The privacy community is up in arms this week about Texas student Andrea Hernandez “losing” a lawsuit which challenges her school district’s RFID-enabled “ student locator” program. She objected to John Jay School requiring students to wear ID badges with an RFID chip that allows them to be tracked at all times. It sounds like the legal thriller sequel to Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother at first glance, but it’s not. The facts in the case are more complicated meaning that questions of privacy and whether students should be tagged and tracked like research animals aren’t being addressed by the court.
First off, Hernandez has not actually lost her case; it’s ongoing. A ruling from the West District of Texas Tuesday simply means that Hernandez can’t stay in the school sans badge while the case is ongoing, and will have to return to the non-magnet school that isn’t part of the “Student Locator” program. That may sound awful, but John Jay School has, in the judge’s opinion, done its best to accommodate Hernandez’s objections to the RFID chip in her badge by, primarily, offering to give her a badge without an RFID chip in it. She says that’s not good enough. Her lawyer, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, plans to appeal the judge’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit.