In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School in San Antonio, Texas are learning all about Orwellian government intrusion.
The local school district faced scrutiny and criticism last spring when it originally announced that it would monitor students at the two schools by requiring them to wear microchip-embedded radio-frequency identification (RFID) cards during school hours, according to The College Fix.
Since Oct. 1, students at the two San Antonio schools have been required to wear or carry IDs at all times while on school premises, according (ironically enough) to Russia Today.
The required ID cards track every student’s location at school at all times, reports NBC News. The tracking system enables the school to count students on campus who are, for example, tardy for first period, or stuck in the counselor’s office, or smoking in the boys’ room.
At issue is funding for the schools. For each student who doesn’t show up for school on a given day, the school loses a small amount of funding. Lots of students and lots of absences add up to lots of money over the course of a school year. The RFID tracking systems enable the school system to prove that students are, in fact, on campus, which enables the district in turn to receive the funds. It also helps the school system streamline its efforts to combat truancy.
Pascual Gonzalez, a communications director for the local school system, said that under-reported attendance has cost the district nearly $1.7 million annually in recent years, according to NBC News. Gonzalez believes the ID tracking system will pay for itself in one year.
Students who have balked at walking the halls (and sitting in class, and going to the bathroom) with the microchip-laden ID cards around their necks or otherwise on their person maintain that teachers are harassing them. Some students also say they have been barred from certain school-related events because they refused to wear the cards, and have even been bounced from common areas like the library and cafeteria.
One student at John Jay, sophomore Andrea Hernandez, says she has been prevented from voting for homecoming king and queen because she won’t wear the ID assigned to her.
“I had my old student ID card, which they originally told us would be good for the entire four years we were in school,” Hernandez reportedly said. “He said I needed the new ID with the chip in order to vote.”
In an interview, Hernandez compared the invasive tracking system to the “mark of the beast” from the Book of Revelation, according to a story in Catholic Online.
After Hernandez refused to wear the ID chip, Deputy Superintendent Ray Galindo reportedly responded in a letter to her parents: “We are simply asking your daughter to wear an ID badge as every other student and adult on the Jay campus is asked to do.”
“I urge you to accept this solution so that your child’s instructional program will not be affected,” Galindo’s missive continued. “As we discussed, there will be consequences for refusal to wear an ID card as we begin to move forward with full implementation.”
Heather Fazio, executive director of Texans for Accountable Government, has complained that the local school district has brushed off the concerns parents have over the microchip-embedded IDs.
Fazio reportedly has asserted that she obtained a list containing the names and addresses of every student in the district simply by paying a $30 fee and filing a Freedom of Information Request.
“Using this information along with an RFID reader means a predator could use this information to determine if the student is at home and then track them wherever they go,” claimed Fazio. “These chips are always broadcasting so anyone with a reader can track them anywhere.”
Russia Today reports that the American Civil Liberties Union had previously suggested that it would represent Hernandez in a bid to protect her constitutional rights.
Since then, however, the ACLU has backed off because, according to a local ACLU representative in Texas, the case did not meet the advocacy group’s case criteria.
If the school district deems the pilot program successful, the forced microchip-wearing scheme could be implemented at over 100 schools, affecting almost 100,000 students.
And that could be just the beginning. According to the website Salon, several vendors around the nation — including AIM Truancy Solutions, ID Card Group and DataCard — are pitching RFID “Tag and Track” to schools.