As a pilot project, schools in the San Antonio, Texas, Northside Independent School District (NISD) at the start of 2012 started to introduce smart ID cards for its students with radio frequency identification chips (RFID) installed on them so that they would be able to keep track of the number of students coming into school every day and invariably be able to know the number of students attending classes, as attendance dictates the amount of money that would be received in funding from state authorities.
The project, which is presently in effect, has drawn criticism from students as well as civil liberties groups. A recent court case may just decide the future of this potentially controversial move.
Andrea Hernandez, a student of the John Jay High School, one of two schools in the NISD piloting the smart ID cards, refused to wear her ID badge on the grounds of a conflict with her religious beliefs. Ms. Hernandez and her family explained that the bar code on the ID badge could be construed as the Mark of the Beast described in Revelation 13 in the Bible.
Following her refusal to wear the badge, the NISD suspended Ms. Hernandez, saying that she could no longer attend the John Jay High School and that she could seek admission into any other school in the district which was not using the smart ID badges.
Following this decision, the civil liberties group, The Rutherford Institute, pushed to get a restraining order against the NISD decision. The restraining order was agreed to by a Texas court, ordering that Ms. Hernandez be able to continue going to the John Jay High School and a hearing be conducted on the NISD radio tag project.
The NISD radio tag project has already seen student protests and The Rutherford Institute has said that Ms. Hernandez’s suspension because of it violates laws on religious freedom and the right to free speech.
In a statement, president of The Rutherford Institute, John Whitehead said, "The court's willingness to grant a temporary restraining order is a good first step, but there is still a long way to go - not just in this case, but dealing with the mindset, in general, that everyone needs to be monitored and controlled," adding, “These 'student locator' programs are ultimately aimed at getting students used to living in a total surveillance state where there will be no privacy, and wherever you go and whatever you text or email will be watched by the government.”