At the end of August, a Digital Journal
article reported on this trial use of the ID cards with a microchip embedded that would track students. The idea has been floated and tried as long ago as 2005 in Sutter
, California. After some parents complained, the trial was dropped.
However, the plan in Texas is to continue the trial in two schools for a year. The divsion will then decide if it wishes to introduce the ID cards in all division schools.
The students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School both in San Antonia, Texas have been required to wear the ID cards at all times, while they are within the school, since October 1. The chips will keep track of every student's location. Educators claim that the two schools have very high truancy rates. If the devices help reduce the rate, funding for the schools will increase.
To enforce the requirement to wear the ID cards, the school is meting out various punishments for those who refuse to wear them. Some students claim that instructors berate them if they do not have the cards. Others say, they are being banned form some school functions. Others still, say they are being turned away from the library or cafeterias if they lack the ID cards.
Andrea Hernandez, of John Jay High School, says that the school has ignored pleas to respect her privacy. She was told that she could not vote in school elections for homecoming king and queen if she does not participate in the tracking program. Hernandez
told the news site WND:
"I had a teacher tell me I would not be allowed to vote because I did not have the proper voter ID, I had my old student ID card which they originally told us would be good for the entire four years we were in school. He said I needed the new ID with the chip in order to vote."
When Hernandez refused to wear the ID card with the RFIC chip, Deputy Superintendent Ray Galindo wrote to Hernandez' parents:
“We are simply asking your daughter to wear an ID badge as every other student and adult on the Jay campus is asked to do,”
Galindo said that if she were allowed not to wear the tracking now it would nevertheless merely be a matter of time before the school signs off on making location-monitoring mandatory, and then there would be more severe repurcussions than not being able to vote in an election. From this response, it would seem that exactly in what sense the ID is required now is not clear.
Hernandez' father said that the school has been somewhat willing to accede to his daughter's demands, but the school insists that the family would have to publically support the program and stop criticizing it. This seems a form of bribery rather than acceding to demands. Hernandez
rejected Galindo's suggestion:“I told him 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."
The school district thinks that by improving attendance through tracking, the division could collect up to $2 million more in state funding. The program will cost about one quarter of that initially and only $136,000 a year to run. While some parents object to the program, others support it as a way of knowing where students are and ensuring that they go to class.
Personally, the whole practice reminds me of prisoners being tracked
and reinforces the idea of the school as a type of jail, except that students can leave the jail after they have served their time each day. Of course, this jail is a sort of reformatory where the authorities are bound and determined that students will attend because it will make them free, educated, citizens and at the same time garner more funding for the school system.