Student Appeals Suspension for Refusing to Wear RFID Tracker

A Texas high school student on Friday asked a federal appeals court to overturn a lower court’s order upholding her school suspension for refusing to wear around her neck an RFID-chip student ID she claims is the “Mark of the Beast.”

The Northside Independent School District in San Antonio began issuing the RFID-laden student-body cards when the semester began in the fall. The ID badge has a bar code associated with a student’s Social Security number. The chip monitors pupils’ movements on campus, from when they arrive until when they leave.

Sophomore Andrea Hernandez was notified in November by the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio that she would not be able to continue attending John Jay High unless she wears the badge around her neck like all students. The district said the girl, who objects largely on religious grounds, would have to attend another high school that does not employ the RFID tags.

The devout Christian sued, and on Tuesday a Texas federal judge concluded the 15-year-old’s right of religion was not breached. That’s because the district, the court ruled, eventually agreed to accommodate the girl and allow her to remove the RFID chip while still demanding that she wear the identification like the other students.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s ruling gave the girl and her family until Jan. 18 to decide whether to go to a different school or comport. She appealed Friday, arguing that adorning herself with the ID card, even one without an RFID chip, amounted to discriminating against her “sincerely held beliefs.”

“To Andrea, this ‘accommodation’ is similar to allowing a religious adherent who must eat a pork-free diet to have his pork-free diet, but to require him to wear a shirt advocating pork,” the girl’s attorney, Jerry Lynn Ward of the Rutherford Institute, wrote the New Orleans-based appeals court. (.pdf) The lower court’s decision, Ward added, “unquestionably constitutes a substantial burden upon her free exercise of religion.”

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