Texas school district to track kids with chips
A Texas school district will distribute ID cards enabled with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips to its students.
May 30th, 2012
04:02 PM ET

Texas school district to track kids with chips

Does tracking school children with computer chips make them more safe - or more vulnerable?

A San Antonio school district has sided with the former, though not without some debate. The end result is that Northside Independent School District will begin the 2012 school year by distributing ID cards enabled with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips throughout three schools and to 6,290 of its students.

The main idea here is to be able to determine where any given student is at any time during the school day. That's the main idea. The other part of this is that it could help the school district net hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of additional dollars. But more on that in a moment.

The chips will be able to detect when a student boards a school bus and where in the school they are located, though it won't work outside of school grounds.

"Parents expect that we always know where their children are, and this technology will help us do that," said district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez. "This way we can see if a student is at the nurse's office or elsewhere on campus." The San Antonio Express-News reports that Gonzalez also said the only people who can access the tracking data will be school administrators.

The ACLU, though, has previously voiced strong objections to chipping students, pointing out that these "insecure" card readers have been copied "with a handheld device the size of a standard cell phone that was built using spare parts costing $20." Equipped with one, they argue, it would be simple for someone to track a student. The group says an even larger concern is that chips could also be copied, allowing would-be kidnappers to take a child off campus while the duplicate chip continues to tell RFID readers that the child is safely at school."

Read the full story on HLNtv.com

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Filed under: Policy • Technology
soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    It's very easy to take away the privacy of someone who can't stand up for themselves.

    How would all of you feel if your every move was being tracked? This is America, land of the FREE.

    June 4, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  2. Edwardo

    At least one "fact" is wrong, the schools will not be able to track where the students are, they will be able to track where the ID cards are. Students will quickly figure out that having a designated card holder allows other students to appear to be were they should be. If the school board doesn't understand this then they don't understand students at all.

    There are also several security concerns. The fact that anyone can make a reader is discussed in the article. It is also possible to make card programmers (unless the card is simply a hard wired serial number, but the article says the "chips will be able to detect" so it is a smart card, and they can be hacked). Finally, by relying on fancy security measures that can be spoofed they may actually know less about where the students are, thus be less able to protect them or respond in an emergency.

    Then, of course, the cost of all of this is a question on which fortunes could be made!

    June 1, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  3. Hugh Jass

    What are they going to do when extra arfids start showing up, identifying students as P.Diddy or Donald Duck? Especially when they turn out to be stuck to a teacher's heel or in a textbook? Man, I'd love to be one of those students. Bring them inside in a metal wallet, then pass them around . . .

    June 1, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  4. MMR

    Obviously, they have no idea how many "professional" adults in the working world lose their ID badges. Expecting more of kids is just crazy and a waste of money.

    In old days you looked up where a kid was supposed to be, if they weren't there or in the nurse's office or principal's office, there'd be hell to pay. Keep in mind that if they were in the restroom, someone would know because they'd have to report to class on time or get a restroom pass from the teacher. If they were meeting with their guidance counselor or if they were somewhere else, they would have to schedule it ahead of time with their teacher. It worked out pretty well 20 years ago. Damn I'm old!

    June 1, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  5. Hugh Jass

    Big Brother used to watch me a lot during 1984, but he died of envy. They say he ate his heart out.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  6. Hugh Jass

    Reality check, people: these are 'passive arfids;' they contain no batteries and can only reflect the ping from a detector. No one can track your kid from space or in a car. When they pass through gates inside the school, it logs the numbers so that admins can see where the card was last logged, usually meaning the user hasn't passed back out or through the next gate. Vets use them on your cat, and they have to wave a wand over the cat to read it.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  7. Child of (Project) Apollo

    I'm fine with it, as long as administrators and teachers are tracked too.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  8. johnquepublique

    Can implanting the chip be far away??? The Hitlers, Stalins and OBAMINATIONS of the world would be so proud!

    June 1, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Hugh Jass

      I bet the Trilateral Commission has already implanted one in you . . .

      June 1, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  9. sanemarie

    Sure, why not? RFID cards can't be any worse than those godawful child leashes some parents make their kids wear. . .

