Print Edition: November 28, 2012
What’s up Northside Independent School District of San Antonio, Texas? I thought you were cool.
Well, not really. I had never actually heard about this particular school district with the acronym NISD until I wound up reading about it in an online article.
Essentially NISD is implementing a very “big brother” like monitoring system of students. They’re using radio frequency identification (RFID) through a test program called the Student Locator Project at two of its schools. But there’s a good chance this article would never have been written if it were not for a particular student, Andrea Hernandez, at one of those schools, John Jay High School.
For those unsure, RFID is a tracking system that emits a radio frequency from whatever it’s embedded in and can be followed to a very accurate degree.
At the beginning of the school year, students were informed that the student ID’s they had been using in previous years were being ended in favour of the RFIDs.
But it’s crazy if the NISD feels that what they’re doing is in the best interest of the students.
However, if they do think they’re doing the right thing, it’s worth looking at their reasoning – posted on the program’s website. Written as three goals of the program, the first is “Increase student safety and security.” The second is “Increase attendance”, and the third is to “Provide multi-purpose ‘Smart’ Student ID card.”
Are those reasons good enough? Hernandez doesn’t think so. In fact, she felt that they invaded her religious and privacy rights so much that she took a stand and decided not to go along and wear the ID around her neck.
That certainly didn’t sit well with her school and the NISD. At first her school tried the tactic of being petty. They wouldn’t allow her to take part in activities or vote for homecoming king or queen. But then it got quite a bit worse. They moved to have her expelled.
And however disgusting that is was only exacerbated when the principal offered her father a special deal. Hernandez would be able to stay in school and not be tracked with RFID if she were to wear the ID around her neck, only with the RFID removed, for other students to see.
Unfortunately, this completely misses the point of her stand against the system and shows the arrogance with which the NISD is forcibly placing students into compliance with.
So anyway, that deal was declined. But Hernandez found somebody in her corner, The Rutherford Institute which has come to her aid. They filed for an injunction and from this a judge has recently granted a temporary restraining order that is preventing her expulsion. But the case now has a long ways to work itself out.
Let’s look at the reality of the Student Locator Project by properly addressing the first two of the aforementioned goals.
The use of RFIDs will not adequately address safety and security concerns. First, and this is speculative but I’m sure would become reality, it would create a false sense of security. These tags don’t guarantee anything. This is information that passes continually through a computer system, and that opens a whole can of worms. Who monitors the system? Who can wrongfully gain access to it through legit and non-legit manners? It’s ridiculous to expect that they’re secure. RFID credit cards are getting unknowingly scanned and information stolen all the time.
The other goal is to increase attendance. Directly from the website, “Through more efficient attendance management, schools can generate additional revenues by identifying students who are not in their seats during roll call but who are in the school and locate them. (Increased attendance = increased state revenues.)”
They expect to gain upwards of $2 million from additional state funding. But really, if a student doesn’t want to be in school I’m sure they’ll find a way around the system. Perhaps giving your ID card to a friend while you take off for the day might work. So, the number which funding is based on will have inaccuracies.
Ultimately, this boils down to the financial incentive that the school board clearly sees in the program. Safety is just a way to sell it to the public. And that’s far from a good enough reason when consideration is given to what’s lost.
Harping on this continually becomes frustrating, but privacy rights should have no monetary value or be traded for a false sense of security. It’s a scary thought, but putting this on kids will go a long way to indoctrinating them into a mindset that a big brother mentality is acceptable. This might be what’s occurring down in Texas but it’s not too far from Canada.