A public high school in Washington state allegedly forced student-athletes to wear taxpayer-funded ankle monitors to help track coronavirus outbreaks or be barred from participating in sports.
Eatonville High School, about 60 miles south of Seattle, required student-athletes to wear the ankle monitors for high-contact and medium-contact sports such as volleyball, football, basketball, wrestling, and soccer.
The “Trace Tag” monitors are manufactured by a company called Triax and have an alarm alerting the wearer when they get too close to another person. The device also collects contact tracing data in case a wearer later tests positive. The device can also be affixed to a hardhat or worn elsewhere on the body.
The monitors were used by both coaches and students on the field, “regardless of vaccination status,” the school said in a fact sheet.
“If an athlete were to test positive for COVID-19, the entire team could be quarantined,” the school said. “By using the proximity monitors we can immediately determine who might have been exposed to Covid-19.”
A spokesperson for the school told The Daily Dot that students could opt out of wearing the monitor, but they would not be allowed to participate in sports.
The school assured that students are not being tracked, however.
“The proximity monitor contains radio-based sensors that track distance between individuals wearing the device, as well as length of time spent in proximity to one another. The monitor is only worn during participation in the sport,” the school said.
Parents were supposed to sign off on the ankle monitors through a parental consent form, but at least one parent was reportedly not informed.
The mother of a 15-year-old girl told The Post Millennial that her daughter was forced to wear the ankle monitor during her volleyball team practice.
The mother contacted the athletic director, who she claimed acknowledged that the school had mistakenly failed to obtain her consent for the monitor and apologized for the “slip up.”
The school has now “shelved the devices until proper procedures including community input and board approval process occur,” school board director Matt Marshall told the outlet.
Another parent said he signed the form reluctantly.
“I was notified if I didn’t sign it, they couldn’t play,” Jason Ostendorf, who has two children playing sports at the high school, told the Tacoma News Tribune. “I signed it reluctantly.”
“They’re putting tracking devices on my kid,” he said.
The outlet also reported that unvaccinated kids who test positive or are near someone who tests positive must quarantine for two weeks, while vaccinated kids who test negative can return to playing sports after only three to five days.
On Tuesday, Eatonville School District Superintendent Gary Neal penned an open letter addressing some of the concerns around the ankle monitors.
“This system prevents taking students out of school and athletics unnecessarily,” Neal wrote. “It allows us to keep more students engaged and involved in class as well as athletic activities. This is a top priority for staff and families here in Eatonville. This school year we can expect numerous changes and for situations to be dynamic.”
The ankle monitors were purchased with federal coronavirus relief money, according to Neal. He compared the monitors to devices used by the NFL during practices and team travel. However, the NFL devices are worn as a wristband or on a lanyard, not as an ankle bracelet.
Eatonville High School did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The school board is expected to discuss the ankle monitors at a board meeting Wednesday evening.