    June 1, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • chefdugan

      Forget tracking kids, is there any way we can lose a few?

      June 1, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  10. jayman

    Ya people who are against it are stupid! Ya obviously dont see how society is going now in days! We cant do S... to your kids without ya complaining! but then again im sure YOUR kids are ANGELS!!! right??? Well back to my point! this is a good idea its just a trial to see how it works! in any way they are not puting a chip in there body just in there freakin ID's !!! duh things are gonna go wrong wit it because kids are smarter now in days but hey its just something to try! so chill out! and just go along with the idea! i work with teens and i wish this was implemented alot sooner!

    June 1, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Officeman

      WOW! I'm glad you said you WORK with teens, and not that you TEACH them: " puting a chip in there body just in there freakin ID's" (as opposed to puTTing a chip in THEIR body_,_ just in THEIR freakin_'_ IDs").

      June 1, 2012 at 9:08 am |
      • jayman

        Thank you for the correction! Im guessing your one of the idiots opposing it??? Im sure!

        June 1, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Bob

      Who knew that the Voice of Reason can't spell, has lousy grammar, and sounds pretty much like a blithering idiot?

      June 1, 2012 at 10:30 am |
      • Hugh Jass

        I always expected the Voice of Reason to be more, you know, reasonable?

        June 1, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  11. w w

    Close campuses. period. If you can't pay teachers, then you won't want to pay for tracking devices.
    There is NO reason whatsoever that students should be wandering off to shop, eat, whatever. I live near a grocery store that was built across the street from a high school. From how many students I see in the store throughout the day, it's a wonder kids in class at all for their six hour day.
    Stop whining about the quality of education and student safety, and insist your local administrators close campuses. It just makes sense. duh.

    May 31, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Katherine T

      All of the campuses where I live are closed. I'm a high school teacher and students leave whenever they want to, not because we don't have security, campus supervisors, a truancy process, etc. They just don't care and frankly most of their parents don't care either. It's the same group of students for the most part.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:12 am |
  12. Ted

    Time for home schooling!

    May 31, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      "Time for home schooling!" Not going to work unless your child is a prodigy or you are a teacher. I've met home-schooled people; they think geology and astronomy are hoaxes and every black person is a mugger. They make good truck unloaders and floor sweepers, if that's what you want for your kids.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  13. Wow

    Wow, I'm amazed at how uninformed the author of this article is... Scare tactics at their very best! I would encourage you all to read the other article that CNN linked to. Its a little more clear, and includes details that CNN conveniently "forgot."

    With that said:
    RFID tags cannot be "tracked" in the manner that the author implies, rather they are "scanned" over an access pad with a range of 1-2 inches. This is the same technology used for employee access badges (such as the one I'm wearing right now) vending machine cards, (you can preload them with money) hotel door access cards, etc. They are already used in hundreds of college ID's around the country for access to dorms, etc!!

    The only way they "track" your movements are when/if you purposely scan the card to gain entry at a doorway, pay for something at a vending machine, etc, in which case the RFID reader takes note of the time you swiped, and the cards ID, which could later be linked with a name. They are not really an effective means of tracking someone, because inevitably you will walk up to a doorway with a group of people, the first person will scan their badge, and then the rest of the group will be let through the door, which means they aren't even logged as having entered! The ID of the one badge that was swiped will be recorded, and therefore they are assumed to have entered the building, (and therefore "tracked" according to this article) but you have no proof of when they leave, and for all practical purposes they could have swiped their card to let someone in, and left without even entering!

    Like I said before, this system is already used in HUNDREDS of colleges around the country, plus a countless number of businesses, however it is not so much for tracking, as it is providing quick access to buildings, vending machines, etc.

    It cuts down on unauthorized access to buildings (a big plus not mentioned in the article) and also the amount of hard cash students carry around with them. (also a big plus – it cuts down on the theft of cash because there's no need for students to carry it!)

    The employee ID I wear everyday is embedded with an RFID tag, and it allows me selective access to certain doors at work, lets me through the gates into the parking lot, I clock in and out with it, and pay for vending machine products using it. BUT ONLY WHEN I CHOOSE TO WAVE MY CARD OVER THE SCANNER!

