July 16, 2013
Andrea Hernandez, a student who refused to wear a Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID) chip that was implemented by her San Antonio High School, has won the battle as the school begins to second guess the controversial program.
On Monday, Northside Independent School District (NISD) announced that they are nixing the RFID tracking program.
The school claims the program was a waste of money and only increased attendance by half of a percent.
When 15-year old Hernandez protested the program claiming it was in violation of her religious beliefs, the school forced her to choose between wearing the RFID chip or attending a different school.
The teenager and her family sued the district, but a Texas federal judge concluded that her rights had not been breached, which supported the school’s decision and upheld the ultimatum they gave Hernandez.
The judge’s decision came in the wake of the school attempting to accommodate the girl by allowing her to wear an ID tag without the chip.
The teenager’s family didn’t end the fight there, they appealed the ruling to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that submitting to the ID tag even without the chip, was still against her “sincerely held beliefs.”
Hernandez agreed to attend a new school during the litigation process.
According to the school’s website, the RFID program, also known as the “Student Locator Project,” was meant to meet three goals. These three goals included increasing student safety and security, improving attendance accuracy and to provide multi-purpose “Smart” student ID cards.
The pilot program introduced at two schools, Jay High School and Jones Middle School, both located in San Antonio, TX., were intended to last one year and then reevaluated at the end of that year.
Officials say the program was implemented at schools with low attendance rates, and would be applied to 4,200 students, costing the taxpayer half a million dollars to implement, and an additional $136,000 annually to continue.
The schools claimed the RFID program would make students safer by allowing access to their location at all times during the school day, but was restricted to tracking students on school grounds and during school hours only.
However, the chips are tracked by a private company where the signal is never turned off. RFID hackers have repeatedly shown how easy it is to gain access to information stored in the chips. Some chips are even re-writable and the information on them can be deleted or replaced.
This makes the children wearing the chips very susceptible to unwanted attention from strangers that could potentially track them indefinitely.
Unfortunately, Texas isn’t the only school attempting to use tax payer money to track its’ students, several other schools across the nation have made similar moves.
In 2010, a federally funded preschool in Richmond, Ca., began using the RFID chips in students’ clothing, and as far back as 2005, an elementary school outside of Sacramento, Ca., also tried the chips but ditched it after parents expressed their outrage over the program.
Northside had originally contemplated implementing the program in 110 other schools, but whether the district intends to move forward with those plans is unknown.
Despite the lack of popularity among these invasive tracking programs, another one has begun to surface, the iris scanner.
The iris scanner is part of the growing trend of “biometrics,” a development that allows software to identify you based on physical characteristics.
A Florida school recently rolled out the iris scanning program on an elementary, middle and high school, conducting a test-run on its’ students without the consent of their parents. The tracking technology allowed the students to be tracked upon entering and exiting their school bus.
Industry insiders say the iris scanning technology will soon be used in airports, banks and on ATMs. Some high-security offices like Bank of America’s headquarters already have the technology in use as well as innumerable jails across the country.
Officials say not to worry though, because the data collected from the iris scanners looks like a bunch of 1s and 0s if seen by an outsider, and you can assure the data is safe because it’s owned by the airports, schools and businesses that utilize them.