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NISD Motions To Send RFID Lawsuit To Federal Court

Northside Independent School District is requesting the RFID case involving a student’s refusal to wear a district-issued ID badge be taken to federal court.

The case was set for this morning at the Bexar County Courthouse, but now a federal judge may hear the arguments. NISD Spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said the district’s attorneys felt it was the proper avenue due to the plaintiff’s constitutional violation claims.

"They certainly believe that it’s a violation of their constitutional right. We have a different opinion, and we’ll let the judicial process work," Gonzalez said.

The John Jay High School student, Andrea Hernandez, refuses to wear the ID on religious claims. The district offered her an ID without the chip which she also refused, so NISD told her she would be moved to her home campus of Taft (Hernandez attends the Jay Science and Engineering Academy, a magnet school).

Hernandez filed a restraining order,  it was granted, and she is now back at Jay for the time being.

Hernandez’s attorney, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, said the request for a federal judge was a tactical move by the district.

"Obviously the judge we had already ruled in our favor [for the restraining order] so they [the school district] were going back before the same judge who had already seen the issues and saw that Andrea had been discriminated against," Whitehead said.

Whitehead believes the case could head to the Supreme Court.

"If we don’t prevail, there is definitely going to be an appeal," said Whitehead. "The family really wants to move this forward. I have a feeling the school is [going to appeal] because as we’ve seen here, the bottom line is the money that will be made from this and they surely don’t want to lose any money."

Northside first began requiring students to wear the ID’s on Oct. 9 as way of taking attendance and keeping track of students.

The Student Locator Project uses RFID chips in the students ID cards which must be visibly worn. John Jay High School and Jones Middle school are the only two campuses in Northside participating in the pilot.

When the system is used, it can tell school officials where a particular student is on campus at that moment. The chips do not work in bathrooms or locker rooms.

The locators cost the district about $260,000, but Northside expects to gain about $1.7 million in revenue for the 2012-13 school year from student attendance, which is tracked by the chips. School districts in Texas receive funding depending on how many students are in class on each day.

This is only a pilot project and the district is unsure if it will expand to other schools, but the court case has major implications on the program going forward.

A new hearing date and judge has not been decided.

Original petition and temporary restraining order filed by Andrea Hernandez: Hernandez v. Northside Independent Sch. Dist

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules