Christian teen and family object to school's RFID child-locator tags

NPR's Morning Edition reports that a federal court in Texas will today take up the case of a 15yo high-school student from an evangelical Christian family who refuses to wear her RFID-enabled, location-tracking school ID. Andrea Hernandez believes her ID is "the mark of the beast" from the Bible's Book of Revelation. (previous BB post on this story here)


    1. The interesting thing I heard in the program this morning was that the school was doing it to get more federal funding. Their federal funding is based on attendance. With the RFID tags they indicate that they have higher attendance. 
      But if kids were skipping out in the middle of the school day(the only thing the RFID tag would track) wouldn’t they have already been counted as present?
      It seems like their higher attendance numbers may actually be because kids store their name tags in their lockers ad are therefore ‘there’ even if they are not for funding purposes.
      I know Texas has done an abysmal job with their schools and funding, but it is just crazy that they would have to resort to sneaky tactics to get the funding they need.
      Maybe I am just reading to much into this and someone with more knowledge can correct me though.

      1. Interesting. I would think assigning each student a pin that they have to enter to get in the facility, like the system in use at the local YMCA, would be just as effective and far less invasive. Sure, you could have your friend enter you code, but that’s why you post a person at the door who watches you enter a single code, then come in.

      2. These are passive RFID tags which can only be detected as they pass a sensor (typically placed in a doorway) at close range, so they wouldn’t register while in a locker.
        The reason why this system raises more money for the school is because it allows for the inclusion of late arrivals, whereas the paper-based system only counts students present at roll call.
        How evil this system is really depends on how many sensors are used and where they are located: if they’re only sited at entrances and exits to the building, then it’s only capable of registering when someone arrives and leaves; if there are sensors on every doorway, then it approaches a fully-fledged tracking system.

        1. Thanks for the info. I am still curious if the count is based on an actual ‘ping’ on the tag going through the door that day or just how many tags were last recorded as inside the building after a ping. The amount of money they would be getting seems awfully large to be affected just by late arrivals.
          And if the tags are fully passive, how would you differentiate between students entering a door and those exiting? Reset the systems every morning and anyone with an odd number of pings is inside, anyone with an even number is outside?

          1. I don’t know exactly how the issue of detecting direction is dealt with as this isn’t my field, however, as it’s an obvious problem relating to a widely used tech, a solution must exist. My guess would be that sensors are arrayed in pairs on either side of a doorway, and the order of the timestamps indicates to the system whether the tag is coming or going.
            As for the cost-effectiveness of the system, evidently it makes sense: I’m inclined to believe a school when it says it’s doing something to get money out of the government, because if they were lying they would come up with something that sounds more altruistic. These systems aren’t particularly expensive to set up and run, and presumably there is also a saving of some kind associated with not requiring traditional roll calls as well.

    2. The school offered a tag without the RFID to the family.  They refused.  They object on religious grounds to all ID tags.

      Which is going to make it hard for that girl to find work once she graduates.  What employer doesn’t require ID tags?

    1. Beyond the fact that religious people/conspiracy nuts can believe crazy stuff that can be dismissed immediately, is there anything of any substance to this at all?

      1. Well, it does (rather persistently) lead to one of the odder coalitions in civil-liberties litigation/agitation.

        Your usual ACLU-and-friends civil libertarians distrust RFID because of its utility as a fine-grained tracking mechanism, and tend to be very unhappy when either a state actor imposes it(as in the case) or when a private actor starts flirting with implanted chips(‘Verichip’ is the major name in human-embeddables, which mostly don’t cause cancer). Post-Tribulational Millenialists and Dispensational Premillenialists (groups that would otherwise likely not be caught dead in the same room as the GAYCLU or American Communist Lawyers Union) strongly suspect RFID, especially the implanted flavor, of being the mark of the beast, without which no man may buy or sell, and thus take a strong interest in this particular issue.

        In their defense, I’d say that the god-squad appears to be getting awfully worked up about some classical-era whining about Roman imperial policy; but, if I were the Antichrist, and had to put together a system in accordance with the requirements defined for the ‘mark of the beast’ an implanted RFID-based identity verification and transaction-management solution would be the obvious approach…

    1.  Given that your privacy is pretty much as fictitious as the Book of Revelations, isn’t that a moot point?

      1. Last I checked, the whole point of constructing something as a ‘right’ was to define it so that a breach of that thing constitutes a violation rather than a falsification.

