Tag Archives: education?

School refuses students request

A recent Federal Court ruling sided with a Texan school, John Jay High School, Northside 01-18-2013_Hernandez_Letter from Rutherford Institure1Independent School District, in that it was acceptable to discriminate – to the point of expulsion – a student, Andrea Hernadez, for refusing comply with the RFID programme the schools runs.

This image to the right is a letter Andrea wrote yesterday to her school – which speaks volumes. (From the Rutherford Institution’s website.)

From the Rutherford InstituteOn January 18th ‘in a phone call delivered near the end of the day before a long holiday weekend, school officials at John Jay High School informed Andrea Hernandez that they would not be granting her request to stay at the magnet school.

In coming to Andrea’s defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys alleged that the school’s attempts to penalize, discriminate and retaliate against Andrea violate her rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.’

It is difficult to believe that in this day and age, with the knowledge of what discrimination can potentially do in our society, that the school district have pursued this course of action.  It is clear to me that the school district’s priority does not lie in the care of education, or respect for the teaching the children in it’s community but in budgets and stamping their authority to a point of overriding children’s and families religious beliefs.

Andrea with her family and supporters I think here have exposed that there is a desperate need for an open and honest discussion of issues on the use of RFID in schools.

(The ‘Position Paper on the Use of RFID in Schools ‘ August 21, 2012 details issues surrounding RFID in schools)

UK students “must wear” RFID tags

In West Cheshire College, Cheshire UK, Students [are] made to carry ‘Orwellian’ locater tags – College staff and students have been issued with compulsory electronic badges that are capable of tracking their movements, leading to criticism of “Orwellian” tactics.”

How exactly does an establishment implement compulsory RFID tagging and still give the persons being tagged an option to consent?
RFIDconsent
If such a RFID tagging scheme can be compulsory and written consent is not gained from students what is to stop colleges and schools issuing RFID tags and not informing students? If a system is compulsory, presumably there is no room for non participants therefore no room for people to be able to make a choice in this matter, i.e. to consent.

Are persons not consenting then to write and ‘opt out’ of the RFID real time location system?  Perhaps we in the UK are to see a repeat of the much criticised line the educational establishments took with taking children’s biometrics without parental consent, deemed to be such bad practice that parental consent is now needed by law for schools to take and process children’s biometrics up to the age of 18.  This law is contained in the recent Protection Of Freedoms Act  2012.  West Cheshire College caters for pupils 14-19 year olds.

Then there is the issue of possible discrimination that could accompany a “must wear” policy the college has for those not wearing RFID tags.

Certainly as a parent I would want to know exactly who was watching my under 18 child at college in real time and why and where would they be monitoring their movements, to the toilet, school showers?   And I would not be happy with any discrimination my child may experience by not being RFID tagged, if indeed the college would enrol or employ a person refusing to wear RFID.

Just what are the college looking at?   In the RFID Journal, Kevin Francis, West Cheshire College’s Building Services Area Manager, states: We can search for individual [students or staff]. And we can look at them in groups, such as peer groups.”  [NB. This RFID Journal article was withdrawn from the RFID Journal’s website w/c 7 Jan 2013.  A Copy of the article (pdf) is here and here is the original article on the Internet Archieve Wayback Machine] Then to the Telegraph: “We do have these tags, but they’re not for the purposes of tracking.”

Erm, yes they are.  RFID tags track.  Why else would West Cheshire College purchase a RFID ‘real time location tracking solution’?  [ NBZebra Technologies withdrew the article from their website late February/early March 2013. A copy of the press release (pdf) is here  and this is the Internet Archive Wayback Machine’s link to the original webpage]

Then comes the sell.  Environmental – “The aim is to use the buildings as efficiently as possible.”  Security – “We are interested in teaching and learning, building use and the security of
students and staff.”… oh yes and here comes safety – “Staff with first aid training can be identified if needed in an emergency.” and not to forget funding – “we use this information for funding purposes”.  There we go.

The use of RFID may be about many issues but the issue surrounding consent, both for pupils, parents and staff, here is the most serious.

How can a compulsory RFID tracking scheme involve consent?

Judge rules against school on RFID tracking case

Student Wins Tracking ID Case reports Frontpagemag.com

Sanity, thankfully, has prevailed in the case of Andrea Hernandez who has been incredibly brave standing up to the school’s absolute instance that she wears RFID chip or pretends to and that she stops protesting or she gets expelled. This plucky teenager said no!

This from the Rutherford Institute who took Andrea Hernandez’s case to court:  “A court has temporarily blocked The Northside Independent School District from suspending high school sophomore, Andrea Hernandez, for her noncompliance with a neck badge that monitors student movement throughout the campus via a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chip.

