Federal court hears testimony in case of school district’s forced tracking chips

Court proceedings continue in a Texas lawsuit that pits a student’s religious freedom against a school district seeking to track the whereabouts of all students on campus electronically.

Steven Hernandez testified in federal court Monday that his daughter, 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez, should be allowed to stay at John Jay High School in San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District, despite her refusal to wear a microchip-laden I.D. badge, reports the San Antonio Express-News.

Father and daughter — both devout Christians — told U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia that they believe wearing the radio frequency-enabled badges is the equivalent of accepting the Book of Revelation’s “mark of the beast,” which symbolizes submission to the Antichrist.

The identification cards are part of a pilot program. Since this fall, all students at John Jay have been required to wear or carry embedded IDs at all times while on school grounds. Electronic readers installed in the schools’ ceiling panels then constantly track every student’s location at school.

If schools can prove that students are on campus, they receive more state funding, Northside Superintendent Brian Woods explained to the court, according to the Express-News. The RFID technology maximizes attendance count. It also provides a way to find students in the event of emergencies.

John Jay is a specialized science and technology magnet school. If the judge rules against Hernandez, she will likely face a forced transfer to Taft High School, her regular neighborhood campus.

The elder Hernandez choked back tears as he read passages from the Bible and described the depth of his religious conviction, the Express-News notes. Forcing his daughter to wear a badge, he told the court, “would compromise our salvation for NISD to make some money.”

Outside the courtroom, Steven Hernandez told the Express-News that “in this case, Northside is the Antichrist.”

Andrea told the judge that she would suffer if she were forced to transfer because Taft, the school she attends, does not offer the computer-related courses she wants to take.

“I earned my way into this school,” Hernandez said, according to WOAI-TV. “And for them to kick me out because of my religious beliefs is unfair for them to do.”