Setback For Student In Fight Against RFID Chips

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Andrea Hernandez is a student at John Jay School, a magnet school in Texas whose students were recently required to begin wearing Smart ID badges with radio-frequency identification (RFID) locator chips in them. She is also a member of an evangelical Christian family who view the badges as an affront to their religion. Which is why, when school officials told Andrea she would have to wear the badges like all the other students or risk transfer, the Hernandez family took the school to court. They sought an injunction against the school system. Unfortunately for the family, however, US District Judge Orlando Garcia has now rejected the request.

One might logically guess that refusals to be tracked with an RFID chip would be based on issues of privacy rather than religion. But the Hernandez family, represented by Virginia-based Rutherford group, cited scripture in their lawsuit the Huffington Post reports, claiming “acceptance of a certain code...from a secular ruling authority” is a form of idolatry. The family stated that they consider wearing an ID badge equivalent to “submission of a false god.” Hernandez’s father likened the badge to the “mark of the beast.”

There are two strange things about this case. First, Hernandez wore a badge before the school decided to put a chip in it. Second, the school offered to remove the chip from her badge, but she would have to continue, as she did before, to wear the badge. The problem is, now that all the other kids are wearing badges with chips in them, the Hernandez family feels as though even wearing a chip-less badge communicates support for the program.

Andrea Hernandez refuses to wear an RFID tracking chip on religious, not privacy, grounds. SOURCE: Red Ice Radio via YouTube

And the drama will continue as the Rutherford group said they plan to appeal the court decision.

RFID chips have been used to track a multitude of items. Library books, department store products, and just about anything that is part of a major supply chain are tracked to streamline the chain and save money. In vitro fertilization clinics have used them to avoid extremely awkward moments were they to mix up which sperm goes with which egg. Animals are routinely tagged too. But the touchy part comes when you want to start tagging people. Actually, some have been tagged for a while. Hospitals will often place RFID chips on patients lest they wander off or a hurried doctor misplaces them.

But school children? That’s something a lot of people are finding hard to swallow.

One might think that safety concerns were at the core of tracking students. But the $261,000 that the Northside school district spent on the locator chips is a well spent financial investment. Funding for Texas schools is based on student attendance. If the bell rings and students are late getting to the classroom but the chip indicates that they’re on campus, they can be marked as present. At $30 per student that the schools receive, the San Antonio school district stands to gain an estimated $1.7 million in state funds.

Probably using similar reasoning, a Houston school district has already begun to adopt them, as well as a school in California – with the ACLU fighting the moves every step of the way. Unlike the Hernandez case, resistance in Houston and California were motivated by a desire to protect the children’s (and the parents?) privacy. We’ll probably see more of these kinds of battles across the country as more school boards will no doubt decide to test drive the RFID chips in their own school districts. But it goes to show you never can tell what kinds of issues will come to light with the emergence of a new technology, or a new use for an old one.

Peter Murray

Peter Murray was born in Boston in 1973. He earned a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore studying gene expression in the neocortex. Following his dissertation work he spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the same university studying brain mechanisms of pain and motor control. He completed a collection of short stories in 2010 and has been writing for Singularity Hub since March 2011.

Discussion — 22 Responses

  • lyrralt January 24, 2013 on 9:09 am

    I’m sure they also refused a social security number, all account numbers for services, or any “take a number” line system in stores.

  • Improbus Liber January 24, 2013 on 10:48 am

    Jeez, why not tag them like a cow with a tag through the ear. Has anyone ever seen a school board that wasn’t loaded with a-holes?

    • Herbys Improbus Liber January 24, 2013 on 11:50 pm

      I’m with you on the assessment of the school board, but this time they seem to have found someone that’s a bigger a-hole than them.

  • vmagna January 24, 2013 on 3:11 pm

    Religion might be the biggest setback to progress for mankind.

    We’ve found better ways to communicate and position ourselves in this world.
    We’re not getting anywhere if the OCDs of this world keep holding us back for their paranormal reservations.

