Monday, November 26, 2012

ID Cards With RFID Chip For Students ?

I'm starting to think a lot of school officials and school boards need to be reminded just what the purpose of our schools is. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I thought the purpose of a school was to educate young people, and teach them how to think rationally. But others seem to have a different idea. They think the job of a school is to track students, deny them any privacy, and make them conform. Look at what this Texas school is doing.

The Northside Independent School District in San Antonio has decided that all students must carry a "smart" ID card -- a card that includes an RFID chip (like the one pictured above) which will allow the school to track all movements of all students. The school says this helps them keep track of who is attending school daily, thus making sure the get the proper amount of state funding (which is predicated on daily attendance).

Personally, I think that is a bogus reason. Schools have always taken attendance at the beginning of each class. This method takes very little time and produces a very accurate picture of daily attendance. No fancy (and expensive) electronic system is needed to keep track of attendance. I suspect the school has some more nefarious purpose in mind -- such as violating what little privacy is left for students.

One young lady refused to wear the new ID (saying it violated her religious rights), and the school has refused to let her attend classes until she agrees to wear it. This has resulted in a court case. The Rutherford Institute has filed suit on the young woman's behalf claiming the ID cards are a violation of the First Amendment rights of religious freedom and free speech. A judge has issued a temporary restraining order, which allows the young woman to attend class -- at least until the case can be heard.

John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, 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. 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."

I don't know about the religious freedom argument, but I definitely think this is an invasion of what little privacy is left in this electronic society. We have already gone too far down this road (remember the Patriot Act?) and we need to stop this kind of nonsense before no one has any privacy left at all.

And there is one more reason why this makes no sense, especially here in Texas. In the last legislative session, the state cut school funds by about $5 billion (even though Texas already had one of the lowest per pupil funding rates in the nation), causing the layoff of thousands of teachers. It simply makes no sense that the school district spend precious school money on this ridiculous electronic tracking system that is not needed, when that money could have been spent on teachers or classroom supplies -- both of which are badly needed.


  1. Anyone remember or read the dystopian themed book by George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), anyone, anyone...

  2. This is a complete and total invasion of privacy. Period. In a sense, it's a variation on the call for voter picture ID, the introduction of an onerous solution to a non-existent problem.

    Are we really that stupid and passive not to be able to see the long-term implications of such a policy? Is it too paranoid to think that this would be a first step towards implementing a similar control mechanism over the entire population?

    We go on and on about how free we are as a nation yet we apparently undervalue our freedoms, including that of privacy so much that we have given them up easily and willingly for the illusion of "increased security" provided by the so-called Patriot Act. (Personally, I think the law is grossly misnamed and it would more appropriately and accurately be described by the initials of the law's official name: the USAP, or "you sap", Act.)

  3. Well I think the bigger problem is funding based on daily attendance. That is simply absurd. Whether or not one student was in attendance on one day should have absolutely no effect on funding. Talk about stepping over a dollar to pick up a penny!

  4. Okay, here's the big problem: Schools are too big. Teachers don't know who the students are so they have trouble keeping non-students off campus (students who have been expelled or who simply aren't students but are drug dealers or etc.), and non-RFID student ID's are too easy to fake. Schools are in loco parentis while students are at the school and thus have a responsibility under law to know where each student is at any given time, if a student gets hurt or lost (in the case of special ed students, not all of whom are obviously special ed students in today's world of mainstreaming) then the school will be sued. If schools were smaller so that teachers could know all the students, there would be no need for these RFID cards. But funding cuts every year have made it impossible to keep small schools open, so instead we get these big factory schools that are cheaper to operate on a per-student basis but require things like RFID cards to keep them safe.

    If you want the real culprit, look at Texas taxpayers who are unwilling to pay for small schools for their children, not at the schools, which are merely attempting to comply with the law that requires them to keep track of their students despite students being crammed into mega-schools where that's simply impossible in the way that was done traditionally (i.e., by teachers knowing all the students in the school). I don't view RFID as any different from small schools where teachers know all the students. Both are just techniques for making sure that kids don't wander off or that strangers don't wander in. Technology is just substituting for teachers' memories here, it isn't doing anything that hasn't been done in schools since the days of the Pilgrims.

  5. Badtux-
    You and I will just have to disagree on this one. I've attended both a small school (graduated 10) and a medium sized school (graduated 150), and both my children went to a large school (graduated 650) -- and I still don't see the need for this kind of invasive technology.


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