US school tag tracker project prompts court row

Screengrab of NISD webpage

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A court challenge has delayed plans to expel a Texan student for refusing to wear a radio tag that tracked her movements.

Religious reasons led Andrea Hernandez to stop wearing the tag that revealed where she was on her school campus.

The tags were introduced to track students and help tighten control of school funding.

A Texan court has granted a restraining order filed by a civil rights group pending a hearing on use of the tags.

ID badges containing radio tags started to be introduced at the start of the 2012 school year to schools run by San Antonio's Northside Independent School District (NISD). The tracking tags gave NISD a better idea of the numbers of students attending classes each day - the daily average of which dictates how much cash it gets from state coffers.

'Mark of the beast'

Introducing the tags led to protests by some school students at John Jay High School - one of two schools out of 112 in the NISD catchment area piloting the tags.

Ms Hernandez refused to wear the tag because it conflicted with her religious beliefs, according to court papers. Wearing such a barcoded tag can be seen as a mark of the beast as described in Revelation 13 in the Bible, Ms Hernandez's father told Wired magazine in an interview.

NISD suspended Ms Hernandez and said she would no longer be able to attend the John Jay High School unless she wore the ID badge bearing the radio tag. Alternatively it said Ms Hernandez could attend other schools in the district that had not yet joined the radio tagging project.

The Rutherford Institute, a liberties campaign group, joined the protests and went to court to get a restraining order to stop NISD suspending Ms Hernandez.

RFID chip Ms Hernandez refused to wear a name tag containing an RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip

A district court judge has granted the restraining order so Ms Hernandez can go back to school and ordered a hearing next week on the NISD radio tag project.

The Rutherford Institute said the NISD's suspension violated Texan laws on religious freedom as well as free speech amendments to the US constitution.

"The court's willingness to grant a temporary restraining order is a good first step, but there is still a long way to go - not just in this case, but dealing with the mindset, in general, that everyone needs to be monitored and controlled," said John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute in a statement.

Mr Whitehead said student tagging and locating projects were the first step in producing a "compliant citizenry".

"These 'student locator' programmes are ultimately aimed at getting students used to living in a total surveillance state where there will be no privacy, and wherever you go and whatever you text or email will be watched by the government," he said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Her cell phone probably has GPS tracking in it that she doesn't know about. I'd guess she is a smoker and her parents don't know, so she thinks the radio tracker can find her about behind the school with her smoking friends when they are suppose to be in study hall.

    So, she's afraid of bar codes? She doesn't ever go shopping, because of bar codes? This "mark of the beast" excuse is crap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    The pupils are supposed to be in school and the school has a legal responsibility to know where they are in the school. I guess they could have an armed guard on each door, as they do already with many of the doors. How many people who work or have worked did so without an ID card? What the heck is the real fuss rather than the lets all moan issue?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I applaud the use of freedom of religion rights to stop this. In America 'freedom of religion' is abused for all manner of sins, in this case, since too many people hold the 'nothing to hide nothing to fear' attitude to privacy, only the gold standard of religious freedom in court will do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    The alarming bit here is that she's using religion as her reason for objecting. Everyone, students and parents, should be fighting this as a civil liberties issue. The pupils aren't criminals; don't tag them like criminals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Several issues here:
    Commercialisation invading education with funding based on attendance, and I agree with @9 Mike that it should be based on results . . . for each child (not overall results for the school, as that could leave slower learners out in the cold).
    What about the security issues if the data is hacked?
    I for one, as a Christian, -do- believe there may be something in the beast idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    My initial reaction is "Big Brother is alive and well", but on reflection I thought - why not? It allows the school to see who is bunking classes and also it enhances security for the pupil. As for religious objections, what utter bunkum! By definition an independent school is secular - if this girl has religious objections she should attend a faith school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    wow you can imagine a very large screen some where in the school with little dots with name tags on them. Might be appropriate for students who tend to truant but surely not the mass of them. Must also be very expensive?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I do think this sort of thing is a big breach of our privacy. This system also is not necessary surely you can just do what my university library does which is to gain entrance to the building you use your ID card and it lets you in and adds that information to a database to know who is in at what time and for how long.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    The new thing here is not the technology or mind set. Corps can tell what you do & when you do it & have done for years, because there is money to be had from such data. The new thing is linking the population with the funding. This world is changing & how we use the remaining freedoms we have will define the quality of life for the next thousand years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    This is a civil rights issue and it should never be a problem to not want to be supervised 24/7 by people who don't have adequate reason to monitor you.

    The religious belief would just mean making sure the name or number of the beast are not on her personal SmartID tag so let's not pretend that has anything to do with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    A silly thing to do from a psychological point of view.
    If they had made it an ID card rather than a necklace or bracelet it would have been fine, or at least mitigated most of the issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    @12 Peter_Sym

    I would imagine this is the (fact?) that all bar codes have three block that each begin with a six, and that it monetises the individual.. or something? But you're right. At what point in the planning process did someone NOT stand up and say: "What the !*£%!".

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    It looks very much like the school is hiding why it wants the tracking devices and the pupils are hiding why they don't want them. The fundamental religious principle being broken there is Honesty. A bar code is the mark of the devil ? Really?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Apparently this is to ensure they get paid correctly, seems the childrens eduction comes a distant last.

    2012 is the new 1984..

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    So, they couldn't just do a role call or sign an attendance sheet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    you have got to be kidding me -
    you really think you are not already being monitored on what you text or say via mobile devises ?
    at least this is out rightly stated -
    Not sure how wearing this 'tag' is in violation of any religious rights it is not telling you how to think or how to behave - it is anti-truancy in action - nothing more nothing less

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Tagging students so they make sure they get their funding?? What's wrong with this picture??

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    No-one seems to be getting the real madness. Legally it seems to be fine to tag students.... its only because barcodes are 'the number of the beast' (what the hell?????? ) that this is being challenged in court.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    If i were a student i would charge the other children a few dollars each to carry their tags in my bag, i get money, the kids "attend" lessons and the school gets the attendance info they need - everyones a winner.

    Its a disgrace that someone cant have any privacy anymore, so much for "the land of the free".

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    What sort of school is it that sees the need to tag its pupils as though they were criminals? What sort of society is it that can even envisage such a thing? Doesn't the school even know who its pupils are?


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