  • Justin Mcd January 25, 2013 on 3:53 am

    I see both the good and the bad with these RFID chips. It would seem to me that the fact of the matter is the school wants to know where each student is when they are on campus to account for a variety of different things. I can’t say I know a lot about these chips, but wouldn’t it seem logical to ensure that the signal to the RFID chips could only reach within the perimeter of the campus? Bringing religion into their argument has no logical meaning to “a false god.” You mean to tell me that they didn’t know they already have a constant tracking device on them at all times that they willingly put information into? That’s right, cell phones. So once again the point that these people were trying to make with religion serves them no good at all. Being a privacy issue though I do see problems arising that could cause potential harm for the growth of this technology. Unfortunately, so many people feel as if “the man is controlling and pulling us all down” that they have to come up with something stupid to have it their way or the highway.

  • Drazil January 27, 2013 on 4:41 pm

    i sometimes wonder what makes people any better then pets
    even when i comes to population control on animals
    yet humans are the ones that are really over populating the world
    if i had to do this..i just don’t want to feel something annoying
    yet it happens to animals all the time..not much thought in how They might feel
    (they never asked for one ever cares of what the animals might think) :/

    • Drazil Drazil January 29, 2013 on 11:14 am

      forgive me if any of this i may have said might sound offensive to anyone
      i never mean what i say at times..and wish to never be a problem to anyone
      (let me just say I’m not the smartest)

      • DigitalGalaxy Drazil February 2, 2013 on 1:06 pm

        You are fine Drazil. People need to realize that both human AND animal lives are valuable. And humans will not overpopulate the planet; humans in developed countries only have 2 children each on average, and the more developed the rest of the world becomes, the less children they will have. The population will even out soon.


  • jachannah January 31, 2013 on 9:16 pm

    It’s crazy how many things RFID chips are in now and the amount of private information that’s on them! For anybody else that’s interested, I found these wallet inserts that keep thieves from stealing our valuable information:

  • DigitalGalaxy February 2, 2013 on 1:02 pm

    If the chips are on an ID badge, and not a implanted in the body, I don’t see the problem. You just take the ID badge off. If you really want to, you can buy a disposable cell phone what can’t be tracked to you, and you can opt out of On-Star or other tracking services. If the chips are being implanted…different story.

    Unless you know exactly where the chip is implanted, and then you could wear a blocking armband or something over your arm where the chip is, thus disabling it. That might be all right.

  • Hotaru Zen February 12, 2013 on 8:49 pm

    ….My God. This is evil. And for the people who are reading this, do not judge me. I have my own beliefs and I have yours, and they put this comment box for a reason. It does say in the bible the mark of the beast is set on the back of our right hand. It is evil, and this control over people sounds a lot like the illuminati. I strongly advise people not to get this chip inserted into them. If you have your own opinion on the fact and isn’t wiling to change your mind, that’s fine. I am just warning you all before you do something you don’t know everything about.

  • Cory Ellingham February 16, 2013 on 9:07 am

    i will not take the RFID micro chip AKA “the mark of the beast” there’s is nothing in the whole wide world that will get me to take it. if u want to have eternal life in heaven. believe and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ that he died on the cross, paid for all of you sins so you can come to heaven. its a free gift totally free. all you have to do is believe, and God will give you eternal life in heaven. you cant earn it by good works, good works does not wash away sin. all of us live a sin nature. all you have to do to get saved is say in a prayer “Lord Jesus Christ i believe you died for all my sins and paid it all in full, i trust in you Lord that ur the only way to heaven in Jesus name Amen”

    • Herbys Cory Ellingham February 16, 2013 on 12:19 pm

      So, your point is that God let himself being killed before I was born knowing that he would not really die, so he could forgive me for “sins” (a word he created to have an arbitrary meaning) that I didn’t commit and that he voluntarily imposed on me and everyone else due to the acts of two people that didn’t exist. And that if I do promise to dedicate a life of submission and adoration to him he will like to have me by his side. That’s some god.
      No thanks, I’ll consider adoring Baal Zebud, Thor or Amon Ra, at least their stories make sense (and the afterlife they offer is at least appealing).

