February 25th, 2013 Public Forum on RFID Student Locator Pilot Program

In San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District (NISD), nearly 4,000 children have been issued “Smart ID” badges implanted with an active RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tracking device. NISD has refused to offer a public forum for parents to ask question and voice concerns, so TAG has organized one.

Leon Valley Community Center
6421 Evers Road
Monday, February 25th
6:30-8:30pm

Presentations will be offered by a number of subject matter experts, including Dr. Katherine Albrecht- a Harvard graduate who has done extensive research on RFID, Mike Wade- RFID manufacturer, and (tentatively) a representative from the Texas ACLU.

The second half of our event will offer attendees an opportunity to ask questions of our presenters.

All NISD board members (including Dr. Wood, Superintendent) have been invited to this event in addition to the Principals of the schools which have implemented this pilot program.

Texas schools punish students who refuse to be tracked with microchips

Source: RT.com

A school district in Texas came under fire earlier this year when it announced that it would require students to wear microchip-embedded ID cards at all times. Now, students who refuse to be monitored say they are feeling the repercussions.

AFP Photo/Philippe Marle *Russia Today

Since October 1, students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School in San Antonio, Texas, have been asked to attend class with photo ID cards equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips to track every pupil’s location. Educators insist that the endeavor is being rolled out in Texas to stem the rampant truancy devastating the school’s funding. If the program is judged successful, the RFID chips could soon come to 112 schools in all and affect nearly 100,000 students.

Students who refuse to walk the school halls with the card in their pocket or around their neck claim they are being tormented by instructors, and are barred from participating in certain school functions. Some also said they were turned away from common areas like cafeterias and libraries.

Andrea Hernandez, a sophomore at John Jay, said educators have ignored her pleas to respect her privacy and told her she cannot participate in school elections if she refuses to comply with the tracking program.

Hernandez said in an interview with Salon that subjecting herself to constant monitoring through an RFID chip is like being branded with the “mark of the beast” – a reference to the Bible’s apocalyptic Book of Revelations. When she reached out to WND with the school’s response, though, she said that she was threatened with not being allowed to vote for her school’s homecoming king and queen for disobeying the student ID rule.

“I had a teacher tell me I would not be allowed to vote because I did not have the proper voter ID,” Hernandez told WND. “I had my old student ID card which they originally told us would be good for the entire four years we were in school. He said I needed the new ID with the chip in order to vote.”

After Hernandez refused to wear an RFID chip, WND reported that Deputy Superintendent Ray Galindo issued a statement to the girl’s parents: “We are simply asking your daughter to wear an ID badge as every other student and adult on the Jay campus is asked to do.” If she is allowed to forego the tracking now, the repercussions will be harsher than just revoking voting rights for homecoming contests once the school makes location-monitoring mandatory, he argued.

“I urge you to accept this solution so that your child’s instructional program will not be affected. As we discussed, there will be consequences for refusal to wear an ID card as we begin to move forward with full implementation,” Galindo wrote.

The girl’s father, Steve Hernandez, told WND that the school was somewhat willing to work with his daughter, but said that the family is unwilling to “agree to stop criticizing the program” and publically endorse it.

“I told him that was unacceptable because it would imply an endorsement of the district’s policy and my daughter and I should not have to give up our constitutional rights to speak out against a program that we feel is wrong,” Mr. Hernandez responded.

The Northside Independent School District expects to collect upwards of $2 million in state funding by reversing its poor attendance figures, with the RFID program costing around one-quarter of that sum to initiate and another $136,005 in maintenance. The new funding may not offset the other damages that could arise: Heather Fazio of Texans for Accountable Government told WND that she filed a Freedom of Information Act request for $30 and received the names and addresses of every student in the school district.

“Using this information along with an RFID reader means a predator could use this information to determine if the student is at home and then track them wherever they go. These chips are always broadcasting so anyone with a reader can track them anywhere,” she said.

