RFID in Texas Schools: Was Andrea Hernandez Expelled for Refusing to Wear a Tracking Chip?
But those demonizing the district have ignored one key fact that could keep the case from being the big test of religious freedom, student privacy, and government surveillance that some media reports are making it out to be. The school isn’t actually expelling—or suspending, as some outlets have it—Hernandez for refusing to wear the electronic tracking chip. District officials have repeatedly offered to let Hernandez come to school wearing an identification card from which the RFID chip and battery have been removed.
“We have to respect their religious beliefs,” district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez told me in a phone interview. “So we said, ‘All right, if this is objectionable to you because it violates your religious beliefs, then we will not put the RFID technology in the card. But you still have to wear the ID card like every other student at school.’ Daddy said no, and the student said no.” Gonzalez denied a report that the compromise came on the condition that Hernandez agree to stop criticizing the program and publicly support it. “That’s just untrue,” he said.
The really interesting question, which I discussed in a previous post, is whether the school’s RFID tracking program violates students’ privacy. But that might be a tough case to make in court, given that we’re talking about minors on school grounds. And the school’s compromise offer also takes the steam out of claims that it has punished or harassed Hernandez because of her refusal to be tracked. The school’s students use the ID chips to check in at the front door, buy lunch, and vote for the Homecoming king and queen, but Gonzalez said Hernandez could do all the same things with the chip removed. “We were very explicit with her and her family that all of the access and services that she would have gotten with RFID would still be available via this non-RFID card,” Gonzalez told me.