Parents protest radio monitoring of their children
A rebellion is developing in Texas against a plan by a school district in San Antonio that would monitor the exact location and activities of all students at all times through RFID chips they are being ordered to wear.
Katie Deolloz, a member of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, told WND today that parents and students from San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District confronted the school board last night, stating their concerns about privacy and other issues “clearly and passionately.”
School district officials did not respond to a WND request for comment, but the developing furor comes only days after a coalition of civil rights and privacy organizations publicly stated their opposition to “spychipping” the students.
A “position paper” from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Big Brother Watch, Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, Constitutional Alliance, Freedom Force International, Friends of Privacy USA, the Identity Project and Privacy Activism said no students should be subjected to the “chipping” program “unless there is sufficient evidence of its safety and effectiveness.”
“Children should never be used as test subjects for technology, no matter what their socio-economic status. If schools choose to move forward without complete information and are willing to accept the associated liability, they should have provisions in place to adhere to the principles of fair information practices and respect individuals’ rights to opt out based on their conscientious and religious objections,” the statement said.
The paper said RFID tracking is dehumanizing, since it can “monitor how long a student or teacher spends in a bathroom stall.”
The plans also violate free speech and association, since the presence of a tracking device “could dissuade individuals from exercising their rights to freedom of thought, speech and association. For example, students might avoid seeking counsel when they know their RFID tags will document their presence at locations like counselor and School Resource Officer offices.”
It argued that the technology also violates religious freedom and could be subject to unauthorized use.
“While RFID systems may be developed for use in a school, the RFID tags may be read covertly anywhere by anyone with the right reading device. Since RFID reading devices work by silent, invisible radio waves and the reading devices can be hidden, unauthorized or covert uses can be nearly impossible to detect,” the report said.
“A student’s location could be monitored from a distance by a jealous girlfriend or boyfriend, stalker, or pedophile.”
The San Antonio plan was reported by Spychips, a website run by RFID expert Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre.
“San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District plans to incorporate RFID tags into mandatory student ID cards. One school district in Brazil has incorporated the tracking tags into uniforms. In both cases, the goal is to keep students, teachers and staff under constant surveillance,” the report said.
“RFID is used to track factory inventory and monitor farm animals,” said Albrecht, director of CASPIAN and co-author of “Spychips.” “Schools, of all places, should be teaching children how to participate in a free democratic society, not conditioning them to be tracked like cattle. Districts planning to use RFID should brace themselves for a parent backlash, protests, and lawsuits.”
According to the San Antonio newspaper, all students in the district’s John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School would be subject to chipping.
At that point, Supt. Brian Woods said, “We want to harness the power of (the) technology to make schools safer, know where our students are all the time in a school, and increase revenues. … Parents expect that we always know where their children are, and this technology will help us do that.”
WOAI television reported district spokesman Pasqual Gonzalez said the two schools have a high rate of truancy, and the district could gain $2 million in state funding by improving attendance.
However, student Andea Hernandez, with support from her father, has decided to challenge the district’s plan. The station reported she has decided to wear an older photo ID.
“With a smart phone you can use the option to use your locator, but this, I can’t turn it off,” she said.
Protests have been launched in front of the schools, and local stations are reporting the controversy:
Albrecht said in a statement to supporters the issue now is before the school district, and protesters are awaiting the superintendent’s response.
“We don’t give up or give in,” she said.