Epoch Times Digital Reporter Beth Berlje Uncovers ‘Smart Pass’ Used to Track Students and Facilitate Data Mining

Live from Music Row, Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed digital reporter for The Epoch Times, Beth Brelje to the newsmaker line to discuss her recent article on the data mining of children.

Leahy: We are joined on the newsmaker line right now by Beth Brelje. She’s a reporter for The Epoch Times, and she has a fascinating article about data mining our children. Good morning, Beth.

Brelje: Good morning, Michael. How are you doing?

Leahy: Great. Brelje is that a Norwegian heritage name?

Brelje: Yes. I tell people I’m tall, thin, I’m blonde. None of that’s true. But yes, it’s Norwegian.

Leahy: It’s Norwegian. Well, okay, great. One of my best friends in life was from Norway. He was my roommate in business school, and many years ago, lived in Australia. His father was actually kind of a Johnny Carson of Norway if you can say that.

Brejle: Oh, cool.

Leahy: Many years ago. But I guess your family has been here for some time.

Brejle: Yes.

Leahy: Okay, so tell us about this story. How long have you been with The Epoch Times?

Brejle: Just over a year. But I’ve been in journalism for, like, 30. I’m not really counting.

Leahy: Where are you based, Beth?

Brejle: I am in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Leahy: Tell us about this story. ‘Data Mining Our Children’? Parents Wary of Digital Hall Pass That Records Students’ Movements.

Brejle: There’s a program out there, an app called Smart Pass, and it was just developed a couple of years ago by some college students. Actually, they’re high school or college students, but I think they’re using the money they’re generating from it to pay for tuition. Some of them are.

It’s a real business, but it was kind of interesting how it started. They’ve sold this app to quite a few schools across the nation now, and what it does is it tracks students movements as they go to the bathroom or go to talk to another teacher.

And people always think that it’s tracking their every step. That’s not so. What they’re doing is digitally signing in and out instead of carrying, like, the wood block. Remember that from school? (Chuckles) 

Leahy: Oh, yeah, I remember that. The wood block was the key to the bathroom or whatever.

Brelje: Pools and gas stations. The wood block. So now you sign in digitally, so it’s not tracking your every step. But what it does is it generates a list, a weekly data list for administrators to look at, and they can tell which teachers are giving out the most all passes, how many times Johnny went to the bathroom. It also creates a digital line for students.

So instead of a teacher in just the one classroom writing out a hall pass now all the hall passes in the school are connected, so this way they don’t have as many students in the hallway at the same time, which is a good idea.

It cuts down on fights. Or you don’t want to have drug deals in the bathroom or whatever. So they’ll put you in line. SmartPass will say to the kid, you’re third in line because they’ll have multiple kids in the hallway, but no more than whatever they program it for.

Leahy: Exactly how physically does this thing work, specifically? Is it loaded to a cell phone? How do you get into the system?

Brejle: Most kids are digital now, so schools will give them tablets or laptops. So if it’s not on the school-provided digital items, then it’s on their phones, because most kids carry phones now.

Leahy: So it’s on a phone or their laptop or their iPad. Do they sign up on this thing at the beginning of the school year and it’s there forever, or do they do it every day? How does this work?

Brejle: So they put the app, let’s say, on their phone, okay. And then they say, oh, I want to go to the library. I’ll be gone for 10 minutes. And then they go up to their teacher, show it to them, and the teacher just taps a button that says, okay, I approve that.

And then now their steps, they might have gone to the bathroom instead of the library, but it shows that it’s kind of like Easy Pass shows when you or I don’t know if you have Easy Pass.

Leahy: We know what you’re talking about there. So the record of the kid will be on this app. Let’s say it’s on their phone. It could be on their iPad. But they go in. Hey, teacher, I need to go to the can I get a pass to go to the library? So the teacher signs off on the pass. They supposedly go to the library for, I don’t know, half an hour, right?

And they’re back in the class at half an hour. What survives then is the digital record is little Johnny on Friday at 9:00, a.m. got a pass to go to the library, and at 9:30, they came back to the room. Is that the record that shows?

Brejle: Yes. But then that weekly list of data shows, well, Johnny and Jane always seem to like every day they’re in different classes, but seems every day they are checking out, going to the bathroom at the same time.

And that’s a pattern developing. And maybe we should check out if those two meeting up in the hallway every day, or what’s going on with that?

Leahy: A little bit of big brother here, right?

Brejle: That’s where it gets creepy.

Leahy: So Johnny and Jane wouldn’t like that tracking with it. Let’s say they’re involved in a little personal interaction.

Brejle: Yeah, right.

Leahy: What’s wrong with that? What are the other problems associated with this? Have parents been complaining?

Brejle: Parents don’t like it. Well, some of them think it’s. I’m sure some think it’s. But a lot of parents didn’t like it. One person I spoke with pulled her child out of school. That was the last straw for her.

There were other issues, and then she was like, that’s it, I’m pulling my kids out. But it does get kids used to being tracked. But the superintendent of the school that I interviewed, because there are many schools across the country using this now, he said kids are already being tracked. If you think this is a problem, then take your kids cell phone away, because if they’re on social media or if they have a cell phone, they’re being tracked.

And it’s kind of hard to argue with that. But we are putting into kids’ minds the idea that it is normal to be tracked and they’re logging which students on the list. It shows who got the most haul passes for the week. And it’s a little invasive.

Leahy: Is this Smart Pass company making money?

Brejle: They wouldn’t come to the phone for me, but it does look like they’re making money. I don’t think that the young people who started this, I think it was like some kind of competition or something, and they won and found it was a viable business.

They do have employees, so they must be profiting. It’s really inexpensive. I forget what the cost is. It’s per student. The cost is per student for the schools. But it’s pretty nominal, though.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.

 

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