Kirsten Bokenkamp of the ACLU told the San Antonio Express-News earlier this year that her organization expected to challenge the board’s decision to use the tracking system, but the school went ahead with the program undeterred. Steve Hernandez told WND that he approached the ACLU abour representing his daughter’s case, but Rebecca Robertson of a local branch of the organization said that, “the ACLU of Texas will not be able to represent you or your daughter in this matter,” saying the case did not meet the group’s criteria.

Maybe SpyChips Book had a Point, as Students and Parents Protest Personal Tagging at Texas Schools

Source: scdigest.com

A Number of Student Tracking Systems are Out There, It Turns Out; Monitoring More than Just Attendance?

Tensions are building in several public schools in San Antonio in which a program to track students through use of RFID tags has set off local protests, as the school punish the kids who do not wear their RFID badges to school.

The new tracking system was announced earlier this year and put into place Oct. 1 at two schools: John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School in San Antonio.

Students are required to carry new student ID cards that have an RFID chip embedded in them, connected to a reader network that can identify where a student is within the building in real-time.

Auto-ID based tracking systems for humans are actually nothing new. 15 years ago or so, a number of jails implemented tracking systems for prisoners using bar coded wrists bands, which were scanned at inmates entered each area, such as the cafeteria, library, etc. to track their whereabouts. SCDigest editor Dan Gilmore, in fact, says he was modestly involved in such a system in about 1996 for tracking prisoners at the LA County jail.

More recently, several amusement parks have used special RFID enabled tickets to track attendees, mostly to help parents quickly track down their kids when they get lost or separated.

But in the jail example, most people agree prisoners have simply lost most of their privacy rights. In the case of amusement parks, the tracking systems are “opt-in.”

But at the San Antonio schools, the tracking systems are mandatory, and students who do not bring their new RFID-based IDs to school are saying they are being punished to drive compliance.

Many protested against the tracking systems when the program was first announced, and those protests have escalated now that it has been implemented and the enforcement measures are being used.

State school officials say the program was initiated to stem rampant truancy in many schools across Texas, which not only impacts the students but also school funding formulas, in which schools lose money as truancy rises. If the program is judged successful, the RFID tracking system could soon come to 112 schools in all and affect nearly 100,000 students in San Antonio.

Students who refuse to walk the school halls with the card in their pocket or around their neck claim they are being tormented by instructors, and are barred from participating in certain school functions. Some also said they were turned away from common areas like cafeterias and libraries.

According to a local website, for example, Andrea Hernandez, a sophomore at John Jay, said the school has ignored her pleas to respect her privacy and told her she cannot participate in school elections if she refuses to comply with the tracking program.

According to radio station WND, After Hernandez refused to wear an RFID chip, Deputy Superintendent Ray Galindo issued a statement to the girl’s parents: “We are simply asking your daughter to wear an ID badge as every other student and adult on the Jay campus is asked to do.” If she is allowed to forego the tracking now, the repercussions will be harsher than just revoking voting rights for homecoming contests once the school makes location-monitoring mandatory, he said.

Continue Reading

Texas School District Reportedly Threatening Students Who Refuse Tracking ID, Can’t Vote For Homecoming

ACTION ALERT: Principals have announced that the RFID pilot program goes into strict enforcement TOMORROW, October 10th 2012. Any student who refuses to comply will face “consequences,” according to the principal.
What are those “consequences?” Call and ask!
http://www.nisd.net/studentlocator/contact

 

Source: Huffington Post

Weeks after Northside Independent School District in San Antonio rolled out its new “smart” IDs that tracks students’ geographic locations, the community is still at odds with the program.

The “Student Locator Project,” which is slated to eventually reach 112 Texas schools and close to 100,000 students, is in trial stages in two Northside district schools. In an effort to reduce truancy, the district has issued new student IDs with an embedded radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip that tracks the location of a student at all times.

