Image: Screenshot from ScholarChip promotional video

I am a senior at Riverhead Senior High School. As I have grown older, I have watched the school make some gestures towards progress and several missteps on the way to having a healthy and secure educational environment. This all considered, a recently implemented security system has frustrated and baffled me to such a degree that I feel compelled to speak out: It is wasteful, draconian and suspicious.

This system centralizes itself around ID cards each student now must carry if they wish to access cafeteria food, enter the school late, or leave before the final eighth-period bell. No parents or students were notified about this before the beginning of school, as far as I know, and the technology agreement (which can be accessed digitally here) was not updated reflecting this massive new technological change (as of this date, the last update was June 7, 2017). From what I have been able to gather, these ID cards, which the vendor’s website () advertises as “robust” has the following components: an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip which can interface with the school’s kiosks, a suite of apps produced by ScholarChip, and a barcode that does… something. In theory.

Now, the kiosks: I have counted five of the wheeled affronts to intelligence. They each have two RFID scanners, a student-observer screen and an operator screen. Already, two weeks into their operation, one has had a malfunction where it would not output video. These kiosks also neither function nor are operated correctly. On at least one occasion, when the kiosk wrongfully indicated that I was not supposed to be permitted to exit the building, I was told by a security guard to proceed regardless. This is out-of-gate operation after the school has had an entire summer to prepare for usage.

It would seem that this system is designed to help attendance somehow. It quite simply does not do that. Assuming that you navigate outside of the building, which many people do both in concordance with the rules and without, there is literally nothing other than the education ahead of you to encourage you to return to the campus. Once you are outside, the school becomes powerless over you. The best they could do is attempt to catch you coming in from off-ground sites. This is how things were years prior, this equipment has done nothing but put expensive, wasteful, and obtrusive machinery in the way of students who seek to follow the rules.

Were these means effective, perhaps then I would not be quite so upset, but the only thing worse than an Orwellian system is an ineffectual Orwellian system.

Since the institution of these new conditions, the school has:

  • Not prevented students from exiting and entering the school at at least one location that is not monitored by guards.
  • Allowed a fight between students actually escalate to the point where one actually threw the other over his shoulder.
  • Harassed rule-abiding and hard-working students.
  • Done seemingly nothing to numbers of students cutting in class.
  • Increased the congestion of our practically stagnant hallways.

This, of course, while:

  • Very few rooms have cooling available to them.
  • There are not enough lockers for students to store their gym equipment, meaning that we are all now to carry combination locks with us, something that is in no way a security risk or something which could be used as a weapon.
  • The school does not have enough class periods in its day for truly driven students to get the education they give themselves to.

All considered, this system seems to be made for neither the health nor safety of the students. The most good faith that I can muster for the school’s ambitions for this system is to put an attendance clerk out of a job.

Quint Nigro is a resident of Riverhead.

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