A federal court judge ruled that John Jay High School principal Robert Harris’s actions were a violation of Hernandez’s rights to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion. Hernandez will also receive compensation, the amount of which will be determined during a trial, according to court documents.”

After enduring threats from the school district:
 “As we discussed, there will be consequences for refusal to wear an ID card as we begin to move forward with full implementation.”  Andrea and her family have done really well in this instance, with privacy groups and alternative media highlighting her situation and  drawing attention to this heavyhanded approach from the school and school district.

A surprising aspect of this case was that the school and the school district were so unwavering in their insistence that Andrea wore RFID.  Insistence which seemingly will involve the school paying compensation to Andrea for their discrimination and disregard for civil liberties.

The question has to be asked, just what was the school and school district trying to achieve here because this dogged insistence did not seem solely about attendance figures and financial gain.  Was the school that desperate to throw away civil liberties for cash?  Just what, exactly, are we teaching our kids?

Andrea is a shining example of a human spirit standing up for what she believes is right and this has been a very valuable lesson for all students.  Children have most probably learnt more from this brave individual than any teacher could have taught them in school about civil liberties.

“And we can look at them in groups, such as peer groups.”

According to an article from April 2012 in RFID Journal, [NB. This RFID Journal article was withdrawn from the RFID Journal’s website w/c 7 Jan 2013.  A Copy of the article (pdf) is here and here is the original article on the Internet Archieve Wayback Machine] West Cheshire College are RFID tracking 5,500 full-time students and have been doing so since 2010.

After the opening of its new campus at Ellesmere Port, Liverpool, the college “has successfully implemented Zebra’s real time location tracking solution with the ability to track and increase the visibility of 20,000 students across its two campuses” states Zebra Technologies, the US company who supplies the RFID tracking system.

Kevin Francis, West Cheshire College’s Building Services Area Manager, uses an interesting choice of language on Zebra Technologies website  [ NBZebra Technologies withdrew the article from their website late February/early March 2013. A copy of the press release (pdf) is here  and this is Internet Archive Wayback Machine’s link to the original webpage] to describe the college’s reasons for buying the technology – using the terms “asset tracking”  and  “optimizing our learning resources.” (referring to the students presumably?) with “specialist location solution capabilities” .  Are these phrases we may be hearing more of as other schools follow suit?

This all boils down to funding, states the RFID Journal :

“…the school also plans to utilize the RTLS [Real Time Location System] solution to reliably, quickly and accurately track student attendance, and to document that each student’s attendance record matches the actual number of hours for which the college receives funding (a process that is currently manual and time-consuming).”

It could be argued that an alternative method, other than RFID tagging students, could be found that would not be manual and time consuming.  An alternative, less invasive attendance system could be implemented, one that does not involve the college’s knowledge of each students every move.

The accurate attendance of students and the financial rewards that may reap from RFID tracking pupils is not the college’s only reason for locating the students and staff in real time, as Kevin Francis states to the RFID Journal:

Francis says this software will provide “reports if [students or staff] are leaving early,” stating,
“We can search for individual [students or staff]. And we can look at them in groups, such as peer groups.”  (Why?)

The privacy implications for the use of RFID technology constantly tracking a persons every move are massive, possibly insidious and very much open to abuse.  Clearly, as stated by Kevin Francis in the RFID Journal’s article, West Cheshire College will not just be monitoring attendance levels but will also be looking at individual associations.  The technology will reveal where students are with Real Time Location Systems.

How will this affect student and staff behaviour?  Trips to the toilet – been there too long?  Too many visits to a school nurse?  Student/staff relationship?  Students relationships?  Who has access to this information?

This RFID technology tracking humans in real time certainly raises more questions, than solutions it provides.

20,000 RFID tagged students in UK?

West Cheshire College, England, UK, uses RFID to track up to 20,000 students? – and not a mention on their website? –  the US company who has sold them the technology uses our UK school to promote their RFID technology.

With the school’s Building Services Manager travelling all the way to Orlando, Florida to promote/advertise the system:

“The college opted to deploy Zebra’s UWB tags and reader infrastructure because they provided reliable and more accurate location data—and at less cost compared with a Wi-Fi-based system—Kevin Francis, West Cheshire College’s building services area manager, told attendees at RFID Journal LIVE! 2012, held last month in Orlando, Fla.”

(Nice perk of the job there Kevin)

Kevin Francis, West Cheshire College’s Building Services Area Manager
http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/9476/2
[NB. This RFID Journal article was withdrawn from the RFID Journal’s website w/c 7 Jan 2013 – The same month the college refused to answer Freedom of Information request on how consent was gained from the students.
A copy of the article (pdf) is here and here is the original article on the Internet Archieve Wayback Machine]