COVID Money Funded Ankle Monitors for Student-Athletes in Washington

"You have no choice in the matter."


The American Rescue Plan, passed in March of this year, came out to $1.9 trillion dollars. "This legislation provides resources needed to open our schools," said President Joe Biden after it was signed into law. "How many of you have dealt not only in your own home and with your children and grandchildren, if you have them, with how difficult it is, the mental pressure and stress that are on so many families? So many people…needing help…because it's caused an enormous, enormous stress."

The law gave schools wide latitude in how to use those taxpayer dollars. One school in Washington state got creative, investing in ankle and wrist monitors to track student-athletes playing on indoor moderate-contact or high-contact sports teams, including football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, and tennis, among others.

Eatonville High School, located outside of Seattle, said it fitted students and coaches with the monitors to get data points on their proximity to others during practice in the case that a player or faculty member developed a case of COVID-19.

"If a student or coach tests positive, we will have immediate information regarding athletes' and coaches' contacts, so we can more tightly determine who might need to quarantine," the school said in a statement.

But the district backtracked on that yesterday, putting the program on hiatus after it received backlash and reportedly failed to get permission from all parents. "The proximity monitors have been temporarily shelved pursuant to further parent input," said Eatonville School District Superintendent Gary Neal in a statement.

Triax Technologies, which makes the monitor, says that it does not track location data, instead zeroing in on distance between players. Students remove the monitors after practice.

But that wasn't enough to placate some parents, who are anxious about the program returning, should Eatonville decide to re-implement it. "I was notified if I didn't sign [the consent form], they couldn't play," said Jason Ostendorf, whose two children are on sports teams at the school. "My son has played football since he was in third grade. He's passionate about the sport….If you don't sign the waiver, they don't get to play. You have no choice in the matter."

Some took the program out of context. The right-wing site The Post Millennial originally claimed that only unvaccinated students would be required to wear the monitors. In actuality, all students participating in those sports were required to do so, whether or not they had received the vaccine. (The article was later updated without a correction appended.)

"We received grant funding (known as ESSER III) that specifically included provisions to support higher-risk athletic programs, and we used some of those funds to pay for athletic proximity monitors," said Neal in a statement. "The monitors are for both staff (coaches) and students on the field, regardless if they are vaccinated or unvaccinated."

But therein lies a different problem: the program's use of taxpayer dollars—aid that was intended to lift the burden of, as Biden said, "enormous, enormous stress." One wonders how this measure accomplishes that, as some parents choose between fitting their children with a device they are fundamentally uncomfortable with and forcing their kids to drop out of their sports activities altogether.

Though it can be hard to cut through the panic, the risk of a teenager becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 is exceedingly low. In the U.S., children make up somewhere between 0–0.22 percent of deaths from COVID-19, with seven states reporting no deaths at all. Approximately 358 children had died from the virus as of July 29.

In that vein, Eatonville's taxpayer-funded monitors appear to be a symptom of those who would like to work toward "COVID zero": an unwinnable goal, and a troubling precedent for the approach to any comparable disease. Should parents and kids have to sacrifice either their comfort or their sport for the possibility that one might get the flu? Prior to COVID-19, I assume most would have found the idea absurd.

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  1. I thought the microchips already did tracking.

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  2. Soccer, volleyball, and tennis are high contact sports? Soccer, and basketball are two games where you get points for sitting down and crying.

    1. If you play soccer properly, absolutely.

      1. But don’t overplay your injury. That can get you a red card. Just the right amount of crying.

        1. You tend to see more fake crying from players that are left wing. And none of those are a keeper.

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    2. Reminds me of the football coach asked if he thought it was appropriate for high schools to include body contact sports. “Football? A body contact sport?” He said. “No. Football is not a body contact sport, it is a body collision sport! Ballroom dancing is a body contact sport.”

    3. Basketball has the most injuries per player. Lots of close physical contact, and no pads or helmets like in football.

      But yeah, soccer players pretend to get hurt to try to gain an advantage for their team. Americans call that unsportsmanlike contact (sort of like catchers “framing” pitches that are outside the strike zone in baseball.)

