McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Announcements

December 4, 2012

Was a Texas student really expelled for refusing to wear a tracking chip?

The Texas school district that began requiring its students to wear radio-frequency identification (RIFD) tracking chips this year is now facing a fight in federal court. A sophomore, Andrea Hernandez, has refused to wear the ID tag on biblical grounds, comparing it to "the mark of the beast." Last week, attorneys for the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group, announced that they're filing suit in federal court to keep Hernandez from being expelled.

The case has set privacy activists ablaze, and hackers claiming affiliation with Anonymous joined the fight recently by targeting the school district's website with a denial-of-service attack.

But those demonizing the district have ignored one key fact that could keep the case from being the big test of religious freedom, student privacy and government surveillance that some media reports are making it out to be. The school isn't actually expelling - or suspending, as some outlets have it - Hernandez for refusing to wear the electronic tracking chip. District officials have repeatedly offered to let Hernandez come to school wearing an identification card from which the RFID chip and battery have been removed.

"We have to respect their religious beliefs," district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez told me in a phone interview. "So we said, 'All right, if this is objectionable to you because it violates your religious beliefs, then we will not put the RFID technology in the card. But you still have to wear the ID card like every other student at school.' Daddy said no, and the student said no." Gonzalez denied a report that the compromise came on the condition that Hernandez agree to stop criticizing the program and publicly support it. "That's just untrue," he said.

The really interesting question is whether the school's RFID tracking program violates students' privacy. But that might be a tough case to make in court, given that we're talking about minors on school grounds. And the school's compromise offer also takes the steam out of claims that it has punished or harassed Hernandez because of her refusal to be tracked. The school's students use the ID chips to check in at the front door, buy lunch and vote for the Homecoming king and queen, but Gonzalez said Hernandez could do all the same things with the chip removed. "We were very explicit with her and her family that all of the access and services that she would have gotten with RFID would still be available via this non-RFID card," Gonzalez told me.

By framing her objections primarily in terms of religious liberty, Hernandez has won from the school a concession that renders the privacy issue moot. So her lawyers at the Rutherford Institute have to make the case that an even ID badge with no tracking capabilities runs counter to her Christian principles, as they claimed in the motion they filed in federal court last week.

Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead told me that, according to the Hernandez family's beliefs, "any kind of identifying badge from the government is the mark of the beast, which means that you pay allegiance to a false God." Adding that many Muslims and Jews hold similar beliefs, Whitehead predicted, "This is going to be a problem across the country."

No doubt Whitehead is right that we're likely to see more battles over RFID in schools in the years to come. But in the broader national debate over technologies that make government surveillance easier and more pervasive than ever, the religious-freedom issue is a red herring. These tags aren't the mark of the beast - they're the mark of a society grappling with troubling tradeoffs between convenience, security and privacy.



 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Announcements
  • RICHARDSON 50 1.jpg Richardsons celebrate 50 years of marriage

    Haileyville High School graduates Jim and Connie Richardson, of rural Claremore, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary Saturday.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • Masonic Officers South McAlester Lodge 96 announces officers for 2014

    South McAlester Lodge 96 officers for 2014 are, from left, front row, Senior Warden Larry Ivy, Worshipful Master Chad Peery, Junior Warden Lance Hess, Senior Steward Christopher Hitchcock and Secretary Brian Engleman; and top row, Senior Deacon Matthew Box, Junior Steward Gregory Steidley, Chaplain Billy Erkin and Trustee Mike Sexton. Not pictured are Treasurer Jack Inman, Junior Deacon Jake Tannehill and Brent Yates.

    January 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • facebook.png Have teens really stopped using Facebook?

    In baseball, trend-spotting tends to be based on statistical analysis. In fashion, it's driven by runway shows. And when it comes to social networks, the ascendant paradigm for forecasting the future seems to center on first-person anecdotes and unsupported hearsay from random teen-agers.

    August 24, 2013 1 Photo

  • amazon Why you shouldn't trust Internet comments

    A new study suggests that such online scores don't always reveal the best choice. A massive controlled experiment of Web users finds that such ratings are highly susceptible to irrational "herd behavior" — and that the herd can be manipulated.

    August 23, 2013 1 Photo

  • Screen shot 2013-08-13 at 10.25.04 AM.png VIDEO: Timelapse shows Perseid meteor shower

    This CNN video, shot in Hawaii, shows dozens of meteors crossing the skies during the Perseid meteor shower.

    August 23, 2013 1 Photo

  • 0812-forged.jpg Man accused of forging divorce papers to fool new girlfriend's mom

    A Pennsylvania man is accused of forging a judge's signature on a divorce decree to fool the mother of his much-younger new girlfriend, according to court documents.

    August 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • RAV4Ext.jpg Cargazing: Toyota RAV4 gets more efficient, better looking

    If you're looking for a compact crossover these days, you've got plenty of options: the sporty kind, the luxury kind, the truck-like kind and the just plain funky kind. But what I'm checking out this week is the traditional kind. It's the 2013 Toyota RAV4, and it's the kind of middle-of-the-road crossover that's made this type of car so popular in recent years.

    August 22, 2013 2 Photos

  • AVIS12.jpg 'We try harder': The most brilliant ad slogan of the 20th century

    In 1962, Avis was in search of a new advertising campaign. So the ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach decided to embrace Avis' second-place status as a sneaky way to tout the brand's customer service. "When you're only No. 2, you try harder," went the new tagline. "Or else."

    August 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • 0812-twins.jpg 8 sets of twins enrolled in school's kindergarten

    Sixteen tiny kindergartners sat on the slide at Pipe Creek Elementary in on their first day of school, waiting for a photographer to take their picture. Those 16 children are bound together by a common thread — they are all twins.

    August 16, 2013 1 Photo

  • iStock_000018389392XSmall.jpg 10 worst password ideas and tips for picking a better one

    Are your online passwords easily hackable? Measure yours up against this list of the 10 worst password ideas as outlined by Google Apps.

    August 16, 2013 1 Photo

Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.