Court rejects San Antonio student’s First Amendment appeal over forced tracking chips

The 15-year-old student who is suing a San Antonio school district because she refuses to wear a radio-frequency-enabled badge on religious grounds has lost another round in court, this time in a federal appeals court.

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans declined to issue an injunction on behalf of Andrea Hernandez last week, reports the San Antonio Express-News. Hernandez and her family say wearing the required badges is the equivalent of accepting the Book of Revelation’s “mark of the beast” that symbolizes submission to the Antichrist.

As a result, Hernandez must wear a microchip-laden RFID badge at all times while on the campus of the John Jay High School, a science and engineering magnet school. Otherwise, she will be forcibly transferred to her regular neighborhood school until her constitutional claims are decided on the merits at trial, and possibly permanently.

Hernandez had asked the appeals court to allow her to stay at John Jay pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

The identification cards are part of a pilot program initiated by Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, primarily intended to maximize funding. Since this fall, all students at John Jay have been required to wear or carry embedded badges at all times while at school. Electronic readers installed in the ceiling panels then constantly track every student’s location.

Hernandez and her family rejected a compromise that would have allowed her to stay at John Jay. Under the compromise, Hernandez would wear a special badge with the microchip removed.

The lower court judge cited the proposed compromise as reasonable accommodation of Hernandez’s religious beliefs.

“The court’s decision is disappointing,” attorney John W. Whitehead told the Express-News.

Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based nonprofit civil liberties organization that is aiding the Hernandez family, added that the lawsuit will proceed.

Northside Independent School District — the fourth largest in Texas — comprises more than 100 schools over 97,000 students. It could eventually use the ID tracking system program at all of its campuses.

The principal of the high school had threatened Hernandez with expulsion before she and her family filed the lawsuit.

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