Tracking School Kids Via Tags Is Like Tracking Cattle

by: J. Grant Swank, Jr.

So we’ve come to this: students are being tracked via tags hung around their necks – approved by the school system. Cattle we are. Tag info they collect. Check it out: Keep RFIDs Out of Public Schools.

Will employees in corporations be forced to wear the tags? Will government workers throughout the U.S. be required to wear the tags? Will worshipers in sanctuaries be obligated to wear the tags? Will we all be necked with the tags?

According to IPR, their headline reads: “Mandatory Student ID Cards Contain RFIDs.”

RFID? Yes: Radio Frequency Identification tags. I don’t know what the “D” stands for. Is it “Detection”? Whatever.

Tags are mandatory in the northern California public school district. Parents are up in arms, ready to ring the necks of tag distributors and loose the tags from their children. Northern California ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center are all telling the Brittan School District in Sutter, California, to go hang the tags around their administrators’ necks, but release those tags from the students.

Tags give data to a computer at the school. At all times students must wear the tags. RFID tracks the children’s movement.

“Forcing my child to be – without our consent or knowledge – is a complete invasion of our privacy,” said Michael and Dawn Cantrall. “Our 7th grader came home wearing the ID badge prominently displayed around her neck- if a predator wanted to target my child, the mandatory school ID card has just made that task easier.”

The Cantralls filed a formal complaint against the Brittan Elementary School Board in Sutter, California on January 30th after meeting with several school officials.

In a letter dated February 7, sent to the Brittan Board of Trustees, the civil liberties groups “urge the school board to recognize the serious safety and civil liberties implications” and call the for the School Board to “terminate this ill-advised test immediately.”

“We are sending the letter today because a School Board meeting is scheduled for tomorrow night and we want to make sure that the District reconsiders the issue,” said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director of the ACLU-NC.

“RFID technology is inappropriate for use in schools. The badges jeopardize the safety and security of children by broadcasting identity and location information to anyone with a chip reader and subjects students to demeaning tracking of their movements.”

“The monitoring of children with RFID tags is comparable to the tracking of cattle, shipment pallets, or very dangerous criminals in high-security prisons. Compelling children to be constantly tracked with RFID-trackable identity badges breaches their right to privacy and dignity as human beings.

Forcing children to wear badges around their necks displaying such sensitive information as their name, picture, grade and school exposes them to potential discrimination since the name of their school may disclose their religious beliefs or social class,” said Cédric Laurant, Policy Counsel with

Jeffrey and Michele Tatro, parents of a thirteen-year-old student at Brittan Elementary School, added: “Our children are not pieces of inventory.”

“It is dehumanizing to force these children to wear RFIDs, and their parents are rightfully outraged,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Lee Tien. “We are doing everything we can to support the parents in this fight to protect student privacy.”

Sometimes hi-tech just doesn’t work for the good of homo sapiens. We’ve come upon the chip scratched beneath the skin. Now we’ve got the movement-tracking-tags hung around our necks.

Time to go back to the days when our innards didn’t hang out for the world to read.

Joseph Grant Swank, Jr., is Pastor to New Hope Church. Rev. Swank is a graduate of accredited college (BA) and seminary (M Div) with graduate work at Harvard Divinity School. He has been married for 44 years with 3 adult children.

He is the author of 5 books and thousands of articles in various Protestant and Catholic magazines, journals and newspapers. Web site columns appear on,,,, Republican and Proud,, Conservative Posts, Common Conservative,,, Magic City Morning Star, Right Wing Conservative, Mullenax News, Religious News Online, among others.

California School ‘Tracks’ Kids

Shortly after posting the article above, someone on an e-mail list hosted by California Homeschool Network, posted regarding a California School tracking children and as usual we had a pretty good discussion about it.

The article stated:

The only grade school in a rural Califronia town is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move. Some parents are outraged, fearing it will take away their children’s privacy.

To which “Goodsister” responded:

Teaching in the schools has been as much about crowd control as anything else for decades now, no matter how much caring individuals within the system – and of course there are some – might wish otherwise. And like the phantom of the Permanent Record, school will follow you, once aware of your existence, to ensure your compliance with its institutional demands and their collection of the federal dollars you represent. Mandatory attendance, with the concept of truancy as a punishable offense, in itself is uncomfortably close to incarceration, or a sort of indentured servitude.

The very notion of “tracking” does carry the unpleasant connotations of that other huge American public institution, the prison system. (What’s next, microchipped leg irons for seventh-grade ‘discipline problems’?) Inmates are not guests, their presence is required, and therefore must be monitored, their movements regulated and controlled. I have often joked that I didn’t send my kids to school because they’d never done anything bad enough to deserve to be locked up all those years.

But tracking also treats students in familiar capitalist terms: as warehoused units, products to be strictly inventoried. Well, why not? As schools must pimp themselves more and more to the Big Daddy of federal funding, each product (test-taking student) has specific economic value to the institution.

Laura’s [another list member] point about the schools being holding pens for young people who’d otherwise be out in the world reminds us that the length of a school career kept getting extended, only reaching 12 grades around WWII, to keep from letting all those young people loose to compete in an already overcrowded job market.

Whenever I see stories like this one, more and more often these days, I am thankful once again that I saw the wisdom of keeping my children out of schools. The question Laura proposes as to who has the power over a child – the parents or the school – was one I took seriously before handing over my own. Did I really want the State to raise my baby? Not really; in fact not at all.

When parents are honest, they admit they want free babysitting. They don’t want all the responsibility of raising their kids, but even more immediately, they want time off from them. Our culture acknowledges this with a wink and a nod: check out the cartoon strips and opinion columns come August, they’re full of humorous references to exhausted parents who can’t wait for their offspring to be reclaimed by the institution. It’s even a lyric from a Christmas carol – “and Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again” – that’s how embedded in the culture it is, to feel schools lift some of the burden of our children’s presence from us.

Once we’ve given up that much responsibility, it’s only a small step to allowing the school to reward, punish, and track our child as it sees fit.

Political reality will always shape a society’s institutions, and one social institution will suck energy from another; when families are weakened and dysfunctional, schools and the peer culture they shelter and promote can assume more influence. And when civil rights are under attack in the larger culture, its institutions will reflect that political sea change. Schools, prisons, asylums of all types will become more repressive, the inmates more rigidly controlled. This article on one school’s ‘tracking’ is just one of the latest examples.

I can only add, thank you Goodsister for telling it like it is.