A recent case, Hernandez v. Northside Independent School District et al., highlights the privacy concerns that technology can bring to the modern classroom. In order to register attendance for each student when the bell rings, one magnet school has given all of its students radio frequency identification device (RFID) chipped identification cards. These cards track student movements throughout the building–excluding the bathrooms, of course. One student, Andrea Hernandez, objected to her tagging on religious grounds, citing the Book of Revelation. She could have been expelled for refusing to wear her assigned RFID badge. Instead, according to Jim Forsyth with WOAI Local News, a judge in Texas recently banned Northside ISD from expelling Hernandez or retaliating against her.
“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,” writes Arnold Ahlert for The Patriot Post. However, according to the Rutherford Institute, the school district recently requested the case be moved to federal court.
Rutherford Institute attorneys allege “that the school’s actions violate Andrea’s rights under Texas’ Religious Freedom Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution” (pdf).
“At stake in this case are core constitutional values: the freedom of religion, the right to privacy, and the right to be treated fairly in our society,” asserts John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, in a November 27 press release.
In contrast, the school district contends that students have no right to privacy on school grounds. “A student has no privacy interest in preventing the school from knowing where they are while on school property,” asserts the school FAQs page. Therefore the RFID tags are not a violate of students’ right to privacy. “To the contrary, the school system is expected to know, and parents expect the school to know, where the children are at all times. Schools have employed systems to do this since the one-room schoolhouse.”
Whitehead–and the Rutherford Institute–contend that the issue is all about money. “Although implementation of the system will cost $500,000, school administrators are hoping that if the school district is able to increase attendance by tracking the students’ whereabouts, they will be rewarded with up to $1.7 million from the state government,” states the Rutherford press release. The FAQs page confirms this, stating that “NISD will spend approximately $261,000 on this pilot for the two schools and expects to realize $2 million in additional revenues.”