A Texas high school banned a second-year student from classes after she refused to wear an ID badge containing an RFID chip. The school district uses the tags in order to game the attendance system for better funding.
Students at some schools in the Northside Independent School District, a public school district serving the San Antonio area, have been required to carry student IDs containing RFID chips since the schoolyear began last fall. John Jay High, where Angela Hernandez was enrolled, is one of the schools included in the initiative.
RFID, which stands for radio frequency identification, involves the use of radio and electromagnetic fields to disseminate information for the purposes of tracking and identification.
RFID is commonly used to keep track of livestock. At schools in the Northside Independent district, the chips monitor students' movements on campus for attendance records, which are tightly linked to the amount of funding public schools receive each year.
After she refused to wear the tracking device, the district told 15-year-old Hernandez in November that she would have to find another school to attend that didn't use the tags unless she chose to comply with John Jay's rules.
Hernandez, a strict Christian, sued the district as a result, claiming that the device is the "Mark of the Beast" mentioned in the Revelation of John, an important part of the Bible held to describe the apocalypse.
“It’s obvious that John Jay High School has no interest in putting their students first, which is a sad reflection on our educational system,” said John Whitehead, president of the group that defended Hernandez in court, as quoted by Wired.
A Texas federal judge and a federal appeals court both ruled that the school's decision had not violated Hernandez's freedom of religion. That ruling was because the school eventually moved to allow Hernandez to go to class without the tracking device, while still insisting that she wear it. In any case, the district told Hernandez and her family that she would no longer be able to attend John Jay after January 22, when the next semester begins.
As is the case with most public schools in the US, each district's funding is determined largely as a result of its daily attendance records. Traditionally, teachers take roll calls at the beginning of classes. If the student happens to be late, the school could lose funding because there is no record of his being there.
With the RFID tracking system, school administrators can count a student as being in attendance as long as he or she is somewhere on the school's campus that day. By this method, the district gets its portion of funding linked to that student.