The San Antonio Express-News reports that the Northside Independent School District in Bexar County has embarked on a pilot program to track students using RFID chips embedded in their student ID cards.
Pilot program to include two schools and special education students
The pilot program will begin in 2013 for John Jay High School, Anson Jones Middle School, and all special education students who ride the school bus, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The pilot program will thus comprise 6,290 students.
Safety and revenue cited as reasons
Using RFID chips, which have been used previously to track items in stores and livestock on farms, to track students is said to have two purposes, according to school officials. First, by being able to track where students are, their safety will be enhanced. Also, the RFID chips will help the school district more accurate count of the number of students who are attending school every day. This is considered crucial, as state and federal funding is allocated to school districts based on student attendance.
How RFID chips work
RFIDs or radio frequency identification tags are smart barcodes, according to HowStuffWorks, that can communicate to a network system to track anything or, in the case of the Northside Independent School District in Bexar County, anyone it is attached to. Retail stores use RFIDs to track the location of products throughout the supply chain, from the manufacturer to the shopping cart of the customer buying it.
Using RFID chips to track students
The Northside Independent School District is not the first education entity to use RFID chips to track their students. According to Wired, RFIDs have been used since 2004 to track students in the Spring Independent School District.
Privacy and other concerns
An article in the American Thinker suggests that by "chipping" students, society is headed down a slippery slope to an era when all Americans will be "chipped" by the government for their own good. The Wired article noted that a pilot program in California was stopped when parents and students raised privacy concerns.
The Wired article also notes that since the RFID chips are not encrypted, it would not be technically difficult to create phony IDs with RFIDs, allowing students to evade the system and play hooky at will. Health concerns have also been raised due to the fact that RFID chips emit a small amount of radiation. The long term effects on the health of the school children carrying these chips have not been properly evaluated.
Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.