Case May Affect Future of High-Tech Student IDs

Since first hearing about the use of radio frequency technology to track public school students in 2004, state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, has filed a bill during every subsequent legislative session to prohibit the technology's usage. Now, with civil liberties proponents supporting one San Antonio student's right to refuse the technology, her proposal might get wider attention.

Chris Steinbach, Kolkhorst's chief of staff, said he thinks a court case -- in which the San Antonio student is arguing that her school's ID card pilot program violates her civil rights -- might spark the necessary attention to move the bill forward. A hearing on that case was scheduled for Wednesday morning in a state district court, but it was removed to federal court.

"The stars are aligning with people on the left and right with people who are concerned about parental rights and privacy," Steinbach said. 

The technology involves radio chips embedded in the ID cards of students, which allow school administrators to track students' whereabouts while on campus. It has gained increasing attention in the wake of a pilot program in two San Antonio schools that administrators say is meant to ensure the safety of students.

One student has refused to wear the ID card, saying it violates her religious beliefs, and is now being represented in court by a civil liberties group, which says that she has a constitutional right to refuse any participation in the tracking program.

The radio frequency identification tags, originally developed to track physical goods and even cattle, are being tested at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School in the Northside Independent School District. They are not the first schools in Texas to use the technology. In 2004, Spring ISD, in the Houston area, began using the technology to track elementary school students getting on and off of buses. It has since expanded its program, eliciting concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union.

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