Big Brother using RFID chips ??
- Wear radio chip or leave, school tells students
Superintendent issues warning: 'There will be consequences' for not
by Jack Minor
Brushing aside privacy concerns by parents and civil rights activists, a
Texas school district has gone live with a controversial program requiring
all students to wear a locator radio chip that will enable officials to
track their every move – or face expulsion.
At the beginning of the school year students at John Jay High School and
Anson Jones Middle School within the Northside Independent School District
were told their old student ID badges were no longer valid. During
registration they were required to obtain new badges containing a radio frequency
identification tracker chip.
Students refusing the chips were reportedly threatened with suspension,
fines, or being involuntary transferred. Unlike chips used by retailers to
track inventory which activate when scanned by a reader, these chips contain
batteries and actively broadcast a continuous signal.
On October 1, the schools went live with a program to use the chips to
track the exact locations of students using the badges. The badges would even
be able to tell if a student in a classroom is in his seat or somewhere else
in the room.
The district’s stated reason is to help obtain funding from the state by
documenting the number of students who attend the school.
_WOAI television reported_
spokesman Pasqual Gonzalez said the two schools have a high rate of truancy,
and the district could gain $2 million in state funding by improving
_According to the San Antonio newspaper,_
z1vsssNfl7) the program is expected to cost the district $526,065 to
implement with annual cost of $136,005 per year to continue running the
However, a counselor at the school told Steve Hernandez, a parent whose
daughter Andrea is a sophomore at John Jay, that the district currently does
not have any single person assigned to monitor the location of students or
track the data.
“That destroys the argument that the purpose to track students for
attendance purposes,” Hernandez said. “How are they supposed to safeguard privacy
concerns if no one is responsible for its administration?”
The website _ChipFreeSchools.com_ (http://chipfreeschools.com/) cites
health concerns over the chips and includes a position paper from groups
including the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation,
Big Brother Watch, Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, Constitutional
Alliance, Freedom Force International, Friends of Privacy USA, the Identity
Project and Privacy Activism said no students should be subjected to the “
chipping” program “unless there is sufficient evidence of its safety and
“Children should never be used as test subjects for technology, no matter
what their socio-economic status. If schools choose to move forward without
complete information and are willing to accept the associated liability,
they should have provisions in place to adhere to the principles of fair
information practices and respect individuals’ rights to opt out based on their
conscientious and religious objections,” the statement said.
The paper said RFID tracking is dehumanizing, since it can “monitor how
long a student or teacher spends in a bathroom stall.”
The plans also violate free speech and association, since the presence of a
tracking device “could dissuade individuals from exercising their rights
to freedom of thought, speech and association. For example, students might
avoid seeking counsel when they know their RFID tags will document their
presence at locations like counselor and School Resource Officer offices.”
Andrea Hernandez has refused to wear the new badge citing religious and
privacy concerns. She said that since the policy went into effect several
students have engaged in civil disobedience by leaving their badges at home.
However, Hernandez has been wearing her old badge to school in an attempt to
have some form of ID.
While the district has not yet expelled any students for refusing to wear
the badges, Hernandez has already faced consequences for her refusal to take
“About two weeks ago when I went to cast my vote for homecoming king and
queen I had a teacher tell me I would not be allowed to vote because I did
not have the proper voter ID,” she explained. “I had my old student ID card
which they originally told us would be good for the entire four years we
were in school. He said I needed the new ID with the chip in order to vote.”
In an attempt to obtain legal help, Andrea’s father, Steve Hernandez
reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union, but was rebuffed because
organization officials didn’t feel Andrea’s religious concerns would advance
their core mission.
In an email to Hernandez, Rebecca Robertson with the ACLU of Texas told
him, “the ACLU of Texas will not be able to represent you or your daughter in
In citing its reasons for refusing to take the case Robertson said among
the factors they use to decide to take a case are whether it “has the
potential to achieve broad and lasting advances in civil liberties” and as such,
Andrea’s case does not apparently meet that threshold.
WND requests to _the district_ (http://www.nisd.net/) for comment were
In an October 2 letter, Deputy Superintendent Ray Galindo said he was
willing to let Hernandez wear a badge without the chip, but then goes on to
portray the issue as one of her refusing to wear any type of ID.
“We are simply asking your daughter to wear an ID badge as every other
student and adult on the Jay campus is asked to do.”
Galindo went on to suggest there would be consequences if she did not agree
to wear the new badge.
“I urge you to accept this solution so that your child’s instructional
program will not be affected. As we discussed, there will be consequences for
refusal to wear an ID card as we begin to move forward with full
Steve Hernandez said the so-called accommodation actually came with other
“He told me in a meeting that if my daughter would proudly wear her student
ID card around her neck so everyone could see, he would be able to quietly
remove her chip from her student ID card,” Hernandez explained. “He went
on to say as part of the accommodation my daughter and I would have to
agree to stop criticizing the program and publicly support … it. I told him
that was unacceptable because it would imply an endorsement of the district’s
policy and my daughter and I should not have to give up our constitutional
rights to speak out against a program that we feel is wrong.”
Andrea Hernandez said that since she has begun taking the stand she has
been surprised by how many students agree with her.
“On Monday a group of students came up to me in the lunch room asking me
about the chips after they saw me appear on television,” she said. “I got
the majority to understand there were legitimate reasons for not wearing the
badge. Many of them thanked me, saying they were uncomfortable with wearing
them, but were unsure how to explain why they should not have to wear them.
She went on to say while some students have said they didn’t have a problem
wearing the badges, she is not aware of any who enthusiastically support
Heather Fazio, executive director of Texans for Accountable Government,
said the district has not been willing to take steps to listen to parent’s
concerns over the chips.
“The school board refuses to put it on the agenda or hold a forum where the
matter can be debated publicly,” Fazio said. “Parents are allowed to
speak to the board on any item not on the agenda, but the board is under no
obligation to respond to what is being said. When we mentioned our concerns to
them, they looked at us with indifference.”
Highlighting the dangers the chips pose to student privacy issues even
while off campus, Fazio said she was able to get list containing the names and
addresses of all of the students in the district by filing a Freedom of
“After paying a $30 fee with the FOIA request I was able to get every
student’s name and address,” Fazio explained. “Using this information along
with an RFID reader means a predator could use this information to determine
if the student is at home and then track them wherever they go. These chips
are always broadcasting so anyone with a reader can track them anywhere.”
Andrea says while the school has not yet taken any retaliatory action, she
is concerned that there will come a time when they will decide to
“It is just a matter of time before they write me up and expel me. This
would put a big black mark on my record if this were to happen, but I don’t
feel I should be punished for standing up for my religious rights and privacy
She said, “In order to get into the Science and Engineering Academy I had
to have good grades, great attendance, and be in pre-AP [advanced placement]
classes. I had to fill out an application and write an essay about why I
would be a good student. Now they want to take the education that I have
worked so hard for away from me because I refuse to wear a tracker.”
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