Opt Out of Invasive Programs: RFID in Texas Schools

By Matt Simpson
ACLU of Texas Policy Strategist

Rep. Kolkhorst of District 13 (Brenham) filed two bills that, if passed, would bolster protections for individual privacy rights of students in Texas schools.  HB 101 mandates that Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) student attendance tracking programs be voluntary and only implemented if approved by the school district board of trustees.  The approval process would include an opportunity for students, parents and the public to offer comments.  HB 102 cuts to the heart of the matter and bars school districts from requiring students to participate in an RFID badge program.

The ACLU of Texas opposes use of RFID technology to track studemts because the technology is not secure. This technology, originally used to track livestock, simply isn’t appropriate for use with children.

RFID is a generic term that is used to describe a system that transmits the identity (in the form of a unique serial number) of an object or person wirelessly, using radio waves. In schools, students wear RFID equipped ID cards that show their whereabouts at all times. On campus, RFID raises privacy concerns about the ability of school personnel to track students, even in restrooms. Off campus, RFID exposes students to stalking because the devices are easily hacked using simple, inexpensive devices called “readers” that cost as little as $8 on Ebay.

RFID technology to take attendance in schools made statewide news in October 2012 when John Jay High School north of San Antonio began tracking student attendance via RFID-equipped school ID cards.  Prior to this, only a very small number of schools in the Houston area used this technology but the use of RFID to track students has raised serious concerns for some time.

The ACLU has monitored the expanded use of RFID technology with students.  We have opposed such efforts because we don’t want to see this kind of intrusive surveillance infrastructure gain inroads into our culture, and because it is against American values of privacy and freedom to teach children to accept intrusive surveillance technology.

Rep. Kolkhorst’s proposals leave flexibility with local schools but the decision about tracking individuals rightly remains with students and their parents.  This is a balance that should transcend politics and remind us that parental authority is only temporarily (and never fully) handed over to schools.  Parents and students who share our concerns about the kind of intrusive, surveillance climate student tracking programs create should be able to opt out.

In truth, the ACLU of Texas encourages all school districts to avoid RFID controversy by ignoring the claims of savings used as selling points by RFID manufacturers and avoiding the purchase of expensive RFID tracking programs.  RFID was designed to track commercial products and livestock, not humans.  Students don’t need to be treated like parolees under house arrest with an ankle monitor.  Finding creative, locally grown solutions to support education, promote school attendance and education funding is critical.  But, RFID student tracking comes at too high a price.

3 thoughts on “Opt Out of Invasive Programs: RFID in Texas Schools”

  1. April 2009, the Obama Administration rejected all proposals concerning electronic harmful Nonlethal and Bio-lethal Devices of the mind at the Federal Level; however, many states still use these un-Godly intrusive devices on their own people. Texas for example has no laws against their use and Targets Those of Color and Those Living In Poverty from the Governors Command and Control Centers.has made billions in profit from grants for Human Experimentation Bush-era 2002-2010. Recently (November 2012) two people were shot dead by Texas operated Surveillance Helicopters. A bullet is not an electronic device; however, the helicopter along with the surveillance network is the Victor, automated and has been known to target Political Adversaries, Those of Color and Those Living In Poverty from the Governors Command and Control Centers, once called Fusion Centers. http://educationbalancedhealthymeaningfullif.blogspot.com/2012/06/kent-state-electronic-war-on-us.html

  2. The use of RFID, in our public school system, is without any positive merit. The Federal Government is, in essence, “blackmailing” State school systems by telling them it will withdraw Federal funding for their schools if they do not comply. This is also the case for many other “funded” programs that the Federal Gov’t. wants to see implemented. Either comply or your funds will be cut. The use of the RFID implants the idea, at a young age, that the Federal Gov’t. has the absolute right to monitor you, your whereabouts and your activities at all times. Next, on the agenda, will probably be an “implantable” chip and be a mandatory requirement to work, drive a car, do your banking or buy things.(Shades of “The Book of Revelation” in the Bible, WOW!)All this comes from a government that has or is spinning out of control and is paraniod about its’ own survival. This is NOT the United States as envisioned by our Forefathers nor is this the type of Federal Government that was envisioned or set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

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