Back in November, I wrote about Northside ISD’s effort to
increase their state revenue cut down on truancy and keep students in the classroom with microchip tracking technology in student identification cards. At the time, this effort was being challenged in court, as one student objected to the microchip on religious grounds. Two days ago, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to issue an injunction on the student’s behalf – so for now, she will have to carry the ID card, or she will be forced to switch from the science magnet school she currently attends back to her home campus.
Now we’ve reached the real inanity at play. This student – Andrea Hernandez – is like every other student, bright and full of promise. She is fortunate to attend a school where she can put her talents to use. But because she objects to the school’s use of microchips to track students, she may shuffled back into the mainstream school where the technology isn’t currently being used. Of course, Northside ISD is only testing the viability and possible success of RFID technology at two campuses – later on, it may expand to every campus in the district. Leaving students like Miss Hernandez to either sit on their objections and comply with something they feel conflicts with their personal beliefs, or….what? Without true school choice, public school is often the only option, so what is the alternative?
There may yet be a way to challenge Northside ISD’s mandate in court, but for now, Texas parents concerned about their children’s privacy and who may have religious objections to such technology will need to rely on the Legislature. Reps. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) and Cindy Burkett (R-Mesquite) have joint-authored a bill (HB 101) to stop radio frequency technology from being used to track students. It’s clear from the case in Northside ISD that such passing such legislation is overdue (Rep. Kolkhorst has led on this issue and has filed legislation on it previously). School districts need to find better ways to improve attendance, without stepping on students’ beliefs to get there.