Tipline: Are Pedometers in School a Good Idea?

6:01 PM, Jan 11, 2013   |    comments
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NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. - Pedometers track your physical activity, by measuring the steps you take each day.

Now, they're being used in several local schools to track the physical activity of students.

Should schools require students to wear them?

Several parents tell 2 On Your Side that they're refusing to have their kids wear them and a prominent local attorney says they're onto something.

The school districts that are using the pedometers hope the program teaches students the difference between exercise and staying inside. The districts that want to track the physical activity of their students include, Ken-Ton Schools, North Tonawanda City Schools, Maryvale and Portville Central, which is near the Pennsylvania border.

"I think we're teaching our kids to give away personal information far too easily," said Kelly Labonte, who has three kids in North Tonawanda. Her kids just told her that they have to wear the devices, including one who's a special education student.

"It just baffles me, how they can force this upon you? I think it should be a choice and I think some kids will choose to do it," she said.

Paul Cambria, a civil and criminal attorney says, "this is an invasion of privacy because it's morning to night, and it measures your body, your body's activity."

Cambria adds that specifically, the schools need to get permission to do this, "the question is whether that is an invasion of privacy and whether a state entity, which a school is can invade your privacy without a court order."

The program, which originates from the U.S. Department of Education says students K-12, except those with serious physical problems are to wear them all the time, but not when in water or when playing a contact sport.

Most elementary students need to wear pedometers three or five days at a time, while older students wear them a week at a time. Then, they give them back to the school and get them again later in the year.

We asked the superintendent in North Tonawanda why the district is forcing this on students.

"What we want to do is have 'phys ed' be this more lifelong phys ed so we've made it more of a homework assignment at this point," said Gregory Woylita, superintendent of North Tonawanda Schools.

Districts don't all have to run the program the same way. In North Tonawanda, the program will affect grades. Labonte's kids were told wear them or get zeroes.

Meantime, in Maryvale, students can opt out of the program. School officials say more than 90 percent of students have pedometers there.

"It's working on the point where we're getting kids to move more," said Steve Griffin, the athletic director for Maryvale Athletics, "I think it's effective, yeah I think especially with the younger kids."

The data is collected throughout the school year and is immediately sent to the federal government, all in hopes of making kids more active.

Students are asked to keep a log of their information or put it in a school database.

Some parents think the pedometer program, when it's mandatory, could affect the self image of students. Some schools aren't requiring students to be weighed in the program.

The school districts in our area are expecting anywhere between 230-thousand dollars to 725-thousand dollars from the federal government to offer the program.

 

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