A ruling is expected in days from a federal court in the case of a student in Texas facing possible expulsion over her decision to contest a mandatory “spychip” implemented by her school district, a system she and her family call “the mark of the Beast” spoken of in the Bible.
The Rutherford Institute today requested an injunction before U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio to prevent the disciplinary action planned by the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio.
The district’s program, called the “Student Locator Project,” is to boost public funding for the district by increasing student attendance rates.
The plan has some 4,200 students at John Jay High School and Jones Middle School wearing mandatory “SmartID” card badges embedded with an RFID tracking chip which allow school officials to track students at all times on campus.
Rutherford today said the request for a preliminary injunction was taken under advisement, and a ruling is expected within days.
A lower court’s temporary restraining order has been maintained against the district, and officials say it remains in effect until the judge issues his decision.
Andrea Hernandez, a 15-year-old sophomore in a science and engineering magnet school housed in John Jay High School, has refused to wear a school-mandated RFID tracking badge based on religious objections.
Both Andrea and her father, Steven Hernandez, testified they believed the electronic system was a sign of the Antichrist described in the New Testament book of Revelation.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, when asked by reporters who the Antichrist was, Steven Hernandez replied, “In this case, Northside is the Antichrist.”
In an interview with NPR, Steven Hernandez said his daughter has been adamant about not wearing the student tracking badges.
“And she says, ‘Daddy, I’m not going to do this.’ And I said, ‘Why aren’t you going to do this, honey?’ She says, ‘Dad, that’s exactly what it talks about in the book of Revelation that you were teaching us about taking the mark of the Beast. This is the exact same thing,’ ” he said.
Revelation 13:17 describes a time when “no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.”
Rutherford attorneys have alleged that the school’s attempts to penalize, discriminate and retaliate against Andrea violate her rights under Texas’ Religious Freedom Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
“While we all want to ensure that our schools are safe, especially in the wake of this terrible shooting in Connecticut, these RFID tracking badges will do little to ensure student safety and, in fact, could potentially be manipulated in such a way as to make students even more vulnerable to attack by predators,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute.
“No matter how many ways school officials attempt to justify this program, the key here, as NISD officials have themselves acknowledged, is the fact that this program is about one thing only – making money for the schools at the expense of students’ constitutional rights and potentially their safety.”
School officials contend that a continuous monitoring and tracking of students will reduce absences, and they will be able to collect an additional $1.7 million in funding from the state by the time the monitoring program is installed in the district’s 112 schools.
But Rutherford said Hernandez has been penalized, discriminated against and retaliated against by school officials for objecting to being forced to participate in the RFID program.
“For Hernandez, a Christian, the badges pose a significant religious freedom concern in addition to the obvious privacy issues. Andrea’s religious objection derives from biblical teachings that equate accepting a personalized code – as a sign of submission to government authority and as a means of obtaining certain privileges from a secular ruling authority – with a form of idolatry or submission to a false god,” Rutherford reported.
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.”