    I DO NOT consider this an infringement on my rights! Why has CNN made such a big deal out of this!?

    May 31, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      I imagined this would be a different technology, such as the kind of chip used in animals but in a card instead.

      If it is something that lets friends into doorways, it is a terrible idea, because these cards are easily misplaced (I know, they were often at work). On a job, a card will be replaced and the old one de-activated, but will that happen at a school? Considering that many schools have had their budgets severely reduced this year, I doubt that they will keep up with de-activating lost cards, or footing the bill to replace them. It's like all the airports that don't put fresh batteries into AED devices; try using one to save a life without a working battery.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:08 am |
      • Hugh Jass

        "the kind of chip used in animals but in a card instead." That's exactly right.

        June 1, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      My gate pass is supposed to work from six feet away; instead I have to lean out and bang it against the gate. Arfids are a long way from taking over the world.

      June 1, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • ZachSmith

      Wow, you are quite mistaken... there *ARE* RFID systems which allow tracking, I assure you. I am the senior R&D engineer for a company which makes such systems. RFID systems of this nature are often called real-time location systems. While our customer base is varied, we primarily deploy such systems in hospitals and long-term care facilities for tracking of equipment and patients (especially pediatric and geriatric patients), and in some cases, staff. The tags come in many forms... lanyards, wristbands, wallet-sized cards, keychain fobs, small discs (about the size of a quarter) which can be permanently bonded to portable equipment, etc. We have already deployed a similar system in several private schools. The tags only need to be within 8 meters of an exciter/sensor – no need for swiping, contact or immediate proximity.

      When properly designed and deployed, we can identify the location of a tagged device or person with accuracy of 1 meter indoors and 3-4 meters outdoors.

      June 1, 2012 at 10:58 am |
      • Hugh Jass

        ". there *ARE* RFID systems which allow tracking, I assure you." Sure, powered ones, and they have a battery. In nursing homes, it's worth the cost and scheduled maintenance and replacements to keep someone from wandering. In a school, no way would it be cost-effective. Students are a lot more clever than Alzheimer's patients and have a thousand ways to lose or creatively destroy those chips.

        June 1, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  14. musings

    Has anyone considered (apart from the violations of personal autonomy implied in this, the message being sent to the kid), what a time-waster this will be when some drone in the principal's office assumes the duty of tracking and monitoring?

    It will develop a like of its own.

    May 31, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  15. queenbee10

    Dumb idea–for these key reasons:

    1. like car keys and student ids it can be left or forgotten in one area while the kid is actually in another area

    2. When Predators and others KNOW this is what they do in TX–they will be certain to remove any id cards and lead searchers on a merry wild goose chase by having the card in one place while they run off with the kid in another direction

    3. Kids will have friends and others place the cards anywhere they are "supposed to be" and may even use the cards as alibis when really they are in another area.

    for that matter, anyone can do this–just one more step prior to microchipping people which will (by many believers stds just be one more step to fulfilling the mark of the beast (where something is embedded in people that can track them and let them transact or bank or have a job" Funny how that just may come true after all–ain't it?

    May 31, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      But I'm sure they will only microchip people in Texas, which would go with putting honor students in jail for working to support families.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • Hugh Jass

      Queenbee, no. These chips can only be tracked from a foot or so away. No way someone can bring them up on a map as blinking dots. I could buy a bag of them and put my own info on them and hand them out to the kids, but the school is mostly just going to be able to tell which hall the kid's on or which room. They aren't secure enough for Big Brother.

      June 1, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Hugh Jass

      "the mark of the beast (where something is embedded in people that can track them and let them transact or bank or have a job""

      It's called a Social Security number, and yes, some excitable people think it's the Devil's Number.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  16. SPOCKMONSTER

    Oh yay another feel-good solution.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  17. Dawn

    What is wrong with parents who would allow their children to be "tracked"? Maybe we should just implant a "chip" when infants are born....then the schools, police and government can keep track of us throughout our lives.
    The loss of liberty we endure in order to feel safe.....it's idiotic. Life is risky. Get used to it! As Ben Franklin said "He who is willing to give up liberty to gain a little temporary security....deserves neither.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  18. Mike

    I identify as a Libertarian, so normally I'd be against this kind of thing, but this is all a big miscommunication!

