Judge sides with NISD in student ID tracking case
Family of Andrea Hernandez claims ID fits biblical 'mark of the beast' definition
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia denied a Northside Independent School District magnet school student's injunction request against the district over a battle to not wear a school ID with a tracking chip on Tuesday.
Andrea Hernandez, a sophomore at the district's Science and Engineering academy on the John Jay campus, told the district she would not wear the new radio frequency ID badge because of religious beliefs saying it represented "the mark of the Beast," according to the book of Revelations in the Bible.
Northside ISD officials began a pilot program at Jay High School and at Jones Middle School for the 2012-13 school year using the new IDs, which contain a chip that allows school officials to locate students on campus during attendance counts and emergencies.
Improved attendance counts could bring the district added state funding.
The district originally offered Hernandez the option to wear a similar ID without the chip but she and her father refused, arguing that it would show they were promoting the plan.
In a 25-page ruling, Garcia argued that Hernandez's refusal to wear the ID based on religious beliefs was adequately met by the district's offer of the chip-free ID. He also refuted the family's claim that wearing a chip-free ID violated her First Amendment right to free speech because the district does not use the IDs to send a message but to identify students and staff on campus.
In a statement released by the district, spokesperson Pascual Gonzalez wrote the ruling "affirms NISD's position that we did make reasonable accommodation to the student by offering to remove the RFID chip from the student's smart ID badge."
The Hernandez family did not comment on the ruling, saying only that they were conferring with their lawyer, John Whitehead, of the Rutherford Institute.
Despite the ruling, the district said it will allow Hernandez to return to the Jay campus to take her semester exams.
However, she must wear the chip-free ID for the second semester or transfer to her home campus of Taft high school when the semester begins on Jan. 22.
To read Judge Garcia's full ruling, click here (PDF).
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