Student Wins Tracking ID Case

In San Antonio, Texas, high school sophomore Andrea Hernandez has been granted permission by a federal district court judge to continue attending school, despite her refusal to wear a student-tracking ID badge that continually monitors the whereabouts of every pupil on campus. Hernandez and her father filed a lawsuit after John Jay High School principal Robert Harris threatened Andrea with expulsion for refusing to wear the badge. He also stopped her from petitioning her fellow students against wearing one. The judge, who issued a restraining order on both counts, ruled Harris’s actions were a violation of Hernandez’s rights to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion. Hernandez will also receive compensation, the amount of which will be determined during a trial, according to court documents.

Beginning October 1, students at John Jay High School, as well as Anson Jones Middle School, have been required to attend school wearing photo-ID cards equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips that track every pupil’s location. Educators insist that such a program is necessary to stem rampant truancy devastating school funding. District spokesman Pasqual Gonzalez contends the district could gain $2 million in additional state funding by improving attendance. If the program is deemed successful, the “Student Locator Project” will be implemented in 112 schools in all, affecting nearly 100,000 students.

Hernandez, who is religious, wants no part of it. She insists that constant RFID monitoring is satanic, labeling the badge as the “mark of the beast,” in reference to one of the interpretations of Christian biblical prophecy outlined in the Book of Revelations.

Her resistance, as well as that of other students, has reportedly been met with pressure from instructors, along with bans preventing those students from participating in certain school functions. Students also reported being refused entry into common school areas, such as the library and the cafeteria.

Hernandez faced another consequence as well. “About two weeks ago when I went to cast my vote for homecoming king and queen, I had a teacher tell me I would not be allowed to vote because I did not have the proper voter ID,” Hernandez said during an interview with World Net Daily. “I had my old student ID card which they originally told us would be good for the entire four years we were in school. He said I needed the new ID with the chip in order to vote.”

Deputy Superintendent Ray Galindo emphasized the new requirement in a letter sent to the family. “We are simply asking your daughter to wear an ID badge as every other student and adult on the Jay campus is asked to do,” it read. Yet he added threats to the message. “I urge you to accept this solution so that your child’s instructional program will not be affected. As we discussed, there will be consequences for refusal to wear an ID card as we begin to move forward with full implementation.”

Andrea’s father, Steve, wasn’t buying it. “He told me in a meeting that if my daughter would proudly wear her student ID card around her neck so everyone could see, he would be able to quietly remove her chip from her student ID card,” he revealed. “He went on to say as part of the accommodation my daughter and I would have to agree to stop criticizing the program and publicly support…it. I told him that was unacceptable because it would imply an endorsement of the district’s policy and my daughter and I should not have to give up our constitutional rights to speak out against a program that we feel is wrong.”

The program is also redundant. The two schools have a total of 290 surveillance cameras, yet apparently officials believe even that level of monitoring is insufficient to keep track of school attendance. Thus, a follow-up letter informed Hernandez she would be expelled on November 26.

Enter the Rutherford Institute, which aided the Hernandez family with their suit. Their attorneys filed a petition for a temporary restraining order, as well as immediate injunctive and declaratory relief, alleging that the school’s actions violate Andrea’s rights under Texas’ Religious Freedom Act, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

After the judge granted the restraining order, John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, was pleased, albeit with reservations. “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,” he said in statement.

There is a far longer way to go than most Americans realize. Despite the existence of a law known as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, requiring websites to get parental consent before gathering information about users under the age of 13, monitoring students in school is seemingly exempt from the statute. Thus, “Tag and Track” RFID systems have been sold to school systems across the country by a variety of vendors, including AIM Truancy Solutions, ID Card Group and DataCard. Moreover, the Houston, TX, school district has been using RFID chips to monitor students on 13 campuses since 2004.  Schools have also embraced GPS tracking software in computers, and closed-circuit television system (CCTV) video camera systems.

And Texas isn’t alone. The AIM Truancy Solutions’ GPS tracking program has also been adopted in Baltimore, MD, and is now being tested by the Anaheim, CA Union High School District, where 75 seventh- and eighth-graders with four or more unexcused absences have “volunteered” to be tracked, in order to avoid prosecution, or a potential stint in a juvenile hall.

Furthermore, despite the contentions of school officials, monitoring is about much more than attendance. The San Antonio school system received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to install a CCTV system in school cafeterias, and embed bar codes on food trays, to monitor children’s eating habits as a means of preventing childhood obesity. “We’re going to snap a picture of the food tray at the cashier and we will know what has been served,” said Dr. Roberto Trevino of the San Antonio-based Social and Health Research Center.

Then there is abuse. In 2003, parents of students at the Livingston Middle School in Overton County, TN, filed a federal lawsuit alleging school administrators illegally recorded 10- to 14-year-old girls undressing for basketball practice in nearby changing areas. Five years later, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a school may not install security cameras inside locker rooms, where students have an expectation of privacy. In 2010, Blake Robbins, a Harriton High School sophomore in Pennsylvania’s Lower Merion School District, reported that a school official confronted him for engaging in “improper behavior”–at his home! As the story unfolded, it was revealed that the laptops the school issued to high-school students came equipped with special software that enabled school administrators to spy on students and their families. Officials claimed it was necessary to prevent the computers from being stolen–yet they also admitted parents and students were never told about the “remote access” software.

In San Antonio, Heather Fazio, executive director of Texans for Accountable Government, contends the district has not been willing to take steps to listen to parental concerns over the RFID chips. “The school board refuses to put it on the agenda or hold a forum where the matter can be debated publicly,” she said.

