November 27, 2012

Lawsuit targets 'locator' chips in Texas student IDs

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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In this Oct. 1, 2012 photo, Kayla Saucedo, an 8th grader at Anson Jones Middle School, uses her new ID card to check out a book in the library in San Antonio, Texas. The San Antonio school district's website was hacked over the weekend to protest its policy requiring students to wear microchip-embedded cards tracking their every move on campus. A teenager purportedly working with the hacker group Anonymous said in an online statement that he took the site down because the Northside school district "is stripping away the privacy of students in your school." All students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School are required to carry identification cards embedded with a microchip. They are tracked by the dozens of electronic readers installed in the schools' ceiling panels. (AP Photo/San Antonio Express-News, Bob Owen)

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In this Oct. 1, Tira Starr, an 8th grader at Anson Jones Middle School, shows her ID badge as students change classes in San Antonio, Texas. The San Antonio school district's website was hacked over the weekend to protest its policy requiring students to wear microchip-embedded cards tracking their every move on campus. A teenager purportedly working with the hacker group Anonymous said in an online statement that he took the site down because the Northside school district "is stripping away the privacy of students in your school." All students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School are required to carry identification cards embedded with a microchip. They are tracked by the dozens of electronic readers installed in the schools' ceiling panels. (AP Photo/San Antonio Express-News, Bob Owen) RUMBO DE SAN ANTONIO OUT; NO SALES

"Nobody is sitting at a bank of monitors looking for the whereabouts of 3,000 students," Gonzalez said. "We don't have the personnel for it, nor do we have the need to do that. But when I need to find (a student), I can enter his random number and I can find him somewhere as a red dot on that computer screen. 'Oh, there he is, in Science Room 22' or whatever. So we can locate students, but it's not about tracking them."

Hernandez's family isn't convinced. Nor is a Virginia-based civil rights group, The Rutherford Institute, which took up Hernandez's cause and filed the lawsuit against the district.

The organization declined to make the Hernandez family available for an interview prior to Wednesday's court hearing.

John Whitehead, the organization's founder, believes the religious component of the lawsuit makes it stronger than if it only objected on grounds of privacy. The lawsuit cites scriptures in the book of Revelation, stating that "acceptance of a certain code ... from a secular ruling authority" is a form of idolatry.

Wearing the badge, the family argues, takes it a step further.

"It starts with that religious concern," Whitehead said. "There is a large mark of Evangelicals that believe in the 'mark of the beast.' "

Republican state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst has filed bills since 2005 to ban the chips in Texas public schools. Steinbach, her chief of staff, is hopeful the bill will now get more traction with the attention surrounding Hernandez's case.

Yet despite the lawsuit, proposed legislation and concern from outside groups, there are no signs of a groundswell of opposition in San Antonio from parents whose children have the chips in their campus IDs.

Gonzalez said that of the 4,200 students, the Hernandez family is the only one who has asked out of the program.

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