    • DigitalGalaxy Cory Ellingham February 16, 2013 on 8:38 pm

      Please bear in mind that the “Mark of the Beast” being a micro-chip is only one possible interpretation of Revelation. Note that, according to your interpretation, either the number “666” or “636” has to factor in somewhere. The Mark of the Beast is also taken as as direct action of loyalty for the Anti-Christ and against God. So, your action of getting a micro-chip implant has to be, on some level, a show of loyalty for the “New World Leader”, and a show of disloyalty to God.

      Simply getting an ID chip imbedded under your skin is, at least at the present time, not fulfilling any of those qualifications.

      While I appreciate your spiritual warnings, please be aware that others on these forums have different versions of spirituality than you yourself do, and that those versions of spirituality are equally as valid as your own, and present yourself accordingly.

      • Matt Hopkins DigitalGalaxy March 20, 2013 on 3:13 am

        The “Mark of the Beast” is a man’s number. (social security number of the one giving out the chips, possibly?) Add the first 3 numbers then the second 2 then the last 4, you’ll get 666. It’s kind of hard to deny a prophecy as specific as the one in Revelation. I’m not that religious. I’ve always said I had to have proof. To me, something that specific is proof enough. If you don’t agree, that’s fine. This is only my opinion.

    • Kimberlie Koenning Cory Ellingham February 28, 2013 on 11:47 pm

      I don’t know about you Cory but I find it funny that people who don’t believe in God or the Truth of the Bible find it necessary to argue their point. If they truely believe that what they believe is the truth then no problen right, I think they argue because deep down they know we’re right

      • DigitalGalaxy Kimberlie Koenning March 1, 2013 on 12:34 am

        I think (just my own opinion) that people with no spirituality argue about spirituality for two reasons:

        a) because they believe that conservative Christianity is holding back progress. In a sense, they are correct, becuase conservative forms of Christianity developed in an agrarian setting, and are no longer approppriate for a modern era. Teaching things such as young-earth creationism, or that non-abortive forms of birth control are sinful, do in fact hinder progress. Mainline forms of Christianity (along with some more progressive Chrisitan elements, such as Unitarian Universalists) have sucessfully adapted to the modern era and do not hinder progress in any meaningful fashion.

        b) They are trying to justify thier own lack of spirituality by pretending that it is “irrational” to be spiritual. Identifying all forms of spirituality as archaic and contrary to science and progress is a straw man argument, that people find it easy to win without really considering that modern forms of spirituality do in fact exist, and those forms are quite comfortale with science and human progress. Replacing young earth creationism with theistic evolution/intelligent design is not exactly a huge leap of intellect or faith, and it solves quite a few problems arising from old , ancient interpretations.

  • Ross Marshall February 27, 2013 on 6:09 am

    WHY protest against something that does not exist: Here are the facts on this silly story: Anyone who studies prophecy knows that the anti christ will come from the Eurpoean are and so will the mark because it comes from him. Hatred of a politician does not warrant this kind of story.

  • Cameron Borden February 27, 2013 on 12:23 pm

    Good thing i live in Canada.

    • Jhon Parent Cameron Borden March 16, 2013 on 10:52 am

      let’s get chipped up people! It is a good thing for the advancement of mankind. Those of you who are afraid of this will simply be eliminated for sure. So don’t be afraid and open for the new enlightenment. Remember that the world is flat.

      • DigitalGalaxy Jhon Parent March 16, 2013 on 6:22 pm

        Sarcasm, although amusing, can be less effective than a well-reasoned argument.

        Why is it a bad thing for the advancement of mankind?

        I agree with you that it is bad, but spelling it out along with your joke will help more than making jokes by itself. 🙂