EDITORIAL: Spying on school kids

Federal judge backs Big Brother tracking program for students

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School districts in Texas are using tracking chips to spy on students. That’s just fine with a federal judge who ruled Tuesday against Andrea Hernandez, a 15-year-old high school sophomore in San Antonio. With the help of the Rutherford Institute, Miss Hernandez and her father filed a lawsuit arguing the creepy “student locator project” violated her constitutional rights.

Like a growing number of institutions around the country, Northside Independent School District forces students to wear photo identification cards around their necks at all times. Cameras also watch the every move of pupils as they roam the halls and use the playgrounds. The high school Miss Hernandez attends took the logical next step by requiring students to carry “Smart IDs” with radio frequency identification chips (RFID) that enable administrators to pinpoint each child’s whereabouts in real time.

According to court documents, school officials implemented the program “to further increase the safety of its students and hopefully increase State funding.” This revealing answer points to the truer motivation, which is that state and federal officials love to blow taxpayer cash on gimmicks pushed by lobbyists regardless of whether they enhance learning. In this case, the school district hoped to pocket $1.7 million in state funding by embracing Big Brother.

It’s highly questionable whether such systems enhance safety. The school district argued tracking chips enable school staff to pinpoint the location of kids in the event of a fire or emergency evacuation. This presumes the disaster in question didn’t cut power to the campus surveillance network and that students didn’t drop their ID cards in the rush out the doorway.

The objections of Steve Hernandez, Andrea’s father, are more fundamental. He believes the spy chips trample “religious freedom and civil liberties and privacy.” He refused to let his daughter wear any badge at all, even with the tracking chip removed, saying that would “put a smiley face” on a program his family wholly opposed. For the crime of wanting to be free of overbearing government surveillance, Miss Hernandez will be booted from the magnet school she attends.

In explaining how this is a just outcome, Judge Orlando L. Garcia wrote, “In today’s climate, one would be hard pressed to argue that the safety and security of the children and educators in our public school system is not a compelling governmental interest.” Having school administrators monitor students at all hours won’t make them any safer. In fact, it was a school board member who took the lives of 38 elementary students in Bath Township, Mich. in a horrific mass murder 86 years ago.

Children shouldn’t have to grow up in an atmosphere of governmental omnipresence. Instead, parents should demand the end to these electronic safety placebos.

The Washington Times

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