Can A Tracking Device Curb Truancy?

Joshua Cervantes
Joshua Cervantes

It's 7 a.m. and Joshua Cervantes is getting ready for school.

He makes his bed, grabs his ID - and his GPS tracking device, reports CBS News correspondent Hari Sreenivasan.

At school, Joshua clicks his GPS. It sends a signal to a satellite and tells his truancy counselor that Josh is on time.

"Every 10 minutes it gives me a point on that individual," said Tom Urrutia, program manager of the monitoring system.

Josh is part of a pilot program at Bryan Adams High School in Dallas to stop truancy. Last year, out of 185 school days, he had 160 unexcused absences.

"So your parents dropped you off, and then you left?" Sreenivasan asked.

"Yeah," Joshua said. "Anywhere, I'd just go to a friend's house."

But for six weeks, a court ordered him to carry a tracking device, and made sure he was home by a 9 p.m. curfew.

Joshua didn't miss a single day of school.

"When they're in truancy, they're goin' down, we're losing them the longer they're gone," said Dr. Kyle Ross, an alternative education coordinator. "All of a sudden they get this device and it puts a stop right there."

Administrators say the monitoring device is doing more than just tracking. It gives kids a way to overcome the peer pressure to skip school.

"It's making me do what I want to, because I want to do this," Joshua said.

"We're accountable whether they show up or not, we're accountable for the graduation rate, the attendance," said Bryan Adams High School Principal Cynthia Goodsell. "If they're not here, we can't teach them and we're accountable for the coursework."

When kids don't attend school, districts lose money. Dallas has the highest dropout rate in Texas, and this school district loses $10 million every year in attendance revenue alone.

Blog: Hari Sreenivasan explains more about how the tracking system works.
But dropouts cost society even more.

Three in 10 federal prisoners, four in 10 state prisoners and half of those in death row are dropouts.

"So I just decided I don't want that; I just wanted to change and get what I want," Joshua said.

What he wants is to graduate and work in the medical field, thanks to a small tracking device that got him back on track.