Chances are that, at any given time, you will be carrying an assortment of personal identification devices on your person—a driver’s license, a building ID card or, as is more recently the case, some form of magnetic fob coded to allow access into your home or office.
We live in uncertain times, as it were, and the need for identification and security has become especially aggressive in schools, where faculty and administrators use them as an added layer of control. And in the case of John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School in San Antonio, Texas student IDs are being pushed one step further, by the inclusion of embedded RFID chips. Wearing them is mandatory, and as one student and her family recently found out, opting to resist school policy can make life very difficult.
Andrea Hernandez, a sophomore at John Jay High School, has objected to carrying the new version of her school’s ID card for various reasons, including infringement on her religious beliefs and her privacy.
Specifically, her parents told InfoWars that Andrea declined to wear the badge because she says it signifies Satan, or the Mark of the Beast warning in Revelations 13: 16-18.
But mainly, it’s creepy, she told her local NBC station in August. “It makes me uncomfortable. It’s an invasion of my privacy. With a smart phone you can use the option to use your locator but this I can’t turn it off."
Following months of protests by the Hernandez family regarding the RFID badges, her school district has now decided to “involuntarily withdraw” Andrea from her school, and told to attend William Howard Taft HS, a school which is not currently participating in the new ID system.
- Update Sunday Nov. 25: Andrea and her family have filed suit against San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District, citing religious beliefs and First Amendment rights in an attempt to block her expulsion from school.
Oddly, the district had offered a last ditch “compromise,” which would have allowed Andrea Hernandez to carry an ID without RFID circuitry, but which allegedly required the Hernandez family to remain mum on the issue in the future. In the interim period before the notice to withdraw, Andrea was barred from school functions, and not allowed to cast her vote for Homecoming King & Queen.
The district, in a letter last week to the family, said it would allow her to continue attending the magnate school with “the battery and chip removed.” But the girl’s father, Steve Hernandez, said the district told him that the offer came on the condition that he must “agree to stop criticizing the program and publicly support it,” a proposition the father told WND Education that he could not stomach.
Why might you care? RFID, or radio-frequency ID, is a technology which is quickly gaining in popularity and variety of uses within a long list of industries. Because lowered costs now allow manufacturing affordable and diminutive RFID chips, they are already a preferred method of tracking material goods and an effective way of streamlining supply chains.
Beyond their commercial application, RFID chips are also proving useful as tools for identification, whether in the form of a microchip implanted in a family pet (meow, woof), or embedded in an ID card (that’s you). Within the world of RFID there are the passive variety of circuitry, which essentially function like traditional printed barcodes, and there are the active variety, which are independently powered by batteries, continuously emitting a signal. That last detail, as you might have guessed, is the clincher. By embedding an active RFID device into their ID cards, Andrea’s school district is ever so persistently requesting that all students be trackable human learning assets, whether within or outside school grounds.
The reasons for the RFID implementation in the schools’ ID tags are linked to truancy prevention — meaning, if the school can track their students, they can make sure the young padawans are in class, as opposed to doing whatever it is that truant students do these days (3D-printing assault rifles? mining bitcoin?) The system can also track students even when they’re out of school. The school district’s spokesman, Pasqual Gonzalez, has stated that the two schools in question have a high incidence of truancy and tardiness, and the district could stand to gain $2 million in Texas funding by tackling the issue.
Protesters rally during a Northside Independent School District (NISD) Board meeting on August 28th.
But, should students be obliged to transmit data of their whereabouts at all times? It’s easy to argue that many, if not most of us willingly emit information regarding our location at all times, usually via status updates and interactions on social networks — but the question is not simply academic.
Active tracking circuitry is a degree beyond the passive devices that we’re used to, and even the common smartphone, which is persistently mined by app developers to divulge geo-location data and usually attached to GPS service, can simply be turned off. A recent position paper signed by a number of civil liberty organizations specifically addressed the inappropriateness of using RFID to track students and teachers at school, calling the practice potentially dehumanizing, a violation of free speech and association, vulnerable to abuse, and untold psychological risks.
Attorneys with the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization, had already acted on behalf of the Hernandez family after their initial protest a few months ago, and warned school officials not to force the issue. Following the notice of involuntary withdrawal, they are in the process of filing a temporary restraining order petition until further appeals are made.