The program officially launched October 1 at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School. Without the badges — required to be worn around the neck — students cannot access common areas like the cafeteria or library, and cannot purchase tickets to extracurricular activities. WND reports that the district hasthreatened to suspend, fine or involuntarily transfer students who fail to comply and officials have noted that “there will be consequences for refusal to wear an ID card as we begin to move forward with full implementation.”

Parents and students from the schools spoke out against the project last month. But now, WND is reporting that schools are taking the restrictions one step further.

John Jay High School sophomore Andrea Hernandez refuses to use the new IDs, citing religious beliefs and instead sticking with her old badge from previous years, calling the tracking devices the “mark of the beast.” She tells Salon that the new badges make her uncomfortable and are an invasion of her privacy.

But to add to her restricted school grounds access, the teen says she was barred from voting for homecoming king and queen.

“I had a teacher tell me I would not be allowed to vote because I did not have the proper voter ID,” she told WND. “I had my old student ID card which they originally told us would be good for the entire four years we were in school. He said I needed the new ID with the chip in order to vote.”

If successful, the tracking program could save the district as much as $175,000 lost daily to low attendance figures, which in part determine school funding. Higher attendance could lead to more state funding in the neighborhood of $1.7 million. A statement on the school district’s website lays out the program’s goals: to increase student safety and security, increase attendance and offer a multi-purpose “smart” student ID card that streamlines grounds access and purchasing power.

While uncommon, RFID chips are not new to school IDs, according to Wired. Schools in Houston launched a monitoring program as early as 2004, and a federally funded preschool in California started placing RFID chips in children’s clothes two years ago. Numerous districts have also considered similar programs, but without making them mandatory.

In California, the Anaheim Union High School District is also in the midst of testing a GPS tracking program. From Salon:

Texas Students Treated Like Cattle with Mandatory RFID Tags

Source: Infowars

Student IDs That Track the Students

Source: NY Times

By MAURICE CHAMMAH and NICK SWARTSELL
Published: October 6, 2012

SAN ANTONIO —  For Tira Starr, an eighth grader at Anson Jones Middle School, the plastic nametag hanging around her neck that she has decorated with a smiley face and a purple bat sticker offers a way to reflect her personal flair. For administrators, it is something else entirely: a device that lets them use radio frequency technology —  with scanners tucked behind walls and ceilings —  to track her whereabouts.

Anson Jones is the first school in San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District to roll out the new nametags, which are part of a pilot program intended to ensure that the district receives all of the state dollars to which it is entitled.

In Texas, school finance is a numbers game: schools receive money based on the number of students counted in their homeroom classes each morning. At Anson Jones, as at other schools, many students were in school but not in homeroom, so they were not counted and the district lost money, said Pascual Gonzalez, a spokesman for the district.

“We were leaving money on the table,” he said, adding that the district expects a $2 million return on an initial investment of $261,000 in the technology at two pilot schools.

But the radio frequency identification nametags have prompted concerns from civil liberties groups and electronic privacy watchdogs, which fear a Big Brother atmosphere in Texas public schools.

Matthew Simpson, a policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said the technology was easy to acquire, meaning people outside a school might be able to monitor a student if they obtained the student’s unique tracking number.

Mr. Simpson said the technology was originally designed for shipping goods and for cattle. “It was never intended for people,” he said.

But students and educators at Anson Jones say they are excited about the practical advantages — getting to eat lunch faster by scanning their bar codes in the lunch line, or being able to locate a child quickly in an emergency.

Northside is not the first district to use the tracking devices. Two Houston-area districts began the program several years ago. The Spring district, for example, started using the technology in 2004 as a way to track elementary students getting on and off buses. It expanded the program to high school students three years ago and has so far recovered $400,000, said Karen Garrison, a spokeswoman for the district.

“Our system still focuses on safety but has the added benefit of recovering average daily attendance funding,” Ms. Garrison said.

