San Antonio Teens Discuss GPS Tracking
San Antonio High School Student Claims ID Badges are ‘Satanic’
Andrea Hernandez, a 15-year-old high school student in San Antonio, adamantly refused to wear a school ID badge containing an embedded RFID GPS tracking microchip, because she believed it was the “mark of the beast.”
The high-tech ID badges allow school administrators to track attendance and locate each student within the school. Hernandez was kicked out of her school for refusing to participate in the student tracking program, but will be allowed to return after a judge granted her a temporary restraining order against Northside Independent School District.
The pilot program, which began a few years ago, was designed to help improve classroom attendance for the fourth largest school district in Texas. A significant increase in attendance could mean more classroom funding for the budget-strapped school district – as much as $1.7 million. Prior to this incident, a suburban Houston school district began using RFID tracking chips in 2005, which served as a model for Northside ISD.
The school agreed to remove the tracking chip on Hernandez’s badge, but still required her to wear it while on school grounds. Hernandez and her family, however, still refused to wear it on religious grounds, stating in a lawsuit that even wearing the badge was tantamount to “submission of a false god” because the card still indicated her participation in what they deemed as a sacrilegious act. The case has been moved to federal court.
This incident has caught the attention of privacy advocates, like the ACLU, who claim that the mandated ID cards are too intrusive for students.
“They pose direct privacy problems for students,” said Jay Stanley, Senior policy ACLU analyst “They also raise the question what are we teaching our children, schools teach not only what they say but by example.”
There was even a report that the Northside tracking system was hacked by Anonymous on Saturday in protest over the district’s use of tracking badges. The district’s site, however, claims that the program was never compromised, according to a spokesman.
The main premise for the Hernandez family in their opposition to the ID badges, however, seems to be centered on their strong religious beliefs, as opposed to privacy or safety concerns. No date has been scheduled for the hearing.
The recent influx of GPS tracking technology has raised a number of questions in regards to the issue of individual privacy. GPS tracking devices have become much more compact and accessible in recent years. Almost all modern smartphones have GPS technology built into them, which allows virtually anyone to pinpoint their whereabouts.
Many concerned parents have also considered utilizing GPS tracking technology to monitor their children. A concerned father recently sought advice from columnist Amy Dickinson, concerning whether he should be able to use GPS to track his daughters. She expressed her strong opposition to the idea, writing:
I am completely, totally and utterly opposed to installing tracking or monitoring technology on kids’ devices without their knowledge. … You cannot use technology to mitigate the work (or risks) of parenting. … You should confirm their whereabouts the old-fashioned way—by getting to know their friends, calling other parents to verify plans, and by driving them from place to place and occasionally showing up early.
However, another newspaper columnist wrote this week:
We were initially apprehensive about doing this; we didn’t want them to feel that they were being spied on, or that we don’t trust them. It has, however, given me peace of mind. We are able to pinpoint the exact location of their cell phones at all times. As a mother of two teenagers, I respect their privacy but feel entitled to know their whereabouts.
This is definitely not a simple issue to work through. Some parents feel that using a teen GPS tracker constitutes as spying on their kids, while others see it as a tool to protect them. Some parents, especially of teenagers, would say that you should trust your children and grant them some degree of freedom, and that utilizing GPS tracking technology, whether in form of a GPS tracking device or a smartphone, will only damage an already fragile relationship.
Other parents would counter that by saying that they have the right to track their teenagers, as long as they live under their roofs. Furthermore, using GPS trackers provides an extra measure of safety for their children as well as some peace of mind.
As tracking technology continues to evolve and become more prevalent in our society, these issues will increasingly come to the forefront of the discussion. Cases, such as the one involving Andrea Hernandez, will be much more commonplace, especially with the rapid evolution and influx of smartphones.
What are some of your thoughts regarding this issue of tracking and children?