Judge Allows Use of School Badges that Can Electronically Track Students

Thursday, January 24, 2013
San Antonio school tracking badge (photo: Bob Owen, AP)

A federal judge in San Antonio ruled that a Texas school district acted lawfully when it required students to wear electronic badges used to track their whereabouts.


Northside Independent School District in San Antonio began its Student Locator Project that called for all students to carry badges embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID). District officials claimed the devices would help them monitor troublesome students, including those cutting classes. It has also been noted that the school district has a financial incentive for using the badges, whose tracking of attendance impacts revenue.


One 15-year-old student, Andrea Hernandez, objected to wearing her badge for religious reasons. She was then removed from her magnet school, Jay High School, for not complying with the school’s policy.


Her father, Steve Hernandez, sued the district, arguing the badges’ embedded chips violated his daughter’s religious rights. He also said the chips represented “the mark of the beast” as described in the Book of Revelation, where it is written that the “Antichrist wants to control every move.”


Northside offered to remove the chip from the student's badge as a religious accommodation under the First Amendment. U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia ruled such a move would eliminate any violation of Andrea Hernandez’s rights under the Texas Religious Freedom and Restoration Act.


“At this juncture, Plaintiff still has a choice,” Garcia wrote. "If she wants to remain [in school], she will need to wear the student ID badge issued for that campus. “


Attorneys for the Rutherford Institute, which represented the Hernandez family, intend to appeal the judge’s ruling.


The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has opposed the use of the badges on the grounds that the chip technology is vulnerable to hacking, which would allow an outsider to monitor students’ movements and whereabouts. “The technology was originally designed for shipping goods and cattle, not taking roll at school, thus RFID chips make the perfect stalking device,” said the ACLU’s Dotty Griffith.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Religious Beliefs Won't Topple Student Trackers (by David Lee, Courthouse News Service)

Judge: Kids Must Wear Locator Chips at Texas School (by Craig Johnson, HLNtv)

Key Cases: Andrea Hernandez (Rutherford Institute)

U.S. District Court Order: Hernandez v. Northside (pdf)

Virginia Legislature Bans Microchip Implants as “Mark of The Beast” (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Disney Will Gather Private Information on Theme Park Visitors with New “Magic” Bracelets (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


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