    I know the words "chip" and "tracking" sound scary, but this project won't actually introduce any new danger. RFID isn't a homing beacon. An RFID card is operated more like a magnetic swipe card (like a credit card, but you tap it rather than swiping). It can only be detected from inches away. If you're imagining a criminal in a van looking at a radar screen, you've got completely the wrong idea. Here's why:

    – The student has to explicitly tap the card on a receiver (I.E. next to a door or cash register) to be tracked. Receivers these days are pretty compact. Sneakily putting a rogue receiver next to the real receiver (as the article above seems to allude to) isn't really practical anymore.

    – After an RFID card is tapped, the card's ID number is sent through a digital wire to a server in the school, which is where the information is stored. For a criminal to get this information about where the student is, he would need to either 1) hack the school building's access control server (which would be offline for security reasons, so this option is next to impossible, it's not like the website hackings you see on the news), or 2) enter the school premises and take a hostage who has access to that system.

    – Those two vulnerabilities are shared by systems which most schools already have in place, probably including this one in Texas! In many districts, at the beginning of class, teachers take attendance and record it on their computer, which is instantly sent to a server in the school so administrators can see who is skipping class. The only difference between this and the proposed RFID system is that signing in using RFID cards is much faster, saving class time (up to 5 minutes, which is significant in many schools which have 45 minute periods). Some schools also have cafeteria accounts which students can use to buy lunch. Even if the cafeteria lady is looking up the student by first and last name in the system, the information that the student is at the cafeteria is still instantly sent to a server somewhere.

    Sure, the system has the flaw that it can mis-track a student if someone duplicates the RFID card or if students tap each others' cards, but the current systems have the same sort of flaws. Students can swipe each others' magnetic cards at the cafeteria. Students can yell out "here!" for each other when the teacher is staring at a computer screen and doing roll call. That stuff about "knowing where the student is at any moment" is a load of crap anyway, they're just saying it for the buy-in. Administrators already use the systems in place to get that information. They're not going to increase their reliance on the RFID system because it doesn't offer any new functionality.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • anthrogirl

      Thanks for the reality check. My question is would this be cost effective. Some schools districts are hanging on by a thread using donations to stay open. Other schools are cutting GT, music, language and other programs due to budget cutbacks. If the new system doesn't really offer additional functionality, then is it cost effective? Could the school funnel the money it would have spent on the chip system into a program that would increase the value of a student's educational experience. If the answer is yes, then it's a no brainer. If the school has everything it needs and is still rolling in the money, then sure, contract with a company to chip the kids. As a parent of a middle school or high school student, I'd ask the kid to leave the card in their locker so they wouldn't lose it. My kids lose everything!

      June 1, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Hugh Jass

      ". If you're imagining a criminal in a van looking at a radar screen, you've got completely the wrong idea. " You are spoiling their Antichrist fantasies. They want to believe!

      June 1, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Hugh Jass

      "I identify as a Libertarian, so normally I'd be against this kind of thing" The key here is that we outnumber them; they've never heard of me, but I know who Rick Perry is. Spill some sticky arfids on him at a banquet and them track him all night long? Get them on his shoes and track him for days?

      June 1, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  19. Davidr

    I'm sure the kids know this already: demagnetize the card by rubbing it on a refrigerator magnet. Or alternatively, leave the card at home if you don't want to go to school that day.

    May 31, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • ralph

      Yea right... No id no going to class....... Oh and how do you de-magnetize a non magnetized RFID card?

      May 31, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
      • Davidr

        I just assumed those cards would be magnetized. Pardon my ignorance. Anyway, the kids will find ways to "confound the enemy," as we all must do in these times.

        May 31, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      "demagnetize the card by rubbing it on a refrigerator magnet" Wouldn't work, but there are things that would.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  20. Davidr

    "The main idea here is to be able to determine where any given student is at any time during the school day." Uh, stupid question maybe, but aren't they supposed to be in school "during the school day"? Is this school district saying that they are responsible for the kids during the school day, but they don't know where they are? That is monumentally stupid! Because if anything should happen to an AWOL kid, do you think the school district is going to take the responsibility> Of course they won't! They are supposed to educate them, not track them electronically. C'mon, parents, your kids are your responsibility.

