Texas digital school ID: ‘Big brother’ or the ‘mark of the beast’?

9 Oct


“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

George Orwell, 1984

Huffington Post is reporting in the article, Texas School District Reportedly Threatening Students Who Refuse Tracking ID, Can’t Vote For Homecoming:

Weeks after Northside Independent School District in San Antonio rolled out its new “smart” IDs that tracks students’ geographic locations, the community is still at odds with the program.

The “Student Locator Project,” which is slated to eventually reach 112 Texas schools and close to 100,000 students, is in trial stages in two Northside district schools. In an effort to reduce truancy, the district has issued new student IDs with an embedded radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip that tracks the location of a student at all times.

The program officially launched October 1 at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School. Without the badges — required to be worn around the neck — students cannot access common areas like the cafeteria or library, and cannot purchase tickets to extracurricular activities. WND reports that the district has threatened to suspend, fine or involuntarily transfer students who fail to comply and officials have noted that “there will be consequences for refusal to wear an ID card as we begin to move forward with full implementation.”

Parents and students from the schools spoke out against the project last month. But now, WND is reporting that schools are taking the restrictions one step further.

John Jay High School sophomore Andrea Hernandez refuses to use the new IDs, citing religious beliefs and instead sticking with her old badge from previous years, calling the tracking devices the “mark of the beast.” She tells Salon that the new badges make her uncomfortable and are an invasion of her privacy.

But to add to her restricted school grounds access, the teen says she was barred from voting for homecoming king and queen.

“I had a teacher tell me I would not be allowed to vote because I did not have the proper voter ID,” she told WND. “I had my old student ID card which they originally told us would be good for the entire four years we were in school. He said I needed the new ID with the chip in order to vote.”

If successful, the tracking program could save the district as much as $175,000 lost daily to low attendance figures, which in part determine school funding. Higher attendance could lead to more state funding in the neighborhood of $1.7 million. A statement on the school district’s website lays out the program’s goals: to increase student safety and security, increase attendance and offer a multi-purpose “smart” student ID card that streamlines grounds access and purchasing power.

While uncommon, RFID chips are not new to school IDs, according to Wired. Schools in Houston launched a monitoring program as early as 2004, and a federally funded preschool in California started placing RFID chips in children’s clothes two years ago. Numerous districts have also considered similar programs, but without making them mandatory. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/08/texas-school-district-rep_n_1949415.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share

What one might ask would cause a school district to do that ‘big brother’ thing. It’s the money, stupid. According to the Texas Tribune’s Maurice Chammah and Nick Swartsell writing in the article, Student IDs That Track the Students which was published in the New York Times:

In Texas, school finance is a numbers game: schools receive money based on the number of students counted in their homeroom classes each morning. At Anson Jones, as at other schools, many students were in school but not in homeroom, so they were not counted and the district lost money, said Pascual Gonzalez, a spokesman for the district.

We were leaving money on the table,” he said, adding that the district expects a $2 million return on an initial investment of $261,000 in the technology at two pilot schools. [Emphasis Added] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/us/in-texas-schools-use-ids-to-track-students.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

As of this post, the Texas ACLU has not weighed in. This is what the Texas ACLU says in its 2010 Youth Right Manual:


What is this booklet about?

This booklet will explain many youth rights, including your rights as a public school student. Some of these may be familiar to you, others may be new. You can only stand up for your rights if you know what they are, so it is important for students and their parents to be educated about students’ rights.

Please read this booklet carefully to understand your rights. If you have questions about a specific issue or circumstance as it pertains to you or your school, you may want to ask your parent, your teacher or principal, or a counselor for help.

Where do these rights come from?

There are several important sources of students’ rights, and you should be familiar with all of them, especially your school’s Student Code of Conduct.

This booklet is focused mostly on students’ rights under federal law. The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It contains powerful protections for individuals by restricting what the government may do. Many of the rights discussed in this booklet draw their authority and power from the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights has special significance in public schools. Teachers in public schools are government employees and government representatives. The daily interaction of government authority figures and young individuals is controlled in part by the protections contained in the Bill of Rights.

But this was not always the case. You may notice if you read the Bill of Rights that it seems to apply only to the federal government. For example, the First Amendment starts with the words, “Congress shall make no law . . . .” As you may have learned in your government class or social studies, the Texas State government is independent from the federal Congress. Schools are entities of State governments—so why does the Bill of Rights apply to them?

The answer is in a later amendment to the Constitution—the Fourteenth. The Fourteenth Amendment

was adopted after the Civil War to protect individual rights against the actions of State governments and says that no State may “deprive a person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Since the Constitution expresses its specific conceptions of “liberty” in the Bill of Rights, the Supreme Court has said that this “due process” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies many of the protections in the Bill of Rights to State governments like Texas. http://aclutx.org/reports/2010YouthRightsManual.pdf

For money, you would sell your soul.


Big Brother invades our classrooms                                     http://www.salon.com/2012/10/08/big_brother_invades_our_classrooms/

ACLU documents show increasing phone and internet surveillance by Department of Justice                                                         http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/27/3418420/department-of-justice-surveillance-increase-aclu

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One Response to “Texas digital school ID: ‘Big brother’ or the ‘mark of the beast’?”


  1. ‘Big Brother’ and the schools « drwilda - November 24, 2012

    […] “We were leaving money on the table,” he said, adding that the district expects a $2 million return on an initial investment of $261,000 in the technology at two pilot schools. [Emphasis Added] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/us/in-texas-schools-use-ids-to-track-students.html?emc=eta1&_r=0 https://drwildaoldfart.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/texas-digital-school-id-big-brother-or-the-mark-of-th… […]

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