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Embattled RFID Pilot Program Discontinued At Northside ISD

Joey Palacios

After a full year of testing a radio frequency identification project at two of its campuses, the Northside Independent School District has decided to discontinue its student locator pilot at John Jay High and Anson Jones Middle Schools.

Students at Jay and Jones will no longer have to wear the RFID badges that projected their location on campus to school administrators. The $270,000 project started last fall as a way to take student attendance.

Northside spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said the project was analyzed from all sides before the decision was made to discontinue the practice.

"Certainly the court case, the negative publicity, the increased human resources that were assigned to this particular initiative, the feedback from parents, students, and staff, all of that was taken into consideration,"Gonzalez said.

Attendance only increased by 0.5 percent, which generated $136,000 in state reimbursement.

  • John Jay:  94.2 percent to 94.7 percent
  • Anson Jones: 94.0 percent to 94.7 percent

Both schools had other initiatives on increasing attendance in progress so its uncertain how much a part the RFID pilot played into the increase.
Although the pilot is over, the district will not be removing the RFID readers from the campus.

"RFID will be with us for the future, that’s not something that’s going away," Gonzalez said. "What we are going to do is look at all of the technologies available, including the RFID readers, and see if we can repurpose those for another use. RFID is a technology that will be with us in our society and our culture forever, we just have not decided how we are going to tap that particular technology yet."

The embattled project was taken to federal court by Andrea Hernandez, a then sophomore at Jay’s Science magnet, on religious grounds. The suit ended in the district's favor and Hernandez’s removal from the school. She said she is elated the program has ended.

"That’s what I was fighting for, and it took a long, long time but all of the kids, and all of the things that we went through for this whole year, it finally paid off. I’m just really glad they discontinued it and no other student had to go through what I went through," Hernandez said.

Since the project was discontinued, Gonzalez said Hernandez can re-apply to the magnet program as a junior, but Hernandez hopes there is another method as the acceptance is based on a lottery. 

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