School Drops Controversial Student Tracking System Panned as ‘Mark of the Beast’

In October 2012, a student rebelled against RFID (radio-frequency identification) tracking cards issued — and mandatory — for all students within two schools in a San Antonio, Texas, school district, saying from a religious perspective, she considered them the “mark of the beast.” After court battles that followed it, the school has decided to completely cancel the program, which was launched to improve attendance.

Andrea Hernandez, then a sophomore in John Jay High School within North Independence School District, was expelled in January 2013 for refusing to use the RFID card. That same month, a federal judge ruled that mandating the tracking system for students was not an infringement upon Hernadez’s religious beliefs, as she claimed it was, citing the Biblical book of Revelation. The teen with her legal counsel, The Rutherford Institute, appealed that decision.

Watch this report about the legal battle earlier this year from WOAI-TV:

“This decision by Texas school officials to end the student locator program is proof that change is possible if Americans care enough to take a stand and make their discontent heard,” attorney John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, said in a statement. “As Andrea Hernandez and her family showed, the best way to ensure that your government officials hear you is by never giving up, never backing down, and never remaining silent—even when things seem hopeless.”

But NBC Latino reported the school district’s spokesman, Pascual Gonzalez, clarifying the school’s decision to not continue the program, which was instituted as a pilot program in 2012, had nothing to do with the Hernandez family’s complaints.

“We did not cancel it because the kids didn’t want it,” Gonzalez said. “We felt the investment was not worth the return and the additional workload of the staff to monitor and follow up on the system.”

nisd student locator program
Examples of what the cards for NISD’s Student Locator pilot program looked like. (Image: NISD)

“We said we would run this pilot for one year, and at the end of this year we would look at the benchmarks we set to see if we reached our goals,” Gonzalez continued. “The attendance rates did go up but not in a significant way. The increase in attendance could not be directly tied to the student locator system.”

As for Hernandez who was expelled, Gonzalez said she can apply to return to the school that has a special focus on science and engineering.

This now has the Hernandez family upset, according to NBC.

“If it is true about this RFID program going away at John Jay High School and Anson Jones, I believe that my daughter should be reinstated into John Jay Science and Engineering Academy at John Jay High School without having to reapply and that NISD should reinstate her with no recourse or malice,” Andrea’s father, Steve Hernandez, said according to the report.

NISD’s Student Locator Program was also met with some privacy concerns as people worried about sensitive data being held on the card that could be hacked or tracking students off school property, but NISD had explained neither sensitive data nor tracking off grounds occurred.