A win for the school district in federal court.
A federal judge Tuesday ruled that Northside Independent School District can transfer a student from her magnet school for refusing to wear her student ID badge to protest a new electronic tracking system.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia rejected a lawsuit brought by Andrea Hernandez, 15, through her father, Steve Hernandez, backed by lawyers provided by the Rutherford Institute.
The lawsuit had sought an injunction so she could stay in Jay High School’s magnet school for science and engineering without having to wear the identification badge.
The badges contain a chip used to track students’ on-campus whereabouts but Northside ISD officials had offered to let her wear it without the chip.
Andrea refused, saying it violated her constitutional rights and religious beliefs, and after Northside officials reassigned her to Taft High School, her regular neighborhood school, the family filed suit in November.
“Today’s court ruling affirms NISD’s position that we did make reasonable accommodation” to Andrea’s religious concerns, the district said in an emailed statement. “The family now has the choice to accept the accommodation and stay at the magnet program, or return to her home campus” later this month.
Administrators use [RFID] mainly to identify students who are in the building but missed morning roll call, although the system also can locate individual students any time of day. It keeps an electronic history of each badge, so operators can retrace a student’s general movements. In a 25-page ruling, Garcia said the five claims of violations of federal and state civil liberties and religious laws that the lawsuit asserted failed to meet requirements to get the injunction.
The issue of school safety trumps some of the claims, he wrote, and cited examples from Northside Superintendent Brian Woods’ testimony that the RFID program has allowed educators to quickly find students during emergencies.
“In today’s climate, one would be hard pressed to argue that the safety and security of the children and educators in our public school system is not a compelling governmental interest,” Garcia wrote. “One could envision many different methods of ensuring safety and security in schools, and the requirement that high school students carry a uniform ID badge issued for those attending classes on campus is clearly one of the least restrictive means available.”
See background here and here, and via Wired you can see the court’s opinion here. The Rutherford Institute, which represented Andrea Hernandez, has said that it would support an appeal to the Fifth Circuit. I continue to not understand the fuss, given that NISD has allowed her to remove the RFID chip from her ID card. Requiring high school students to carry and display an ID card seems to me to be a pretty basic security measure. We’ll see what if anything happens from in the courts and the Legislature.