Family wanted to keep tabs on boy’s whereabouts and listen to his surroundings; ruling cites privacy issues
By Tawnell D. Hobbs | The Wall Street Journal
The parents of an autistic child in Nevada who fought to have his school let him wear a GPS tracker with the ability to listen in on his surroundings lost their battle in a case that could resonate in school districts across the U.S.
Joshua and Britten Wahrer wanted their 6-year-old son Joshua Jr., who is nonverbal, to use the device at school after his teacher was accused of beating him with a wooden pointer stick and arrested. The Clark County School District in Las Vegas rejected the request, saying the listen-in function could be intrusive to private conversations.
The case has been closely watched by families with special-needs children, who increasingly are in regular classrooms at school. The tracking devices were developed for Alzheimer’s patients but are now being used by parents of children with special needs.
School districts worry the devices could violate the privacy of other students and teachers, and some have banned them or required disablement of any listen-in technology. But some parents say the devices are a way to ensure their vulnerable children are safe and treated well.
In the Las Vegas case, a state-appointed hearing officer agreed with the district, and in a ruling released Thursday said the Wahrers’ son couldn’t have the device at school. The ruling also requires the boy’s principal, teachers and other providers this school year and next school year to each complete four hours of education in areas such as proper restraint and use of positive behavior plans.