From the ‘Duh Files’: Tracking Students – And Doing A Bad Job At It


Recently, an article in Wired magazine reported on an event in which a student attending a high school refused to wear an RFID tracker on the basis of their religious belief, with this challenge being overturned. Thus, the student is still forced to wear an RFID tracker: (

The reason for the RFID tracker, as the school explained, was simple:

Northside Independent School District in San Antonio (Texas) began issuing the RFID-chip-laden student-body cards when the semester began in the fall. The ID badge has a bar code associated with a student’s Social Security number, and the RFID chip monitors pupils’ movements on campus, from when they arrive until when they leave.

As the arguments went:

Sophomore Andrea Hernandez was notified in November by the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio that she won’t be able to continue attending John Jay High School unless she wears the badge around her neck. The district said the girl, who objects largely on religious grounds, would have to attend another high school that does not employ the RFID tags. She sued, a judge tentatively halted the suspension, but changed course Tuesday after concluding that the 15-year-old’s right of religion was not breached. That’s because the district eventually agreed to accommodate the girl and allow her to remove the RFID chip while still demanding that she wear the identification like the other students. The Hernandez family claims the badge and its chip signifies Satan, or the “Mark of the Beast” warning in Revelations 13:16-18. The girl refused the district’s offer, sued, and was represented by the Rutherford Institute. “The accommodation offered by the district is not only reasonable it removes plaintiff’s religious objection from legal scrutiny all together,” (.pdf) U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia wrote.

So why tag the students in the first place? As explained, the motive behind the RFID tagging appears largely financial:

Like most state-financed schools, the district’s budget is tied to average daily attendance. If a student is not in his seat during morning roll call, the district doesn’t receive daily funding for that pupil because the school has no way of knowing for sure if the student is there. But with the RFID tracking, students not at their desks but tracked on campus are counted as being in school that day, and the district receives its daily allotment for that student.

Okay; so that’s a reasonable explanation: the school needs to know if the student is attending school so that the school can retain its allotment of funding to continue operating. That makes sense, except for one point:

Why not just simply take attendance?

Back in the ancient days before RFID, there was a procedure – now evidently forgotten – in which the school bell would ring, the students would gather in their assigned classroom(s) and the teacher(s) would call out the students names – directly seeing who was attending – and then noting it down on a type of record known as the “attendance sheet”. These “attendance sheets” were then forwarded to the Main Office were they were filed and noted for the appropriate action.

This situation begs several questions:

1) How did schools managed to operate without the introduction of RFID tags?

2) If schools are so concerned about students whereabouts, are they more concerned that students are running away from school at the very first chance they get – and if so, why is that? When my fellow students and I attended school, we generally remained in school: to us, school wasn’t necessarily a prison. If there is a serious problem of students avoiding / leaving school, then it behooves one to wonder just what is going on at the school to make students want to leave.

3) Using Students SSI number for RFID tagging is not what the Social Security intended it’s assigned numerical system for (let along the potential for identity theft is rather rife in this situation!): if anyone is interested, this point alone would be enough to win at a court of appeals.

4) Why are people so incompetent as to forget how to take attendance manually?

5) Why are we allowing people this ignorant to teach to our children, much less mange educational institutions?

Kind of ironic when you think about how some folk who are strongly intent upon personal freedoms are among those who are the first to remove such freedoms.

It also points to how we’re teaching our children to expect this kind of control and oversight: witness how we’re seeing the creep of “Big Brother” more and more at an earlier, impressionable age,…


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