Missouri lawmakers push to ban radio tracking devices in schools
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Missouri lawmakers push to ban radio tracking devices in schools

Date: September 5, 2014
By: Jill Ornitz
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 523, Governor's veto letter and the list of vetoed bills.

JEFFERSON CITY - Children in Missouri's schools would not have to fear being electronically tracked if the governor's veto of bill banning radio frequency identification devices in schools is overridden.

In his July veto letter,  Gov. Jay Nixon argued that a prohibition on RFID technology in schools "would eliminate an important option for school districts to consider when analyzing measures to protect the safety and security of their students."

The bill's sponsor -- Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar -- disagreed.

"I see local control in the arena of the students as parents," Emery said. "The parents are the ones that should ultimately decide how much of their student's information should be broadcast."

While the bill received more than a two-thirds majority in the Senate (27-5), it fell well short of the 109 votes that would be needed in the House (90-56).

Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles, the bill's House handler, said a veto override is possible, but Republican House members tend to side with school administrators.

Nixon also stated the bill did not distinguish between active and passive radio frequency identification technology, which could prevent the tracking of laptops and other electronic devices assigned to individual students.

According to Bahr, active RFID technology indicates the tracking device has a power source, similar to a cell phone that uses GPS. Passive RFID technology requires a reader to access the information stored on the device, in the same way a library metal detector can tell if a book has been checked out, Bahr said.

But he also warned this could leave children vulnerable to predators if it falls into the wrong hands.

"Depending on how this technology is used, it could have potential of broadcasting information about a child," Bahr said. There is no way to assume any database that stores information connected to a passive RFID couldn't be hacked, Bahr said.

Another safety concern is how far away the device signals can be detected.

"We know that some of those RFID transmitters can be read as far as two or three miles away," Emery said.

Sen. Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis City, said he agreed with Gov. Nixon in regard to letting schools decide what's best for their students.

"We ought to leave it to the local school districts on how they want to monitor their students," Keaveny said. "Anything that we can do to introduce technology into our school system to ensure that students are safe and that the schools are running efficiently, I think we ought to embrace and not prohibit."

Emery said he intends to bring the bill up for an override in the Senate during the veto session that begins on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

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