We wrote last week about school districts in Texas using GPS tracking to monitor student whereabouts, as part of an anti-truancy effort. The two programs, in Austin and Northside, utilize different approaches. The former is voluntary, requiring both students and parents buy in to the effort. The latter is mandatory.
The Northside initiative brought on a lawsuit by the parents of 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez, saying that their religion conflicted with the program, and that the locator chip used in student IDs amounted to a “mark of the beast,” writes the Associated Press.
But lawsuits take time, and the Northside magnet school Hernandez attends (Northside encompasses the western half of San Antonio) didn’t particularly want a noncompliant student in the school, and thus decided to transfer Hernandez to her normal public school. The parents filed an injunction request delaying the transfer. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia denied that request.
Mark Walsh, over at The School Law Blog, has the legal rundown of the case, Hernandez v. Northside Independent School District. The short version is that the school program doesn’t impose a substantial burden on Hernandez’s ability to practice her religion. This would put the case in line with Wisconsin v. Yoder, in which the U.S. Supreme Court determined that compulsory state education of an Amish child could violate the First Amendment, due to the severity of conflict between state and religion.
The other question of the Northside program is whether it might violate privacy rights. In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, however, Northside district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez notes that the chips, which run on radio frequencies, only work inside school walls. This differs from the Austin program, which uses full-blown global positioning.
I’m not sure a school knowing where students are inside that school would be found unconstitutional, but that’s only a guess.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.