Court correct to permit digital tracking of students on campus
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer...
WASHINGTON, DC, January 15, 2012 - Last week, a
The school district was tempted with the lure of an additional $2 million in state funding if it improved school attendance records, and selected John
Students were required to carry identifications implanted with a micro chip as part of the school’s “Student Locator Program.” The identifications sent out a signal which enabled school officials to track students whereabouts during school hours. The identifications turned off at the end of the school day.
United States District Judge Orlando Garcia tossed a request for a preliminary injunction that a sophomore student Andrea Hernandez and her father filed, claiming religious objections. Steven Hernandez said as an evangelical Christian, he felt the chips equated to a biblical mark of the beast.
Several tech blogs, civil rights groups and the controversial hack group Anonymous supported the Hernandez’s, as a Slate column summarized, but they all ignored a major flaw in the case. The school offered Hernandez, the only person in the pilot program to object, to wear a badge without the chip as a compromise but she and dad refused.
In a 25-page ruling, the judge ultimately decided the family’s objection that wearing the modified badge would be tantamount to supporting the program was a secular objection not worthy of religious rights protection.
The concern for privacy, the possibility of nefarious uses if the badge stolen, and impinging on civil liberties is valid.
However, those concerns are countered by the nation’s recent violent history of school shootings, numerous examples of illicit activities, including sexual activity and drug use on school campuses, which give administrators the right to to track students whereabouts during school hours.
Parents entrust teachers, faculty and administrators to harbor their children and teens in safe environments when in their custody.
And the overwhelming majority of the 4,200 students that were part of the pilot program agreed and supported the program.
“You never know when a disaster is going to happen and to know where your child is at least you have that card to know where your kid’s at all times,” parent Michelle Esquivel told a local Fox news affiliate. FOX 29.
The “smart” ID cards in the pilot program, which cost about $260,000, also enabled students to obtain lunch and breakfast in the cafeteria and check out library books, a school official said.
Kids will be kids and in some of the most troubled schools, getting and keeping kids in classrooms is the first step to making sure they are at least marginally educated before they go out into the working world.
A religious rights organization, the Rutherford Institution, says it will appeal the decision.
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