Wendy Reyes, the principal of Anson Jones, said only one parent had complained about the program at her school. On the first day of classes at Jay High School, home to the other pilot program school in Northside, several parents staged a protest across the street from the school, though most did not have students in the district.

Many students, teachers and parents at the middle school feel the technology’s benefits outweigh privacy concerns, Ms. Reyes said.

Madelene Garra was among those praising the program. “It gives the kids a little bit more responsibility, knowing that we as a faculty are keeping up with them,” she said “Once they get out there in the real world, they’re going to have to be on the job on time, and they’re going to have to be accountable.”

WEAR RADIO CHIP OR LEAVE, SCHOOL TELLS STUDENTS

Source: WND

Superintendent issues warning: ‘There will be consequences’ for not submitting
Brushing aside privacy concerns by parents and civil rights activists, a Texas school district has gone live with a controversial program requiring all students to wear a locator radio chip that will enable officials to track their every move – or face expulsion.

At the beginning of the school year students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School within the Northside Independent School District were told their old student ID badges were no longer valid. During registration they were required to obtain new badges containing a radio frequency identification tracker chip.

Students refusing the chips were reportedly threatened with suspension, fines, or being involuntary transferred. Unlike chips used by retailers to track inventory which activate when scanned by a reader, these chips contain batteries and actively broadcast a continuous signal.

On October 1, the schools went live with a program to use the chips to track the exact locations of students using the badges. The badges would even be able to tell if a student in a classroom is in his seat or somewhere else in the room.

The district’s stated reason is to help obtain funding from the state by documenting the number of students who attend the school.

WOAI television reported district spokesman Pasqual Gonzalez said the two schools have a high rate of truancy, and the district could gain $2 million in state funding by improving attendance.

According to the San Antonio newspaper, the program is expected to cost the district $526,065 to implement with annual cost of $136,005 per year to continue running the program.

However, a counselor at the school told Steve Hernandez, a parent whose daughter Andrea is a sophomore at John Jay, that the district currently does not have any single person assigned to monitor the location of students or track the data.

“That destroys the argument that the purpose to track students for attendance purposes,” Hernandez said. “How are they supposed to safeguard privacy concerns if no one is responsible for its administration?”

The website ChipFreeSchools.com cites health concerns over the chips and includes a position paper from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Big Brother Watch, Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, Constitutional Alliance, Freedom Force International, Friends of Privacy USA, the Identity Project and Privacy Activism said no students should be subjected to the “chipping” program “unless there is sufficient evidence of its safety and effectiveness.”

“Children should never be used as test subjects for technology, no matter what their socio-economic status. If schools choose to move forward without complete information and are willing to accept the associated liability, they should have provisions in place to adhere to the principles of fair information practices and respect individuals’ rights to opt out based on their conscientious and religious objections,” the statement said.

The paper said RFID tracking is dehumanizing, since it can “monitor how long a student or teacher spends in a bathroom stall.”

The plans also violate free speech and association, since the presence of a tracking device “could dissuade individuals from exercising their rights to freedom of thought, speech and association. For example, students might avoid seeking counsel when they know their RFID tags will document their presence at locations like counselor and School Resource Officer offices.”

Andrea Hernandez has refused to wear the new badge citing religious and privacy concerns. She said that since the policy went into effect several students have engaged in civil disobedience by leaving their badges at home. However, Hernandez has been wearing her old badge to school in an attempt to have some form of ID.

While the district has not yet expelled any students for refusing to wear the badges, Hernandez has already faced consequences for her refusal to take the chip.

“About two weeks ago when I went to cast my vote for homecoming king and queen I had a teacher tell me I would not be allowed to vote because I did not have the proper voter ID,” she explained. “I had my old student ID card which they originally told us would be good for the entire four years we were in school. He said I needed the new ID with the chip in order to vote.”

In an attempt to obtain legal help, Andrea’s father, Steve Hernandez reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union, but was rebuffed because organization officials didn’t feel Andrea’s religious concerns would advance their core mission.