        Empirically(since attempts to found ‘rights’ on some sort of absolute metaphysical basis have come to naught, which pretty much leaves us with the ‘handwaving, emotional appeals, and rough consensus’ theory of rights) ‘rights’ that are wholly unsupportable tend to get dropped over time, and ‘privacy’ may well be getting close to the chopping block; but until that happens, you don’t refute somebody’s right to privacy by surveilling them, you violate it.

        (In the same way, somebody stabbing you a few times doesn’t make your right to bodily integrity a moot point; but it does mean that said right has been violated and you should probably have speedy recourse to a trauma surgeon and possibly demand broader social reforms to provider stronger assurances of that right in the future…)

  1. So, do we conclude that if they were RFID Crosses and WWJD bracelets it would be okay? The good news is that gait recognition is non-denominational.

  2. “i opt not follow school policy.”
    “ok, you’re not allowed to attend our school.”

    what’s wrong with this resolution? secular society is (and should be) unconcerned with your personal religious beliefs. if your choices put you at odds with society, it doesn’t matter whether the root cause is religious or otherwise: it’s your choice, and your responsibility to deal with the outcome. if your religion requires you to wear a parka, don’t expect the rest of us to turn up the AC for you. if your religion forbids you from reading books, don’t ask for a special oral-only curriculum. you don’t deserve a special rule or an extra share of the resources because you happen to believe something inconvenient.

    not that i’m arguing in favor of the RFID tracking, that’s just not the part of this story that riles me up.

    1. Exactly. Religion should not be used as an excuse to believe in things you don’t understand, can’t justify, and expect to get respect and consideration for,

    2. I don’t agree. I think within reason, there should be exceptions for making someone participate in something that is objectionable on moral grounds. Being drafted into the military, for example. It doesn’t necessarily mean you get rewarded with the comfy chair, however. The process for registering attendance will most certainly end up being more inconvenient than simply walking by with a badge, so everyone else will have it easier in that sense.

      The real danger is taking the stance that we should never accommodate someone’s moral objections and you are always forced to participate in ethical and spiritual acts that go against your beliefs. Being an atheist, I’d really hate to be put in a position of giving lip service to beings I don’t believe exist simply because that’s what most people want and expect.

  3. Honestly, this is one heck of a non-story. RFID technology only works on site and it’s contained within the student ID which is already required. It’s just like any employee badge or proximity door card.

    Here’s one key element of the story that’s underreported: she was offered an RFID-free ID card, one she refused. She’s *STILL* being given the opportunity to have a new ID badge without the chip.

    “When Whitehead says the school should opt out, he means the school should let Andrea Hernandez opt out of having to carry the locator chip. That’s something the district has offered as long as Hernandez still wears the new ID badge with no chip inside. But Andrea doesn’t want to do that either. She wants to wear her old school ID.”

    Her family is not only wasting their time, they’re also wasting the district’s funds due to this legal non-issue. A reasonable accommodation has been made to satisfy any “religious” or even personal privacy argument, but this student just isn’t having it.

  4. Tell her if she is a citizen of the United States of America , she already has the mark of the beast……. its called a social security number !

  5. I cherish my privacy, but seriously how different is this than most jobs that require a key-card for door access? Consider it job training kids! ;)

  6. The issue here is placing surveillance and tracking identifiers on kids, like the meat packing industry does with the commodity of cattle.

    Prince William is chipped already.  It’s a matter of debate and of drawing moral limits.   Do we want a future like in the movie THX-1138?

    1. This only deals with the RFID chips. The kids can still be tracked visually. You should also hand out burqas so no one can tell which kid is which. And of course you need some non-students in there as false flags so an arbitrary cloaked student can’t be tracked by frequently used paths or seating locations. I guess you need voice modulators in class so students can’t be located by voice patterns. In fact, you probably need to switch teachers every week just so they can’t learn non-visual patterns in posture or behavior. And homework and tests have names on them – I guess we have to get rid of those as well.

      There are probably a few things I’m missing. But a true privacy-enabled school is possible, I think.

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