June 6, 2013

Oregon senators took a major step in affirming school students’ rights to privacy Wednesday.

Photo by Joe Mabel, via Wikimedia Commons
An Oregon bill aimed at making it a requirement for schools to inform parents, students and the state Board of Education before implementing and distributing privacy invading radio frequency identification technology passed the Senate with a 28-2 vote yesterday, reports the Associated Press.

Citing a story Infowars helped urge into the mainstream, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Phil Barnhart, said he became interested in securing students’ privacy rights against RFID technology after learning the story of one San Antonio student’s refusal to wear an RFID tracking name tag on the basis of religion and the Fourth Amendment.

“You can certainly imagine a whole lot of very beneficial and useful reasons for being able to know where students are,” Rep. Barnhart reportedly stated in testimony, adding, “but I can also think of a whole lot of difficult ones that would be a serious detriment.”

According to the Associated Press, a lobbyist representing the Security Industry Association argued in May, however, that it’s imperative we “know who is inside our schools at all times,” and that the devices would merely aid functions already being carried out on a routine basis.

“This is no different than asking a person to submit a state-issued ID, taking roll call at the start of class or scanning a barcode. The only difference is that (an RFID) allows all of this to be done quickly and automatically,” said Jim Gingo, president and founder of TransTech Systems, a company that boasts numerous industrial identifying solutions.

Wednesday’s vote comes days after parents in Polk County, Florida learned that students’ irises were being scanned without their permission as part of a controversial new security program.

As is the case with most school security programs – which are primarily geared to condition young citizens into blindly obeying authority figures and indoctrinate them into accepting a life under constant surveillance – the iris scan tech was sold as a time-saving and safety-enhancing tool. “The EyeSwipe-Nano is an ideal replacement for the card based system since your child will not have to be responsible for carrying an identification card,stated Rob Davis, the school board’s senior director of support services, in a letter to parents.

Similarly, schools in South Carolina began rolling out finger scan technology in alleged efforts to speed up lunchroom lines, because we all know how much of a problem those are.

Furthermore, schools across the nation have already moved to install comprehensive video surveillance systems that keep a watchful eye on anyone entering and leaving school premises, but in the past some schools have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep tabs on students.

In 2010, for instance, a school district in Pennsylvania was reportedly using school-issued laptops to spy on kids in their own homes. “The controversy ignited after student Blake Robbins was disciplined for ‘improper behavior in his home.’ It turned out that school officials had installed software on the laptops that used the computer’s webcam to send images back to the school server every 15 seconds,” we wrote last August.

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