Student Well-Being

Boston Will Use New Cellphones To Call Truants’ Bluff

By Andrew Trotter — April 17, 2002 1 min read

Truant officers who patrol Boston neighborhoods looking for teenagers playing hooky have a new tool: a wireless system that provides student records instantly.

Starting next week, Boston’s 11 “attendance supervisors” will retrieve current student data by typing a student’s name into a special cellular phone. Each truant officer covers between 15 and 20 schools.

Better, faster information will help get students back into classes, said Elliot Feldman, the Boston school system’s director of alternative education. Nearly 5 percent of Boston’s 64,000 students are truant for more than 5 days during the school year, he said, adding that other urban districts have similar truancy rates. Until now, Boston’s truant officers have verified students’ names and stories by lugging around a paper printout the size of several phone books. It lists every student.

But that list is out of date by the time the ink dries on the page, Mr. Feldman said.

Local probation and police officers, who often make sweeps with truant officers of “hot spots” where teenagers hang out, will also receive the cellphones, which they can use to check court and police records. “We don’t want a kid with an outstanding [arrest] warrant to go back into school,” Mr. Feldman said.

The data system is designed so those officers should not be able tap in to students’ school records, but some privacy advocates have concerns.

“I don’t think this creates a new problem; it merely facilitates the movement of data and makes [data] leakage more likely,” said John Reinstein, a lawyer for the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Access to the data will be protected through multiple passwords and the cellphones’ electronic signatures, said Suren Gupta, the executive vice president of operations and information services for Bluebell, Pa.-based AirClic Inc., which operates the wireless system.

Boston is the first school district to try the system, Mr. Gupta said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 17, 2002 edition of Education Week as Boston Will Use New Cellphones To Call Truants’ Bluff

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion A Writing Exercise That Helps Students Build Resilience
When kids write about their successes, they also think about all they had to overcome—which helps both confidence and capability.
Brady K. Jones
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Sponsor
Breathe Easier About In-Person Learning
Blueair’s Guide To Using Relief Funding For Cleaner Air 
Content provided by Blueair
Student Well-Being What the Research Says Child Abuse Cases Got More Severe During COVID-19. Could Teachers Have Prevented It?
A study finds that the severity of identified child abuse cases grew during the pandemic, even as reports of abuse declined.
3 min read
Image of a sad girl in the shadows
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being The Pandemic Brought Universal Free School Meals. Will They Stay?
Relaxed rules during the COVID-19 pandemic have allowed schools to serve universal free meals. Some in Congress want to make that permanent.
8 min read
Kejuan Turner, 8, eats a burger from a free bagged lunch provided by the Jefferson County School District on the back of his mother's truck with his brother, Kendrell, 9, outside their home in Fayette, Miss.
Kejuan Turner, 8, eats a burger from a free bagged lunch provided by the Jefferson County school district on the back of his mother's truck with his brother, Kendrell, 9, outside their home in Fayette, Miss., in March.
Leah Willingham/AP