Texas Schools Tracking Student Location with RFID

    September 14, 2012
    Josh Wolford

In “whoa buddy, I’m not so sure about that” news, one Texas school district is in the process of implementing a new way to ensure student safety and make sure that kids are where they need to be while on campus. At least, that’s what they say. Others may call it a giant mandatory student tracking program.

San Antonio school district Northside ISD is implementing new technology called “Smart” Student ID Cards. What’s so smart about them? Well, they contain RFID chips. And those RFID chips can transmit location information to the school administrators, meaning that they will know the exact whereabouts of every student, all the time.

I’m sure you’re sensing an impending controversy. One student and her father have been protesting the new program. ““It makes me uncomfortable. It’s an invasion of my privacy,” said Andrea Hernandez.

“With a smart phone you can use the option to use your locator, but this I can’t turn it off.”

She’s right. The RFID chip will be planted inside the student ID card, which students will be required to wear around their necks with a lanyard. The rules stipulate that students must wear the ID at all times while at school, and they are forced to pay a $15 fee for a replacement ID, if for any reason they “misplace” it.

In a letter from administrators at one of the participating schools, parents were told that they “expect school staff to always know where [thier] children are during the day,” and this new Smart ID helps with that.

“We want to assure you that the “smart” ID cards store no personal information, and the “smart” ID card does not work outside of the school,” said the letter.

“To ensure 100 percent implementation of the new student locator system, we are asking that you talk to your children and impress upon them the importance of this project. Please encourage your students to wear their “smart” IDs all day, every day at school, and discourage students from leaving, forgetting or exchanging tags.”

Are parents cooperating with the initiative? By and large, absolutely according to Northside ISD spokesperson Pascual Gonzalez. He told Fox News that most parents have been “supportive” of the program. Speaking of Mr. Hernandez:

“He is the lone protester. For us, this technology represents an efficient way to locate a student and to always know where our students are in our care.”

The two schools participating in the program, Jay High School and Jones Middle School, have a combined enrollment of around 4,200 students. It’s a little hard to believe that there would be only one protesting student/parent within that group.

“We have seen attemtps to use RFID’s in schools before and have opposed such efforts, not only because we don’t want to see this kind of intrusive surveillance infrastructure gain inroads into our culture, and because we should not be teaching our children to accept such an intrusive surveillance technology, but also because RFIDs are a generally insecure technology not appropriate for use with children,” says Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union.

“[T]his story in Texas is a reminder that despite the technology’s lack of security, chipping identity documents and using RFID’s to track people remains an attractive idea to those in authority. And of course, many technologies of control are imposed on prisoners, immigrants and children before anyone else.”

What do you think? Smart plan to keep kids safe and in class? Or terribly invasion of privacy?