Freedom Prevails As Officials Scrap Texas School System’s RFID Student Monitoring Program

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A pilot program at a massive San Antonio school district that required students to wear microchipped IDs and submit to on-campus location tracking at all times has been canned — in part due to students’ staunch resistance and the support of freedom-minded Texans who vehemently campaigned against it.

Students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School — both part of the city’s Northside Independent School District (NSID) — had been asked to carry the cards, which housed radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips so that administrators could know their locations. The test program had been in place at the two schools — affecting a combined student population of 4,200 — since the start of the 2012-2013 academic year. There are about 100,000 students in the district as a whole. A representative for the pilot program insinuated late last year that the goal was to expand RFID tagging to all students.

John Jay sophomore Andrea Hernandez spearheaded a student effort to stand up to the district for attempting to track and herd students as if they were cattle, and she did so early and often. The Board of Education attempted to shun the negative publicity, omitting any mention of a huge protest at its Aug. 28 meeting from its public distillation of the minutes.

Hernandez never wore her RFID badge. She persuaded other students not to wear theirs. She was kicked out of John Jay High School in January, but by then, the logistical task of enforcing the program’s “requirements” in the face of so much resistance — as well as the negative publicity and public outcry engendered from national coverage of the swelling controversy — had begun to stack the odds against Big Brother.

Despite legal defeats and disappointment with efforts to persuade the Texas State Legislature, Hernandez and her family had helped foster broad participation among students and parents within the district, as well as out-of-State residents concerned that their own school districts would attempt RFID monitoring. Hernandez’ father said he has spoken with parents in Florida, Louisiana and Pennsylvania who are preparing to resist similar programs.

In announcing the end of the ID tagging ploy, NSID Superintendent Brian Woods said, “When we looked at the attendance rates, surveys of parents… how much effort it took to track down students and make them wear the badges, and to a lesser degree, the court case and negative publicity, we decided not to [continue] it.”

The pilot program cost half a million dollars to set up at the two schools, and would have required $140,000 annually for maintenance at the two locations. San Antonio-based Wade Garcia & Associates was originally hired to implement and maintain the program.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.