Washington public school requires student-athletes to wear ankle monitors to ensure social distancing, track COVID-19 outbreaks

Eatonville High School in Eatonville, Washington, is reportedly requiring its student-athletes to wear ankle monitors as a condition of participating in team sports, the Post Millennial reported.

What are the details?

One unnamed mother told the Post Millennial that her daughter had only just arrived at volleyball team practice when she received a text message revealing that the team coach was asking her child to put on an ankle monitor.

“The teen did not answer the mother’s follow up texts or calls,” the outlet’s Ari Hoffmann wrote. “The mother assumed she was playing during practice and attempted to contact the school via phone. No one at the school was able to answer her questions about the monitor, so she drove to the building.”

When she arrived at the school, the mother said that she encountered an employee in the school office, who reportedly told her that there was a meeting held the previous week discussing the “ankle monitoring program.”

The program, the staffer reportedly told the mother, was intended for contact tracing in the event of any student’s positive COVID-19 test.

The coach also reportedly told the mother that use of the device was intended to inform players when they were not distanced enough, and was only reportedly intended for use at indoor practice. The coach also added that the school reportedly handed out opt-out forms during the previous week’s meeting, but the unnamed mom said that she never received any such forms, nor was she ever made aware of such a program.

According to the outlet, the device used by the school was reportedly manufactured by a company called Triax. The company website states that the monitoring bracelet was conceived in order to maintain social distancing guidelines. The device, according to the outlet, provides a “visual and audible alarm” so that any individual, who may come into unnecessarily close contact with another person, will “know when to adjust their current distance to a proper social distance.”

The devices, according to the outlet, were not mentioned in the school’s updated 2021-22 school year policies.

Parent Jason Ostendorf is also angry over the practice.

He told the News Tribune that students have enough to deal with these days amid a global pandemic.

“It’s just one more thing they’re doing to the kids through this whole COVID thing,” he insisted. “The vaccine, now be tracked when you’re at practice. Where does this end? I feel like this is an experiment on our kids to see how much we can put them through before they start breaking.”

Ostendorf added that he was told if he refused to sign the permission slip, his children would not be permitted to play on team sports.

“My son has played football since he was in third grade,” he said. “He’s passionate about the sport. … I signed it reluctantly. It’s either that or he doesn’t play. … It’s not optional. If you don’t sign the waiver, they don’t get to play. You have no choice in the matter. … Above all, they’re putting tracking devices on my kid.”

What now?

In a statement to the Post Millennial, school board director Matt Marshall told the outlet that the school has decided to stop using the devices “until proper procedures including community input and board approval process occur.”

Eatonville School District Superintendent Gary Neal also spoke out about the controversy and said that the monitors were not intended to segregate the student population.

“We received grant funding (known as ESSER III) that specifically included provisions to support higher-risk athletic programs, and we used some of those funds to pay for athletic proximity monitors,” Neal said.

“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. If a student or coach tests positive, we will have immediate information regarding athletes’ and coaches’ contacts, so we can more tightly determine who might need to quarantine,” he continued, sharing the same language posted on the school’s online FAQ page.

A spokesperson for the district told the Daily Dot that the program is “entirely opt-in” and requires signed permission slips from parents and that monitors are for vaccinated and unvaccinated students alike.


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