San Antonio District Drops Student ID Tracking Chip Plan

Although Andrea Hernandez didn’t succeed in her legal challenge to avoid wearing an RFID-tagged student ID badge — according to her religious beliefs the tag represented the mark of the beast — she will not have to wear it anyway. As a matter of fact, no one will.

According to Kristina Pua of NBC Latino, John Jay High School in San Antonio, Texas, where Hernandez was a student, dropped plans to deploy the RFID student-tracking system. Northside Independent School District officials confirmed the decision this week.

Requiring students to wear RFID-tagged student ID cards would have allowed the schools to track their location around campus and make taking attendance simpler. However, shortly after the plan to equip student IDs with the tracking chip was announced, opposition came not only from Andrea and her father, who filed suit to have the system scrapped, but also from parents and education advocates who expressed concerns about student privacy.

District Spokesman Pasqual Gonzalez attempted to make clear that the reason behind the program’s cancellation wasn’t the lawsuit, but because the additional expense of administering it in terms of personnel and time required made the investment not worth the return.

Still, Steve Hernandez, Andrea’s father, celebrated the decision by releasing a statement of his own.

“In response to the recent news that the Northside Independent School District may be doing away with the RFID tracking program, I would like to say that my daughter Andrea and I are overwhelmed with happiness and joy,” said Steve Hernandez in a statement this week.  “We sincerely believe with all our hearts that this program puts our salvation at risk. It is our sincerely -held belief that our religious beliefs have been infringed upon. My daughter and our family are not putting our salvation at risk for NISD.”

Before rolling out the tagged IDs to all NISD schools, a limited pilot program was run at John Jay and Anson Jones Middle School. Although more than $250,000 was spent putting the technology in place, the paltry increase in attendance – a mere 4.5% in John Jay and 0.7% at Anson – made district officials feel that it wasn’t worth money to expand the program further.

Gonzalez also says the district gave the students a survey, about a month ago, which resulted in mostly mixed and negative reactions — ranging from privacy, to forgetting to wear them, to the cost of the program and replacement costs.

As far as Andrea Hernandez goes, Gonzalez says she’s free to come back to her school, a magnet school specializing in science and engineering, if she desires.

“She can apply to return to the school,” says Gonzalez. “When she refused to follow the rules, she had to leave that school and go to her home campus. Now that the rule is no longer in place, she is allowed to reapply.”