Judge Rules Against Texas Teen Who Refused to Wear SmartID Badge

In a closely watched case, a federal judge today ruled against a high school sophomore who refused to wear a student ID embedded with a radio frequency chip that tracks students’ movement on campus.

In a closely watched case, a federal judge today ruled against a high school sophomore who refused to wear a student ID embedded with a radio frequency chip that tracks students’ movement on campus.

The teenager, Andrea Hernandez, and her father, Steven Hernandez, sued a San Antonio school district on primarily religious grounds for forcing her to wear a chip they considered a symbol of Satan or “mark of the Beast” warned of in biblical scripture. The Christian teen maintained wearing the Smart ID amounted to accepting a secular ruling authority in order to obtain certain privileges, which equates to submitting to a false god.

The Northside Independent School District offered to issue Hernandez an ID without the electronic tracking, but the student again refused.

“By asking my daughter and our family to participate and fall in line like the rest of them is asking us to disobey our Lord and Savior,” the father wrote to district officials, according to a court document.

After the second refusal, school officials told the student she would need to transfer out of the science and mathematics magnet school she attends into another public school that does not require the RFID badges. She and her father then sought a preliminary injunction to stop the school transfer.

The Virginia-based civil rights group Rutherford Institute took up the case and had the backing of civil rights groups and the hacker collective Anonymous. Rutherford Institute lawyers claimed the school’s actions violated the 15-year-old’s right to religious freedom.

But on Tuesday U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled in favor of the transfer, saying the student’s refusal to wear the badge even without the tracking chip undermined those religious convictions.

“Plaintiff’s objection to wearing the Smart ID badge without a chip is clearly a secular choice, rather than a religious concern,” the judge wrote in a 25-page ruling.

Garcia also disagreed with the argument Hernandez’s constitutional right to free speech was violated.

“Although students in public schools ‘do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoothouse gate,’ the First Amendment rights of public school students ‘are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings’ and must be “applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment,” he wrote.

The school district adopted the RFID technology this school year in large part to prevent underreported attendance numbers and secure up to $1.7 million in state funding. It also adds a layer of safety during campus evacuations by alerting officials to the location of all students, including those that may need assistance during an emergency or disaster.

From its inception, the “Student Locator Program” has raised privacy concerns in San Antonio and other school districts nationwide, where electronic tracking devices have been implemented in pilot programs or sometimes scrapped because of parental uproar.

“Today’s court ruling affirms NISD’s position that we did make a reasonable accommodation,” the district said in an emailed statement sent to the San Antonio News. “The family now has the choice to accept the accommodation and stay at the magnet program, or return to her home campus.”

The Rutherford Institute said in a statement it plans to appeal Garcia’s decision.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that government officials may not scrutinize or question the validity of an individual’s religious beliefs,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, in a statement. “By declaring Andrea Hernandez’s objections to be a secular choice and not grounded in her religious beliefs, the district court is placing itself as an arbiter of what is and is not religious. This is simply not permissible under our constitutional scheme, and we plan to appeal this immediately.”

Suggested articles

Discussion

  • Anonymous on

    Couldn't fight this on a constitutional level? Noooo. Had to trot out the crack pot religious theory.

  • UncleJim on

    She has a right to choose her battle, she does not have a right to determine the consequence.

    To simply say that "I am a religious person therefore I don't have to adhere to your demands but rather you have to adhere to mine" is not a wise position to take. It is, in my opinion, an indicator of a rather poorly functioning intellectual capability. 

  • CaptainCaveman on

    If this person refuses to wear the ID badge with the RFID tag removed becuase it "shows support" for the system that she believes infringes on her religious rights, then on that basis, would not the attendance of this school show support for the "mark of the beast" system as well?

     

     

  • Freedoms on

    It's about 'freedoms'.  Freedom to choose, freedom to speak, freedom to 'breathe.'

    We became 'slaves' when the government became corrupt.  It started with your SSN or SIN.

    These were 'identifying numbers to be tracked as debtpayers for the bankrupt US of A.  Each one of us is collateral for the debt. 

    The RFID chip will be used, not only for healthcare, but their future use will also include your earnings and government handouts being put onto this chip.  If you go against government, then your chip will be wiped clean.  It is also a 'tracking' device.  They will find you no matter 'where you go.'

    I would simply 'homeschool' my child till this blows over.  It will

    Corruption is now being fought.  Bankers are resigning or getting arrested.  It's just a matter of time.  Hang in.  Freedom is coming.

    Peace!

     

  • Jeremy Presutti on

    See I would take her side, except I agree with the judge. Once she refused the ID WITHOUT the RFID tag, she made the case about something else entirely.

  • Anonymous on

    They are forgetting to mention that in order to accept the chipless ID, they would also have to make a verbal statment of support for the system. If it was just she had to carrier ID while in school, I would not support her, but to force her to make a statement of support for a system she does not agree with, is wrong.

     

     

  • Anonymous on

    It just seems as if they are saying "you are government property, you have no choice" - even if they had fought based on first, fourth, or any other amendment in the constitution, the only amendments that are not consistently violated and infringed upon are women's right to vote (in elections, not anything else - even their own bodies) and that "blacks" are "people" too (albeit only 3/5 at first). I guess the constitution does npt apply to this country, Omerica: land of the freeking idiots.

     

  • Anonymous on

    I think it is simply a matter of respect. The school doesn't have the right to force a student to wear a badge, and a student doesn't have the right to force a school to do what the student wants.  In the end its a choice.  if you dont like the having to eat apples in a food shop, go to one that doesn't require you to eat apples.  To force a shop to bend to your rules because you want to go to it is just the same as a shop forcing you to eat apples.

    The student has no right to force a school to be the way it wants and neither does a school have the right to force a student.

    Its simple.  Go to another place !

  • Anon E Moose on

     

    The schools reason for doing this in the first place sounds bogus.  They want to count the number of kids who are present so they can get all the money they are entitled to?   That's why they take attendance in home-room.  No need for micro-chips to do that.

    It sounds like the school wanted a way to track kids movements without coming right out and saying so. 

    But you also gotta wonder why the student didn't just accept the ID without the tracking included? 

     

     

  • Anon E Moose on

    'The school district adopted the RFID technology this school year in large part to prevent underreported attendance numbers and secure up to $1.7 million in state funding. It also adds a layer of safety during campus evacuations by alerting officials to the location of all students, including those that may need assistance during an emergency or disaster.'

    And if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you may be interested in buying.

Subscribe to our newsletter, Threatpost Today!

Get the latest breaking news delivered daily to your inbox.