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 169.

    Where could a student possibly be on a high school campus and care if administration knows? The majority would welcome it, because of the hoodlums who come to school but don't attend class. They congregate in various places, often the bathroom,. With no concern whatsoever for their own education they make school a living hell for those that are there to learn something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    146. "Mainstream religion as a whole is a blight and a pestilence on the world and should be done away with by legislative means."

    As an atheist I find people like you rather scary. Anything else you consider a "blight" and want to legislate away that others would consider freedom of speech, expression and thought? Beware what you wish for.

    As for this case - why don't they have roll calls?

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    What has this to do with religion? Really? I can read anything I want from some stupid words written eons ago

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    28:Sawboman:In the US schools where I work the high schools have security guards in the halls. The other schools don't. You take roll in your classes so you know who is present and who isn't. You don't need some chip on each student so you know where they are; that's why there is roll call. And roll call helps me the substitute teacher know who you are. A radio transmitter isn't an ID card.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Next it will be brain implants to monitor thoughts to "check the student has learned" the right stuff. Meanwhile the purer than pure will announce "if you've nothing to hide it shouldn't matter, it's for our own good".

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Whatever benefit that can be derived from tagging students in this manner is more than offset by the great potential for abuse and misuse of the tracking system. The mere fact that the vast majority of students and parents choose to accept to be monitored in this way shows the power of the herd mentality. Kudos to this lone student who dares to challenge authority on a significant issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    When the ID tracker was proposed, no doubt the objectors were ‘lowest rated,’ ignored for making things difficult; fear of non-conformity, fear of low pay or job-loss...

    It took a high school student, finding at least one advantage to her inherited religion’s rules, to fight big brother.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Phones can be turned off, and probably are mandated to be such in school.

    This phenomen is not restricted to Texas, or any particular state - it's worldwide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    re. 146.Mike Hill: "Mainstream religion as a whole is a blight and a pestilence on the world and should be done away with by legislative means."

    America was settled by people seeking religious liberty and respect for that right is a core value of the American culture. The mere suggestion that religion should be made illegal would be electoral suicide for an American politician.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    The breach in privacy for this little stunt is shocking. Simple swipe cards to monitor attendance would be more than adequate, and save the teacher time doing roll call. Tracking their every movement should be a crime , the schools have no business with that.
    And the hackers are already stealing our tax records and credit cards, you know they're going to abuse this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    "...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"

    I had to re-read that just to make sure I didn't misread that. Is that what they Texans want their state to become in a few years?

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Sad to see that belief in the supernatural is so prevalent. I feel like getting "666" tatooed on my a**e just to show there is no effect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    The tag seems purely as a tool to maintain funding. Clearly if students were punctual then this would not be necessary.

    The school has a right to ensure that funding is maintained as it has a responsibility to all students.

    It's all too easy nowadays to (inappropriately) play the religious or race card simply to get your own way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    If she carries a mobile phone she is being tracked . What does her religion say about that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    2:Cardinal Fang:Orwell's original name for that book was 1998. His friends persuaded him to change it.

    24:echtdampfer:In the US you have to pay to go to religious schools and secular schools are free. Not everyone can afford to go to the school of their choice. You don't lose your civil rights just because you are poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    "“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Revelation 13:16-17

    This accurately describes a tyranny imposed by GOVERNMENT.

    The bible is not a historical accord but a collection of wisdom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    I presume that the reason they stopped paper register was because teachers and headmasters were manipulating them and adding more students on to the register at the school or that there attendance figures were higher than they really were to gain funding It what I would have done if I was a head teacher at one of these schools after all more funding equal more equipment and teachers.

  • Comment number 152.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    It's over optimistic to claim this technology will make students safer or schools more secure. First, does the school have the staff to monitor them at all times and chase down the strays? Second, it won't take students long to figure out how to wrap their card in foil or leave it with a friend to defeat tracking while they sneak off for a smoke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    I wonder who got the contract to produce these ID cards.


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