What happened to House Bill 2386 is an example of how state legislators can screw things up. When it was introduced — by Rep. Phil Barnhart of Eugene and Sen. Betsy Close of Albany — it was a simple bill to keep schools from requiring children to wear electronic bugs so they could be tracked anywhere they go. It was an effort to keep us from sliding into the kind of society where the authorities can keep track of us by radio signals, worse than George Orwell’s “1984.”
But by the time the bill passed, simplicity was gone and bureaucracy had won. Starting in July, the law now will require the state board of education to write a rule that school boards must adopt if they want to track students electronically. The rule must protect student privacy, though it doesn’t say how. Schools must notify parents and students of plans to require electronic tracking devices. They must also allow students to refuse to carry the devices. Refusal would, of course, make the whole scheme useless. Also, the board of education need not write these rules unless a school district notifies it that it intends to require students to carry tracking bugs.
It all seems needlessly complicated and basically wrong. What Barnhart and Close and their cosponsors wanted was to keep schools from electronic monitoring. The original bill was well justified and clear and did not need to be improved. (hh)