School IDs and Kabuki theater

How plastic cards solve half of a problem

The idea of a high school ID is not necessarily a bad one. On Aug. 16 2019, Robert Frasca wrote to parents that he “want[ed] to be proactive when it comes to student safety and security on campus,” saying it was “important for our staff to be able to quickly identify who should be on campus at all times.” His sentiments were and are admirable: school shootings and unauthorized personnel on campus are real and present threats, problems which can be greatly mitigated by identification of students. The issue lies in the way our IDs have been implemented. 

In Japanese culture there is an elaborate form of classical theatre, rich with intricate details and magnificent masks. Kabuki theater is created and executed for the audience; behind each set lies only cardboard and paper, behind each mask is just an ordinary actor. Wearing lanyard IDs at school is Kabuki theatre- their only real purpose is to put on a show of school safety. Scratch their surface and they are nothing but cheap plastic pretending to provide safety. 

What’s my point? First, that in their present state, lanyard IDs are accomplishing very little. Random ID checks in classrooms accomplish nothing if the IDs serve no purpose other than to pass random checks. Religious adherence to a rule is not reason enough for its existence; one should only follow rules that serve a purpose. A student remaining in a class is testament to their belonging there: teachers know their students after the first three weeks of school, and it is they who should act as the first line of defense against those who don’t belong on campus. 

Second: lanyard IDs do not have to be useless. If the point of wearing an ID is to ensure the school knows who belongs on campus and who doesn’t, then they can easily be used to do so. The administration could set up scanning stations at the entrances of schools (and possibly even classrooms), utilizing the barcodes on each lanyard. By scanning student’s IDs, not only has the school greatly improved security, but they have also transformed an ineffectual piece of plastic into a useful item for students.

There are, of course, drawbacks to such a system. To implement scanning stations around campus would cost money and manpower. Losing an ID would be enough to deny a real student access to his or her class, potentially stalling learning until a temporary card could be procured. Finally, one has to question just how necessary tracking students is. Contact tracing for COVID could prove invaluable in lowering case loads, but mass quarantines could disappear as quickly as they came. As for protecting the student body, many school shooters attend the school they eventually attack. Implementation of a scan-system could be too much hassle for too little reward.

What I am trying to say is that the school needs to choose a direction with lanyards. Right now they solve half of a problem. We need to either fully commit or fully withdraw; playing hopscotch on the line of practicality is not conducive to a learning environment.

Students are reluctant to wear IDs because they have been provided with no real answer as to why they should. Give the student body a reason to wear their lanyards beyond “because I told you so,” or don’t make them wear them at all.