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Fifteen-year-old Texas girl sues when school requires her to wear a tracking badge

December 20, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
Here's an interesting case. A federal district court in Texas is about to rule on whether a 15-year-old girl can be forced to wear a SmartID badge with a Radio Frequency Identification chip embedded within it to school.

Andrea Hernandez and her family sued the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas over the requirement, arguing that the reqirement violates her right to freedom of religious expression, according to The Rutherford Institute website. The Rutherford Institute lawers are representing the Hernandez family. The school agreed to let her wear a badge without the RFD chip, but she still objects on principle and wants to wear her old ID.

About 4,200 students at the school district's Jay High School and Jones Middle School are required to wear these SmartID badges that enable school officials to track a student's whereabouts on the school campus at all times. The district is trying to boost student attendance numbers and launched the pilot program in hope of getting about $1.7 million in grants from the state. If it works at the high school and middle school, the district would expand the program to all of its 112 schools. Andrea was threatened with punishment for refusing to wear the ID, such as not being able to access the cafeteria or library or being allowed to participate in extracurricular activities. A judge granted a temporary injunction forbidding the school from expelling her.

Andrea, an evangelical Christian, bases her objection on her interpretation of the Bible. She believes the badge is the "mark of the beast" and wearing it would mean she was committing idolatry or worship of a false god. There also appear to be obvious privacy issues, particularly since the school district reportedly requires the students to wear the badges to the bathroom. School district officials apparently see this as a way to know where students are at all times, cutting down on absenteeism and possibly also improving student safety.

I don't share Andrea Hernandez's interpretation of the Bible, but I would certainly object to this on privacy grounds. Granted, privacy is becoming an old-fashioned concept in this society, when every kid in that school probably already carries a smart phone that can pinpoint his location and every call he makes with frightening accuracy. All of us are photographed and tracked as soon as we leave our homes in the morning and sometimes even before. Video cameras record our every move at banks, stores and, in some places, at intersections. Computers record our every click on the keyboard and the time we made them. Apparently even smashing a hard drive with a hammer and overwriting the hard drive isn't enough to completely erase data, judging by reports following the tragic Connecticut shooting. Type your name and town into the white pages and your name, age, address, past addresses and people who are related to you will instantly appear.

However, just because we are already tracked relentlessly does not mean that it should be OK to require smart badges for children. I hope the judge rules against the school district. The judge is supposed to make a decision this week. More information can be found at—resources/on—the—front—lines/federal—court—takes—rfid—case—under—advisement—will—rule—later—thi


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