A court has stepped into a school dispute in San Antonio, Texas, ordering that a district cannot expel a student over her refusal to wear a badge signifying participation in the district’s computer-chip based “Student Locator Project.”
The Rutherford Institute, which is working on the case of student Andrea Hernandez of John Jay High School’s Science and Engineering Academy, said the badges for the program include Radio Frequency Identification chips that send signals enabling school officials to track students’ locations continuously on campus.
“For sophomore Andrea Hernandez, the badges pose a significant religious freedom concern in addition to the obvious privacy issues,” her legal team said.
The attorneys had filed a petition for a temporary restraining order and immediate injunctive and declaratory relief alleging that the school’s actions violate Hernandez’s rights under the Texas Religious Freedom Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
A hearing on the controversy now is set for next week.
“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,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the institute.
“Regimes in the past have always started with the schools, where they develop a compliant citizenry. 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.”
The program was being run by the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio. Although the John Jay High School and Jones Middle School facilities already have 290 surveillance cameras, officials believed there was a need to monitor their 4,200 students more closely.
They imposed the program that has students wearing “Smart ID” badges with the RFID tracking chips.
Hernandez, a Christian, said the program violated her sincere religious beliefs.
Her attorneys previously said the school’s plan essentially put the student in an “electronic concentration camp.”
After her refusal to wear the tracking chip, Hernandez was warned in a letter that there would “be consequences.” Following through on its threats, the district sent Hernandez a letter informing her she would expelled effective Nov. 26.
Hernandez has drawn national attention to the district’s policy. Because of this, Whitehead said, the district is singling her out for punishment. Hernandez is not the only student who has refused to wear the chip. However, she is the only one to face expulsion.
“She has become a thorn in their side and has been singled out,” Whitehead said. “The easiest way to solve the problem of a thorn is to remove it. I have been working on these types of cases for over 40 years, and the government either tries to sweep these problems under the rug or remove the person causing the problem.”