    May 31, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  21. PPJr

    Soon every newborn will get the RFID chip implanted so the government can control the movement of everyone!

    There was no 1984. But it's coming.

    May 31, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      "There was no 1984. But it's coming." Sure, I remember that. We went straight from 1983 to 1985. Are you taking lithium?

      June 1, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  22. Kari

    I want to start putting chips into kids so we can track them. What about all the kids that go missing?

    May 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      "I want to start putting chips into kids so we can track them. What about all the kids that go missing?"

      The police will help you with that if you like. Kids at risk of non-custodial abduction often have passive chips implanted, same as dogs or cats, so someone could ID them later in life. But you can't fly around in a plane looking at a map with a blinking dot on it; these are close-range gadgets, like swiping a credit card.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  23. Sam

    The comments in this section are as scary as the idea if electroncly tracking students. This stupid idea is about money, of course, with school districts receiving more in basic school support.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  24. Fed Up

    The kids in question are not worth the extra tax dollars, quite frankly. Most of them will not continue to see the tenth grade.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  25. jph

    This is how a police state starts. You begin with little steps showing the public how this is such a good thing for you. Next they'll imbed them in prisoners/probationers (if they aren't already). Then it'll carry over to old folks with senility, drivers licenses, select employees until finally all newborns get chipped. Credit cards have them now. I give it 5 to 10 years and we won't even know it snuck up on us. Paranoid you say? Did anyone ask us if we wanted those cameras you see everywhere or GPS tracking in our cell phones?
    I agree with Christy...Get your kids out of any school that promotes this. I prophesize that companies that provide (read sell) privacy will be the next big boom industry.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  26. Teoftx

    What a waste of money. They are not imbedding a chip into the child, just putting it on their ID cards which they already have. All a child has to do if they want to do something bad is to have a friend hold their card for a few minutes.

    May 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  27. Mike

    Also don't forget the Frontline. But keep them separated for at least 30 minutes so they don't lick it off each other. Finally, if they seem to be fighting, just check for claws. If they're not showing, it's just play.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  28. Christi

    OMG, this is the freakiest thing I have ever heard. These people are so far out of hand who knows where it will end. The public school system systemically indoctrinates kids from preschool on up. They will be wards of the state, walking Stepford children. And it is happening before our very eyes. WAKE UP AND GET YOUR KIDS OUT OF PUBLIC SCHOOL NOW!

    May 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • heh

      Get them out of Texas...

      May 31, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Donna

      This is the sign of the times we are in...they don't just want to give them cards and police them but also want to decide later to put them under the child's skin so they can be tracked! Believe me this is exactly where it is leading and is what they do with pets now. SO people please do not go for this because they want our country to be under socialism and this is one way to do it!

      May 31, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
      • Hugh Jass

        "SO people please do not go for this because they want our country to be under socialism and this is one way to do it!"

        Honey, this is being done by Texas right-wingers under the banner of conservatism. Please stop trying to think.

        June 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • ralph

      yes wake up... kids have ID cards: OMG what next? require them to pass classes to graduate?

      May 31, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      "The public school system systemically indoctrinates kids from preschool on up." So "home school" them and they will make good janitors and clowns. What you mean is "school's not church," and you are correct.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  29. Joe Mamma

    I thought it was with chips. Like they would put something in a can of pringles.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Is So Fat

      Joe, I thought the same thing. I thought it was some program to track child obesity in schools. I thought they would be tracking kids with chips, to monitor and study the effects, not track kids "using" RFID chips.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • anon

      Yeah, I thought it was another one of those anti obesity campaigns. Like the school had monitors who would track down the kids caught eating potato chips or keeping them in their bags and lockers. Chip sniffing dogs?

      May 31, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
      • musings

        My first impression too – like a response to Bloomberg's banning big drinks from NYC (one of those dumb things – just buy more drinks). The chip-in-school? Just find a clever place in the library to leave it while you cut school.

        May 31, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      Put the tracking device on the Pringles. It will work just as well.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |