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article imageU.S. students, parents protest against tracking chips in ID cards

By Leigh Goessl     Aug 31, 2012 in Technology
San Antonio - Parents and students in a Texas city are protesting an initiative concerning the school's ID badges. Two schools are currently in a pilot program that involves new student IDs that contain tracking chips.
The San Antonio-based school district, Northside ISD, has created new identification badges for students that integrate Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.
Announced by the district on Aug. 10, the school outlined its plan:
"Northside ISD harnessing the power of radio frequency identification technology (RFID) to make schools safer, know where our students are while at school, increase revenues, and provide a general purpose “smart” ID card," Northside ISD officials wrote.
Why Northside ISD wants RFID
The school's reasoning to implement RFID tracking technologies are outlined as goals to increase safety and attendance. School administrators also noted that "smart" ID cards using RFID can help streamline processes, such as library, cafeteria and other potential activities.
The administrators explain using tracking technologies will help increase safety through the ability to continuously monitor students. Another perceived benefit for the district is that it says it will be able to reduce overhead including data entry input, instead relying on bar codes, optical character readers and also biometrics to track attendance.
Two Northside ISD schools in pilot program for new ID cards
The district is currently undergoing a one-year pilot testing at the John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School; these are only two of 112 schools in the district. Approximately 4,200 students will be affected in the pilot program.
Purportedly, the schools have a high rate of tardiness and truancy, reported KSN News.
The controversy and protest
Some parents and students are upset about the use of RFID-based identification badges for the students, and as a result, organized a protest. KSAT reported a small gathering, about 10 people, stood outside Anson Jones Middle School earlier this week to protest the new "smart" ID badges.
Parents feel their if their kids are traced via microchips, this is like being "tracked like animals" and that this is an invasion of privacy.
Other parents are more accepting and say they want to feel more secure in their children's whereabouts.
"All I know is I came to drop my child off, and they're protesting against the chip. I think that it will benefit (the students). I think that I want to know where my son is," said Mary Villarreal, parent of an 11-year-old student in the district.
Steven Hernandez, a father of a student who attends the Texas school, objected to the idea, and considers the new ID badges to be "a spy chip", reported KSN.
“It makes me uncomfortable. It’s an invasion of my privacy,” said his daughter, sophomore Andrea Hernandez. She told the media she plans to carry her old ID and says others are likely to toss theirs in a locker. The teen noted the school already has surveillance cameras and police officers on duty to deal with truancy and related issues.
Interestingly, Hernandez was the only local parent who protested, the rest traveled from surrounding cities, such as Austin and Dallas, citing their schools would be next.
"We do not want our children to be conditioned that tracking is normal or even acceptable or mandatory," Judy Messer, a parent from Austin who came to the school to protest, said.
Some have expressed concern about schools tracking kids beyond school hours, but the school emphasized in its announcement the ID cards only work within school grounds.
At the end of the year the district will evaluate and make a decision whether or not to expand the tracking ID card program throughout the district.
San Antonio is latest community to face this issue
This issue in Texas is the latest in a string of debates regarding tracking ID student ID cards. The idea has cropped up numerous times in the U.S. over the past decade in various regions across the nation.
For instance, In 2010, New Canaan Schools in Connecticut presented an optional RFID card-based system. Going back even further, in 2005, a California school quietly issued RFID ID cards to its students, and never said a word until parents complained.
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