The San Antonio Express-News reports that two Texas state lawmakers have filed three bills that would ban the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in public schools. The use of RFID technology by a San Antonio area school district has drawn national attention to the debate over safety and efficiency versus privacy in schools.
State Representative Lois Kolkhorst and Representative Cindy Burkett co-authored HB101 and HB102, which would prohibit the use of the RFID technology to track students, allow parents to opt out of a tracking program, keeping school districts from punishing students who will not participate. Kolkhorst, who has introduced such bills in the past four legislative sessions, has now been joined by state Senator Craig Estes.
According to Estes, who filed SB173, which also would prohibit RFID technology in schools, in response to Northside Independent School District’s (NISD) use of RFID technology. NISD is currently the defendant in a federal suit brought by high school student, Andrea Hernandez, who refused to wear a student ID badge outfitted with an RFID chip inside it, saying it violates her religious beliefs.
“It first came to my attention when I heard about the court case and my first reaction was, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” Estes said. “This RFID technology is very impressive when it comes to tracking cattle or products in a retail supply chain, but children aren’t products or cattle.”
State funding for schools is based on attendance, and officials use the ID badges to ensure all students in the building get counted. Kolkhorst said she thinks the legislature needs to debate the appropriateness of that use, which she hopes will happen, now that NISD’s pilot program has drawn scrutiny. “I am concerned that this technology can be very dehumanizing,” Kolkhorst said. “I really don’t like how parents don’t have much input and think it is an example of government overstepping its bounds.”
The use of RFID technology has triggered criticism from both right and left, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Rutherford Institute (which has provided lawyers for the Hernandez family’s lawsuit).
Source: San Antonio Express-News, 1/23/13, By Francisco Vara-Orta
[Editor's Note: In January 2013, Legal Clips summarized a ruling by the federal district court in A.H. v. RISD, which denied the student’s motion for a preliminary injunction barring a school district from transferring her from the specialty program she attends back to her base school because she refuses to wear the required ID badge while on campus. The court rejected her claims that being required to wear the badge violated her First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion and free speech, and her Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. In addition, the court found that the ID badge requirement did not violate her rights under the Texas Religious Freedom Act (TRFA).