Girl must comply with tracking program or leave altogether
Jan 10, 2013
A San Antonio student who was expelled for refusing to wear an RFID tracking chip around her neck has been told by a court that her school has the right to enforce the technology on students and that she must wear it if they insist upon it.
The confrontation has been ongoing between student Andrea Hernandez and the John Jay High School in San Antonio since the beginning of the school year last August.
When the school began issuing the RFID cards, which it says are designed to track the movements of students on and off campus and prevent truancy, Hernandez refused to go along with the program, saying it was an invasion of privacy and an infringement on her religious beliefs.
The ID card includes the photo and name of each student, a barcode tied to the student’s social security number, as well as an RFID chip which pinpoints the exact location of the individual student, including after hours and when the student leaves campus.
The Northside Independent School District hopes to expand the program to all of its 112 schools, in the belief that it will secure up to $1.7 million in funding from the state government.
In November, the school issued a letter saying that Hernandez was being involuntarily withdrawn and would have to attend a different school in the district if she continued to refuse to comply with the tracking measures.
Hernandez and her family were outraged and began a course of legal action, which culminated this week with District Judge Orlando Garcia ruling that as long as school officials remove the RFID-chip, they are within their rights to force students to wear the ID badge or be expelled.
“The accommodation offered by the district is not only reasonable it removes plaintiff’s religious objection from legal scrutiny all together,” Garcia wrote .
The school had offered to remove the battery and chip from the ID badge only after several protests and publicity drumming appearances by the Hernandez family on the Alex Jones show and Infowars Nightly News.
However, district officials still refused to budge on mandating the ID on students, and even demanded that in accepting their “climb down” offer, the Hernandez family should agree to end all criticism of the ID program, comply with, and even promote the policy.
“There will be consequences for refusal to wear an ID card as we begin to move forward with full implementation,” Deputy Superintendent Ray Galindo wrote to the family in October .
Steve Hernandez, the father of Andrea told Infowars on their last appearance prior to the court ruling “[A]s part of the accommodation my daughter and I would have to agree to stop criticizing the program and publicly support … it. I told [the Deputy Superintendent] that was unacceptable because it would imply an endorsement of the district’s policy and my daughter and I should not have to give up our constitutional rights to speak out against a program that we feel is wrong.”
In response to the court’s ruling this week, Civil liberties lawyers at the Rutherford Institute, who led Hernandez’s case stated:
“By declaring Andrea Hernandez’s objections to be a secular choice and not grounded in her religious beliefs, the district court is placing itself as an arbiter of what is and is not religious. This is simply not permissible under our constitutional scheme, and we plan to appeal this immediately.”
The judge also ruled that Hernandez has until the end of the semester on January 18, to decide whether she will comply and wear the ID badge, or transfer to another school.
The district lauded the decision.
“Today’s court ruling affirms NISD’s position that we did make reasonable accommodation to the student by offering to remove the RFID chip from the student’s smart ID badge,” a statement read.
The Rutherford Institute considers the school ID program a violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech AND freedom of religion. Lawyers also consider it to be an unreasonable and unwarranted violation of privacy, protected under the Fourth Amendment, and a violation of rights protected under the Fourteenth Amendment, which pertains to state and local governments.
“What we’re teaching kids is that they live in a total surveillance state and if they do not comply, they will be punished,” John Whitehead, constitutional attorney and Rutherford founder said earlier in a telephone interview with Infowars. “There has to be a point at which schools have to show valid reasons why they’re doing this.”
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com , and Prisonplanet.com . He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.