In an email to Hernandez, Rebecca Robertson with the ACLU of Texas told him, “the ACLU of Texas will not be able to represent you or your daughter in this matter.”

In citing its reasons for refusing to take the case Robertson said among the factors they use to decide to take a case are whether it “has the potential to achieve broad and lasting advances in civil liberties” and as such, Andrea’s case does not apparently meet that threshold.

WND requests to the district for comment were not returned.

In an October 2 letter, Deputy Superintendent Ray Galindo said he was willing to let Hernandez wear a badge without the chip, but then goes on to portray the issue as one of her refusing to wear any type of ID.

“We are simply asking your daughter to wear an ID badge as every other student and adult on the Jay campus is asked to do.”

Galindo went on to suggest there would be consequences if she did not agree to wear the new badge.

“I urge you to accept this solution so that your child’s instructional program will not be affected. As we discussed, there will be consequences for refusal to wear an ID card as we begin to move forward with full implementation.”

Steve Hernandez said the so-called accommodation actually came with other strings attached.

“He told me in a meeting that if my daughter would proudly wear her student ID card around her neck so everyone could see, he would be able to quietly remove her chip from her student ID card,” Hernandez explained. “He went on to say as part of the accommodation my daughter and I would have to agree to stop criticizing the program and publicly support … it. I told him that was unacceptable because it would imply an endorsement of the district’s policy and my daughter and I should not have to give up our constitutional rights to speak out against a program that we feel is wrong.”

Andrea Hernandez said that since she has begun taking the stand she has been surprised by how many students agree with her.

“On Monday a group of students came up to me in the lunch room asking me about the chips after they saw me appear on television,” she said. “I got the majority to understand there were legitimate reasons for not wearing the badge. Many of them thanked me, saying they were uncomfortable with wearing them, but were unsure how to explain why they should not have to wear them.”

She went on to say while some students have said they didn’t have a problem wearing the badges, she is not aware of any who enthusiastically support the program.

Heather Fazio, executive director of Texans for Accountable Government, said the district has not been willing to take steps to listen to parent’s concerns over the chips.

“The school board refuses to put it on the agenda or hold a forum where the matter can be debated publicly,” Fazio said. “Parents are allowed to speak to the board on any item not on the agenda, but the board is under no obligation to respond to what is being said. When we mentioned our concerns to them, they looked at us with indifference.”

Highlighting the dangers the chips pose to student privacy issues even while off campus, Fazio said she was able to get list containing the names and addresses of all of the students in the district by filing a Freedom of Information Request.

“After paying a $30 fee with the FOIA request I was able to get every student’s name and address,” Fazio explained. “Using this information along with an RFID reader means a predator could use this information to determine if the student is at home and then track them wherever they go. These chips are always broadcasting so anyone with a reader can track them anywhere.”

Andrea says while the school has not yet taken any retaliatory action, she is concerned that there will come a time when they will decide to retaliate.

“It is just a matter of time before they write me up and expel me. This would put a big black mark on my record if this were to happen, but I don’t feel I should be punished for standing up for my religious rights and privacy issues.”

She said, “In order to get into the Science and Engineering Academy I had to have good grades, great attendance, and be in pre-AP [advanced placement] classes. I had to fill out an application and write an essay about why I would be a good student. Now they want to take the education that I have worked so hard for away from me because I refuse to wear a tracker.”

Some parents decry new Carroll schools’ palm scanner

Source:  Baltimore Sun

They say system to pay for lunches is violation of privacy

Students at Robert Moton Elementary School are using a palm scanner for purchases in the cafeteria. Here, fourth grader Makala Butler scans her palm to purchase lunch. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun / September 30, 2012)

 

Instead of paying for their lunches with crumpled dollar bills and loose change, students in Carroll County schools are having their palms scanned in a new check-out system — raising concerns from some parents that their children’s privacy is being violated.
The county is one of the first localities in Maryland to use the PalmSecure system, in which children from kindergarten to 12th grade place their hands above an infrared scanner. It identifies unique palm and vein patterns, and converts the image into an encrypted numeric algorithm that records a sale.

