said the school in a statement
The school board is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to talk in more detail about the program and its future after the backlash received.
A similar technique to contact trace COVID-19 infection in players is used by the NFL.
‘A lightweight, wearable device, called a Proximity Recording Device, is mandatory for players and club personnel when at the club facility, during practices, and during team travel.
‘The device gathers information about individuals’ proximity to each other – by distance and length of time – in order to perform quick and accurate contact tracing when someone is symptomatic or tests positive for COVID-19,’ read a post on the NFL website.
They also assured that the device didn’t work as a GPS, hence couldn’t store the location or identity of the players.