      1. “Lots of close physical contact, and no pads or helmets like in football.”
        MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! You actually think basketball has more physical contact?… You’re hilarious.

      2. I guess you’re not familiar with LeBron’s antics on the court. Tl/dr: The space Jam remake is not his only acting experience. Also, basketball players go out on injury for a hangnail. When you say they have the most injuries per player, you need to account for the scale of the injury. Basketball players are notorious wussies when it comes to injuries.

    4. Tell me you’re American without telling me… Soccer is harder contact than basketball.

  3. Yawn.

    Wake me up when the government does something truly draconian in the name of fighting covid — like restricting immigration.


    1. It would be cool if you snuck across the border to mexico and never returned. THAT would be something I could get behind.

  4. Deliberately deceptive headline. You know what you were trying to imply with “ankle monitors” and it ending up just being a proximity sensor for contact tracking undercuts your own point.

    This is not to argue that proximity monitoring devices are likely to be a good use of funds of course.

    1. It doesn’t really undercut their point though.

    2. You think? Somehow tracking individuals like criminals is bad? Wow… you would love this book by George Orwell.

  5. Why not just assume all players have been in proximity of one another? (Because if you have been playing football correctly, you were).

    1. Maybe they found out football players bang cheerleaders.

  6. Dumb. But reminds me of someone who used Page Rank algorithm to analyze soccer players by figuring out which ones get the ball passed to them the most often:

    1. Dee should get a red cawd.

      1. Flag goes up for cawfside?

      2. Just becawse.

  7. Some took the program out of context. The right-wing site The Post Millennial originally claimed that only unvaccinated students would be required to wear the monitors. In actuality, all students participating in those sports were required to do so, whether or not they had received the vaccine.

    Oh, thank god. So long as they are doing it to everyone, it’s totally not Orwellian. Stupid right wingers.

  8. But that wasn’t enough to placate some parents, who are anxious about the program returning, should Eatonville decide to re-implement it. “I was notified if I didn’t sign [the consent form], they couldn’t play,” said Jason Ostendorf, whose two children are on sports teams at the school. “My son has played football since he was in third grade. He’s passionate about the sport….If you don’t sign the waiver, they don’t get to play. You have no choice in the matter.”

    But you’re free to play if you go along with the terms of service… soo… you’re free to play.

    Build your own student sportsball network.

    1. You’re also free to take your kids out of the school. Do it.

  9. I envision a committee doing what committees do; “But what if….if it only saves one kid….are you willing to assume the risk of doing nothing?”

    That is how you get “zero tolerance” and “COVID zero;” if any of you have ever had the dubious pleasure of being on a ethics committee, this will be perfectly clear. You massage each other’s feelings until you all come together.

  10. As usual, the chess club gets special treatment.

    1. If getting shoved into their lockers is special treatment, I agree!

      1. The ankle monitors kept sliding off of their scrawny legs.

        1. Hey, I was on the chess team and had solid legs.
          My arms were very scrawny of course.

  11. Okay then.

    You are the libertarian athletic director of a highschool sports program. The league in which your highschool plays issues a rule that says if any of your players test positive for COVID 24 hours before a game, then the game is forfeited. What do you do?

    1. You forfeit the game if you can’t field a team.

      Now do the general school population.

      1. But you can field a team even with sick people, provided they are not “too sick”.

        Now do the general school population.

        No, this is an irrelevant deflection.

        1. But you can field a team even with sick injured people, provided they are not “too sick”. “too injured “. So what if they have concussions or their knees will blow out in 5 years.

    2. Don’t test them.

      1. So, use deceit to keep your job?

        1. Spoken like someone that has never had a job before …. LOL

          1. “Not doing irrelevant testing = deceit”
            “Not confessing to a crime you didn’t commit = deceit”

            Asymptomatic means not sick, totalitarianjeff.

            1. “If coach doesn’t test his players for HIV every day, he’s keeping his job by deceit!”