Though the school system does not store those images, some parents have complained about the implications of having their children’s hands scanned. About 20 percent of parents have declined to participate in the program, said supervisor of food services Karen Sarno.

“I didn’t appreciate how they handled it,” said Mike Richmond, who has two children at Westminster’s Cranberry Elementary School. He said that the school scanned their hands before sending the opt-out form. “I’m concerned about it. I know it’s the way of the future, but it’s fingerprinting, it’s palm-printing.”

School officials defend the system, noting that the algorithm is the only piece of data stored; it is used to identify a child’s account. If students opt out of the service, they give their names to the cashier, who manually charges their accounts.

Sarno said the school system’s goal is to decrease the time between transactions. Children have limited time to eat lunch, she said, and she often hears complaints that children don’t like waiting in a long line.

“We’re doing whatever we can to reduce that line wait and make the queue better,” she said.

The PalmSecure system is used in schools around the country, including in Louisiana and Mississippi, where news reports say some parents also complained about an invasion of privacy and the costs of the system. The Pinellas County, Fla., school system was the first to implement the scanner last year.

In Maryland, Cecil County is piloting the system in two schools, according to a spokesman there.

Khaliah Barnes, open-government counsel with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said that schools should have allowed parents to opt in to the service, rather than out.

“With students, this presents unique privacy threats,” Barnes said. “We’re talking about elementary school students, and that type of technology can make children less inclined to the rights of privacy. Imagine being tracked from age 8 to age 16, and then a university continues to use it, it becomes old hat and makes them less inclined to recognize privacy threats.”

Barnes compared the biometric palm scan to the full-body scans in airports, which became the primary tool for screening passengers in 2010. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Barnes said, EPIC discovered that, though the body scanners do not record images of passengers, they do have storage capabilities.

The PalmSecure system is currently operating in three Carroll County elementary schools, but should be in every school within a year and a half.

Darryl Robbins, acting principal of Carroll County’s Robert Moton Elementary, which is piloting the system, said that it has helped increase the speed of lunch lines and has shown added benefits.

“Now that we’ve combined everything in point of sale, we don’t have students moving around the cafeteria and in that capacity, it’s helped increase student safety,” he said.

Robbins declined to comment when asked if he had been contacted by concerned parents.

Other point-of-sale systems in state schools use a card reader or a PIN to access a child’s account. Sarno said that the drawbacks of such systems — especially for elementary school students — are that the children tend to lose the card or forget the PIN. The palm-reading system also eliminates the possibility of other students lending out their cards or numbers to others.

An audit released in March said the Carroll County school system’s method of tracking student meal purchases was not efficient. The school system only used a cash register to process meal purchases, which the auditor said could lead to reporting and accounting errors for student meals. Recommendations included researching a new cash register system.

The palm-reading system is a remedy for this problem, Sarno said. In the future, parents should be able to pre-pay electronically on their students’ accounts, as well as monitor when and what meals their children are eating. Currently, they can only pre-pay for meals on a child’s account through a check.

“We have a better cash-handling control centrally,” she said. “And less daily cash being handled and putting more in a lump on the account, there’s less daily pennies and dollars. From a business standpoint, all that documentation is being fiscally responsible.”

The palm-reading system will cost a projected $300,000, according to Sarno, for installation of software and hardware in all 43 schools in the system, as well as in the central office.

 

 

By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, The Baltimore Sun

7:17 p.m. EDT, October 2, 2012

Please Donate!

Our Children are NOT Inventory…Please contribute TODAY!

All funds raised for this effort will be used to reach out to parents and students about their rights and how to stand up for themselves.

 

 

Texas Students Revolt Over Mandatory RFID Tracking ID’s

Informative Video: