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Texas test case: Do school IDs with locator chips violate religious freedom?

A Texas student has has sued her school district, which tried to transfer her when she refused to participate in program that introduced ID badges with locator chips.

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If a school requires its students to wear IDs embedded with locator chips at all times, is that an infringement on their privacy? Or even, for some students, on their religious values?

Andrea Hernandez, a high school student in San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District, has sued the district over ID badges equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, which she and fellow students were required to wear this year as part of a pilot project. As an Evangelical Christian who believes that any sort of tracking technology is a “mark of the beast,” she believes it violates her religious freedoms.

The result has been an unusual alliance of Evangelical Christians and civil-liberties groups who claim that the technology is an overextension of technology into personal lives. It also points to rising concerns as locator technologies like RFID become more widespread.

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The technology is not new, though its use in schools has been somewhat limited. The Northside district began requiring some 4,000 students at two schools to wear the RFID-embedded IDs.

A prime motivator is financial. Texas, which last year cut school funding by nearly $5 billion, pays school districts based on how many students attend on any given day.

Often, students are marked absent because they’re not in their seats when roll is called, even though they might just be in the nurse’s office, says Pascual Gonzalez, communications director for the district.

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