Nonetheless, some parents were supportive of the plan. “You never know when a disaster is going to happen and to know where your child is at least you have that card to know where your kid’s at all times,” Michelle Esquivel told FOX 29. “I’m always worried about my daughter being at school,” said Ernest Castro.

A hearing on the preliminary injunction is scheduled for this week. For now, Hernandez remains at John Jay. Rutherford Institute president Whitehead illuminated the stakes. “Regimes in the past have always started with the schools, where they develop a compliant citizenry. These ‘Student Locator’ programs 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.”

It’s far worse than that. There is a paradigm shift occurring in America, spearheaded by a couple of generations so inured to modern technology, they have never known anything resembling personal privacy. There was a time, a few short years ago, where the idea of surveilling children at all times would have been considered an outrage by an overwhelming majority of Americans. Yet in this case, district spokesman Gonzalez characterized Steven Hernandez as the the “lone protester” regarding the usurpation of his daughter’s Constitutional rights. Even the American Civil Liberties Union rebuffed Hernandez, because organization officials didn’t feel the case “has the potential to achieve broad and lasting advances in civil liberties.”

They were not alone. Despite concerns cited by the website ChipFreeSchools.com, including a position paper put together by groups such as the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Big Brother Watch, Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, Constitutional Alliance, Freedom Force International, Friends of Privacy USA, the Identity Project and Privacy Activism, the only concern cited was the idea said no students should be subjected to the “chipping” program “unless there is sufficient evidence of its safety and effectiveness.”

In other words, safety and effectiveness trump the right to privacy. Whitehead noted that the argument used by government officials is that a person has no expectation of privacy in a public school, or on the sidewalk outside the building. He reveals the absurdity of such thinking. “If a student is walking down the hallway and talking to his girlfriend, should the school have the ability to read their lips to see what they are talking about?” he asks. “What’s the difference between that and being an animal in a zoo?” If the usurpers prevail, very soon there will be no difference at all.

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  • Willy Rho

    Tyrants are all the same everywhere. Do as I say or be punished. But if a court says, "NO". Pretend to do as I say and I will make an exception for you. Arbitrary Lawlessness is the first Sign of Evil Intentions. SATAN is the ultimate Lawless One. Join Him and Go to He….ll.

  • Shaitan

    Who made Satan? Who let him loose on earth? Who gave him an army of demons to wreck havoc? Who is idle as he attacks?

  • Mary Sue

    Nonononono. Ms. Hernandez should leave untangling of Revelations to experts. The tracking device is in a badge, NOT a mark on her forehead or hand.

    Still kinda invasive but I can see why the school wants it. It gave up on discipline a long time ago and now wants the easy way out.

  • riverboatbill

    Flush that damn thing down the toilet where it belongs.

    • LibertarianToo

      Putting it in a microwave for about 10 seconds burns up the RFID.

  • Fritz

    Who cares why the school wants it? What is wrong is wrong. A free society does not track and monitor it's citizens on a day in and day out basis, if they want to monitor attendance the teachers should take attendance at the beginning of the day in their home room or at the beginning of each class. The system used in the cafeteria just takes the cake, what business is it of the government what food our children eat, and they claim that conservatives are fascists and control freaks?
    The same justification is used for smart power meters which can be configured to monitor what appliances you use at what time of day, supposedly needed so they can operate the grid more efficiently which is complete B.S, they already know when the periods of peak demand are have for years. The next thing you know they will claim they need to monitor your bank account to make sure you can pay the bill, or even deduct utility bills off your paycheque, is this the society we want??? Coincidentally the Mulatto in chief has thrown money at the "Smart Grid" fiasco as well. But he wouldn't be a good Marxist if he didn't support the surveillance society.
    My suggestion to anyone issued these RFID badges is to give them a 30 second blast in the microwave, or smack the chip area with a hammer blow.

  • Guest

    One of my friends in Texas writes:
    Woo hoo! Liberty wins a small victory!
    I despise John Jay HS. I went there on several occasions when I was in HS for UIL competitions, and it was like a depressing prison even THEN! That was 25 years ago.
    This case NEVER should have had to happen, but it shows that "they" intend to imprison us all.

  • Joanie Bee

    It's a shame that in todays world, people are too lazy to do what they should do to make sure they go to school every day. There are parents who have to work, true, but apparently they didn't instill the fear of the consequences of what the punishment would be it the child skipped school Then there are the teachers and school administrators who are protected by the unions. They don't do the jobs they were hired to do. Let me rephrase that…….they do do what they have been hired to do but because we, the parents, have become so lax in being vigilant about what affects are children and their education, they do less of a job now then they did say, 10 or 15 yrs ago. The unions have coddled them and in doing so, our children are not getting the education they deserve.
    Just because the school system states that this is needed does not make it so. It's the lazy way to do their job and also the parents job.

  • Ghostwriter

    Isn't there a way that we can both have safety AND privacy without sacrificing one or the other?

  • JAckyBlue

    It's a shame that the school systems "have" to resort to this. Sure, they should keep tabs on students while they're at school, but only then. They don't need to know where our kids are or what they're doing away from school. I installed PhoneSheriff onto my son's smartphone before I gave it to him, but that is my right as a parent to do so. It helps me to make sure he's always safe.

  • Id Card Case

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  • Penny Haulman

    Just like PreWW-II in Germany. Track them then take their guns. DIVORCE THE EVIL BAAL of old. I say, “DIVORCE BAAL”

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