School officials say the COVID-tracking app will keep kids safe. But critics warn the technology, required in order for children to attend class, infringes on kids’ privacy and that parents should be concerned.
Los Angeles schools plan to reopen next month — and when they do, every child will be required to have a COVID-tracking app that will be scanned daily before they can enter the classroom.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) last month announced the launch of Daily Pass, a COVID tracking system developed by Microsoft. The app will scan children in schools, using a barcode, to coordinate health checks, COVID tests and vaccinations.
The Daily Pass generates a unique QR code — each day, for each student and staff member — that authorizes entry to a specific Los Angeles Unified location. An individual must have a negative test result for COVID, show no symptoms and have a temperature under 100 degrees in order to gain entry to class.
All data gathered by the app will be reported as required to health authorities. Anonymized data from Daily Pass will be used by Los Angeles Unified’s research and healthcare collaborators — Stanford University, UCLA, The Johns Hopkins University, Anthem Blue Cross, Healthnet and Cedars Sinai — “to provide insights and strategies” to implement in safe school environments, school officials said.
Students without the barcode will be barred from going into school.
LAUSD is the first school district in the nation to adopt the Daily Pass technology. In a statement, officials called Daily Pass a critical component of the district’s “Safe Steps to Safe Schools” reopening plan.
“Sort of like the golden ticket in ‘Willy Wonka,’ everyone with this pass can easily get into a school building,” Superintendent Austin Beutner told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ll know the status of everyone in the building,” he said.
Mary Holland, president of Children’s Health Defense, said parents should be concerned. “If data is the new gold, then LAUSD’s new Daily Pass is providing a lot of gold to Microsoft and other institutions,” Holland said.
Holland said LAUSD is “compromising the students’ privacy and freedom of movement” and segregating children based on unreliable testing. “Parents should be asking a million questions and demanding answers,” she said.
John Whitehead, constitutional law attorney, author and founder of The Rutherford Institute, said parents should ask why entities want all of this data, what they’re doing to do with it, where it is going and whether it should be given to government agencies.
Whitehead said the COVID Daily Pass is about control, not safety. He warned:
“We are moving into a total surveillance state and an entire generation of young people are acquiescing to the police state. Privacy as we know it will be deleted and no one will be overlooked.”
The Daily Pass will not catch people who are asymptomatic carriers of COVID, but officials hope to address that issue through weekly coronavirus testing of students and staff.
The app will be available to all LAUSD employees, students 13 and older and family members on computers and mobile phones, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The district released a video about the Daily Pass to help parents and their children understand how the app works, what steps children must take to get their “entrance ticket” and to ease fears about returning to school.
“The Daily Pass sets the highest standard possible for school safety,” said LAUSD Beutner. The school district has upgraded air filters in every school, requires COVID testing for all students and staff at least every week — and now has Daily Pass.
Students will also be required to socially distance, wear masks, receive regular temperature checks and undergo additional surveillance and screening testing, according to the “COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year.”
Whitehead said schools should be doing everything in their power to bring parents into these discussions and parents need to come together and start speaking out against measures like Daily Pass before it’s too late.
“The government can accomplish many things with a ‘compelling state interest and a pandemic is just that,” Whitehead said. “But the school needs to provide an alternative for parents who do not want their children to participate in these measures — whether it’s a virtual learning option or a separate building.”
Microsoft, creator of the COVID Daily Pass, was founded by Bill Gates. Though he stepped down from Microsoft’s board in March of last year, he remains one of the top shareholders in the company, according to The Universal Science.
In a statement released by the billionaire last March, Gates said he intended to “remain active at the company and would work closely with Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive.”
“Microsoft will always be an important part of my life’s work and I will continue to be engaged with Satya and the technical leadership to help shape the vision and achieve the company’s ambitious goals,” wrote Gates. “I feel more optimistic than ever about the progress the company is making.”
United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing the district’s teachers and school personnel, said that no staff should return to work until they are fully immunized.
Beutner said LAUSD would begin offering childcare, one-on-one and small-group instruction and services for students with special needs, and would also return to athletic conditioning beginning this week.