According to The Christian Science Monitor, the Northside Independent School District (NISD) is being sued by a student and her parents over the requirement that students display their student ID badges at all times. The badges are equipped with a “locator” chip that tracks a student anywhere on campus.
Andrea Hernandez objected to wearing the badge because it is a “mark of the beast” that violates her Christian faith. When she and her parents balked at the so-called SmartID, the school agreed to remove the chip but still required her to wear the badge. The family refused on religious grounds, stating in a lawsuit that even wearing the badge was tantamount to “submission of a false god” because the card still indicated her participation. A state court has issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting NISD from transferring her while her suit is pending.
A prime motivator for the ID badges is financial. Texas, which last year cut school funding by nearly $5 billion, pays school districts based on how many students attend on any given day. Often, students are marked absent because they are not in their seats when roll is called, even though they might just be in the nurse’s office, says Pascual Gonzalez, communications director for the district. The district paid $261,000 for the ID technology, but is hoping to get $1.7 million of additional state revenue over the year based on increased attendance numbers.
“The future of privacy is at stake,” says John Whitehead, President of the Rutherford Institute (RI) that is supporting the suit. The religious concern among some Evangelicals is “a sincere belief,” Mr. Whitehead says. And he notes that the school stopped Andrea from handing out pamphlets after school explaining her views.
State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst has been trying for eight years to introduce bills that either ban the “locator” chip technology from schools or allow parents or students to opt out without any repercussion. “I don’t like this technology being used with our children,” says Kolkhorst. “This should be vetted publicly.”
Commenting on concerns about tracking students, Ronald Stephens, Executive Director of the National School Safety Center, says, “It’s a rather sensitive topic in various school districts and communities.” However, Stephens also notes that there are a lot of potential benefits, not only in helping locate students in an emergency but also in starting to track where violence or crimes occur in a school. “A lot of this is about a fine balance, about the technology that is there and creating the kind of environment you want on the campus,” he says.
Source: The Christian Science Monitor, 11/28/12, By Amanda Paulson
[Editor's Note: RI filed a legal complaint in Bexar County Texas District Court on behalf of the Hernandez family seeking to permanently enjoin NISD from transferring Andrea from her current school to one that does not use the "locator" chip technology. The suit states four causes of action: (1) the Texas Religious Freedom Act; (2) violation of the student's First Amendment free speech rights; (3) violation of her Fourteenth Amendment due process rights; and (4) violation of her Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights.]