A public school in Washington state is reportedly requiring its student-athletes to wear monitors to ensure social distancing as a condition of participation in team sports.
The Eatonville School District announced in a letter to parents Tuesday that it secured funding for “athletic proximity monitors” to be worn by staff and students, regardless of their vaccination status, the New York Post reported.
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“If a student or coach tests positive, we will have immediate information regarding athletes’ and coaches’ contact, so we can more tightly determine who might need to quarantine,” explained ESD Superintendent Gary Neal.
Jason Lewis, whose son plays on the Eatonville football team, told Q13 News the monitors are part of “doing what we have to do to let the boys play a sport that they love.”
“Some of these boys have a chance to get a scholarship, so it would be terrible to take that away from them because one kid tested positive,” Lewis said. “There are people connecting dots that aren’t even dots, and people who weren’t even at the meeting and don’t have a player on the team upset about it.”
The controversial monitors, developed by Triax, work with radio-based sensors that track the distance between people wearing them. The technology — also being utilized by the NFL — is only tracing students’ activities while they’re on the field, according to information on the school district’s website.
District officials have argued the program is completely opt-in, noting student-athletes who don’t want to wear the monitors will simply be unable to participate in sports.
“I was notified if I didn’t sign it, they couldn’t play,” parent Jason Ostendorf, whose son and daughter play football and volleyball, told the Tacoma News Tribune. “I signed it reluctantly. It’s either that or he doesn’t play.”
He went on argue the trackers are not truly optional, noting the requirement puts him and his kids in a “horrible position.”
“Above all,” the father said, “they’re putting tracking devices on my kid. It’s absolutely against my better judgment and every fiber of what I think is right.”
The program, it should be noted, has been briefly paused following several media reports about the monitors.
The district is hosting a meeting Wednesday evening to provide additional information to parents and community members. Matt Marshall, the school board director, told the Post Millennial the plan is on hold temporarily and the devices have been “shelved” until “proper procedures, including community input and board approval process, occur.”
“I will fight any requirements that segregate students based on vaccination status,” he said. “I am confident the rest of my colleagues will do the same.”
According to Neal’s letter to parents, however, the monitors are required for all student-athletes, regardless of vaccination status.
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