Texas Schools Tracking Students with RFID Chips

The bare RFID Reader pcb by CabFabLab

This seems pretty messed up – policies have been enacted at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School in San Antonio, Texas that require students to always carry their student ID cards that have radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips embedded in them. These chips are used for attendance with the goal of reducing truancy. The school hopes the chips will keep kids from skipping school which will result in the school district getting significantly more funding.

The problem is these chips broadcast the holder’s location 24-7. Anyone with an RFID reader can track them. According to my source, Heather Fazio of Texans for Accountable Government easily filed a Freedom of Information Act and was given the names and addresses of every student in the school district. It only cost her $30. That means if she has an RFID reader, she has all the information she would need to tract a student if she was so inclined if the person had their student ID with them. That’s frightening!

Some students are standing up to this invasion of privacy and refusing to carry their student IDs or only carrying their old ID cards that don’t have RFID chips. They said they’ve been tormented by instructors, barred from school functions, and not allowed into the cafeteria or library.

I don’t have a problem with requiring students to carry a student ID when they are on school property and I like the idea that schools could take attendance by having students swipe a card at the classroom door. I take issue with the school and others being able to track students when they are outside the school walls and on their own time. It’s a privacy issue and a safety issue.

The police need a warrant to put a GPS on your car to track you. Why should a school be able to mandate that students be trackable 24-7?

I agree that these students have no expectation of privacy when they are in public and they are required to be in school by law, but that doesn’t give the school permission to make them trackable wherever they go.

The policy in question requires students to carry their cards in their pockets or around their necks. If I were a student in one of these schools, I’d try to disable the RFID chip by punching a hole through it and putting it on a string around my neck. I’d be complying with the letter of the law while protecting my privacy.

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Hat tip to Sheila Dee for telling me about this story.

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