The Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, has launched a program, the “Student Locator Project,” aimed ostensibly at increasing public funding for the district by increasing student attendance rates. As part of the pilot program, roughly 4,200 students at Jay High School and Jones Middle School are being required to wear “SmartID” card badges embedded with an RFID tracking chip which will actively broadcast a signal at all times.
Although the schools already boast 290 surveillance cameras, the cards will make it possible for school officials to track students’ whereabouts on campus at all times. School officials hope to expand the program to the district’s 112 schools, with a student population of 100,000. Although implementation of the system will cost $500,000, school administrators are hoping that if the school district is able to increase attendance by tracking the students’ whereabouts, they will be rewarded with up to $1.7 million from the state government.
High school sophomore Andrea Hernandez, a Christian, expressed her sincere religious objections to being forced to participate in the RFID program. Reportedly, Hernandez was informed by school officials that “there will be consequences for refusal to wear an ID card.” For example, students who refuse to take part in the ID program won’t be able to access essential services like the cafeteria and library, nor will they be able to purchase tickets to extracurricular activities.
Hernandez was prevented from voting for Homecoming King and Queen after school officials refused to verify her identity using her old, conventional student ID card. According to Hernandez, teachers are even requiring students to wear the IDs when they want to use the bathroom. School officials offered to quietly remove the tracking chip from Andrea’s card if the sophomore would agree to wear the new ID without the imbedded RFID chip so as to give the appearance of participation in the Student Locator Project. Andrea refused this offer.
CBN Reports: A judge has told the Texas high school it cannot remove a student because she refused to wear a “Smart ID” tracking badge.
John Jay High School‘s Science and Engineering Academy requires students to wear badges with tracking chips in them.
Student Andrea Hernandez said she believes it conditions students to one day accept what the Bible’s book of Revelation calls the “mark of the beast.”
“There is something fundamentally disturbing about this school district’s insistence on steamrolling students into complying with programs that have nothing whatsoever to do with academic priorities and everything to do with fattening school coffers,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “What is more disturbing is the big picture, that this is a test project which may well spread through the country. We may soon see other students being punished in the same way as Andrea Hernandez.”
The Parents were defended by the Rutherford Institute
“This is not ‘the great economy’ like the U.S. economy or the economy of Texas, it’s the economy of John Jay High School,” Hernandez told CBN News in October. “But you’re still not allowed to participate in it unless you have this thing.”
The judge ruled in Hernandez’s favor. ( Original Petition here)
Meanwhile: The ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous has claimed responsibility for taking down the website of a San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District in retaliation for requiring students to wear badges with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips.
The website for San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District was unavailable at times throughout the weekend and into Monday, reports RT.com.
It appears that such RFID student tracking systems are becoming an actual market. The systems are popularly known as “Tag and Track,” are being sold to schools system across the country by a variety of vendors, including AIM Truancy Solutions, ID Card Group and DataCard.
Houston, it turns out, has had such a RFID system deployed since all the way back in 2004. Austin also has a program, but it is not mandatory. Baltimore’s school system has also deployed a system, and the Anaheim district is testing the system. The Palos Heights School District in Illinois has implemented the program with RFID tags attached to a student’s back pack. How widespread these student tracking systems beyond these and a few others is not clear.
It does not appear that these other programs have generated much public protest, with the exception of Brittan Elementary School in Sutter, CA, where a system implemented in the mid-2000s was uninstalled over some protests and legal action by the ACLU.
Beyond tracking in the schools, the technology allows a school district, for example, to send automatic “wake-up calls” to students not found to have made the opening bell – but some are taking the systems even further, generating fears from some about the reach of these systems.
For example, on Long Island, NY, Bay Shore students designated overweight or obese are being equipped with a wristwatch-like devices that count heartbeats, detect motion and even track students’ sleeping habits. Wow.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation has issued a statement warning about such a possible slippery slope.
“An RFID chip allows for far more than that minimal record-keeping,” the organization says. “Instead, it provides the potential for nearly constant monitoring of a child’s physical location.” It asks: “If RFID records show a child moving around a lot, could she be tagged as hyperactive? If he doesnâ€™t move around a lot, could he get a reputation for laziness?”