    3. How do ankle brackets keep you from testing positive?

      1. The same way masks do.

    4. problem one:

      it takes at least 72 hours for the PCR test to return results

      Problem two

      the stupid PCR test returns some 90% fale positive readings. Ya gonna call a game because one guy had a postive, which really means he was five percent likely to actually have SOMETHING in his snot, but they cant tell what.

      IS HE SYMPTOMATIC? If not, go ahead and play. NO one can ramsmit this virus if asymptomatic, because to have suymptoms yuo must have more than enough virus in yuor lungs to have signficantsymptoms.

      DOn’t NY of these people know a thing about viral disease transmission and etiology? If not WHY are they making such decistions as if they did?

      1. You don’t understand. This is a very powerful, dangerous disease. You can catch it from anyone, anytime, anyplace. Only an old tee shirt strapped across your face can save you from certain death.

  12. That school district is worse than the Nazis and Soviets ever thought about being.

  13. It’s easy to tell parents who don’t want their kids with any sort of tracking device to start their own sports league, but that is hard.

    By the same token, if you have a truly talented kid, you want college coaches to scout him or her. High school sports get the attention of college coaches better than non-school leagues.

    But, let me tell you. I have said on social media that if I get Covid, I won’t make a big deal. People get furious. I get told that I owe it to everyone to keep from getting Covid and seeking immediate treatment, if I do.

    As someone who has several nasal allergies and has dealt with sinus infections and bronchitis many, many times, respiratory illness is no big deal. It’s broken bones, torn ligaments, and ruptured tendons that scare me. But people think I’m crazy.

    1. quote: ” High school sports get the attention of college coaches better than non-school leagues.”
      not true at all. Scouts DO prowl select league and private eague s[orts looking for great talent.Friend of mine had a daughter who was AWESOME at futbol.. the round kind…. and she was picked up by some scouts from a few colleges. One offered her a full ride scholarship on her skills. She said thanks all the same but i don’t want to go to college .

    2. And most parents of high school athletes with college level potential spend so much on sports equipment and coaching and travel leagues hoping to win a college scholarship that they could have just saved all that money and invested it and had enough to pay for college. And their kid could have saved all that time playing sports for studying and getting better prepared for college.

  14. It would be interesting to learn the names of those involved in making the decisioin to use these bracelets, and ALSO know their background in medicine, epidemiology, immune system function, and related fields.

    My bet is none have had a lick of any such thing. Yet here they are pontificating on that of which they know naught, AND imposing their silly panic-driven “cures” upon many who simply do not want them.

    Eatonville is out in the toolies, pretty isolated. SUre, teams mught come into contact with each other.

    But, anyone who has studied tramsnsmission of respiratory viral diseases will tell you it wakes VERY close contact for an extended period of time (fifteen minutes at least) for one person to emit a sufficient quantly of airborne viral particles to enable him to infect another person. SUre, the guys out there on the pitch ARE in relatively close contact, but eveyr i instance is fleeting, particulalry when considering an opposing team. Its not like they are standing out on the p pitch, masks off, helmets and faice gear off, having a gam at three feet distance in warm sunshine. Low temeratures, fkeeting proximity, al mitigate against transmission.

    Silly pepole. Leave such things to true experts. Stay in YOUR lane.

  15. The NFL crafted a covid policy for the league based on the assumption that vaccines would reduce the likelihood of getting infected (or at least testing positive for covid).
    Unfortunately, this is proving to not be the case. Tons of vaccinated players are testing positive.
    It’s going to be a problem, and a stupid one with an easy solution: STOP TESTING PEOPLE WHO DON’T HAVE SYMPTOMS.
    Instead, we’re going to get a bunch of players missing games because they aren’t sick.

    1. All the pro sports leagues have done testing and contact tracing and suspended players through COVID protocols and canceled games, and in 2 years only one player that I’m aware of has been seriously ill from COVID. He missed last season with a heart condition and is fine now.

  16. It’s probably not a good use of funds, but there’s nothing more nefarious than that. It’s not like these kids are wearing the monitors home.

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