“Smart” IDs cause controversy

Daniel Perret-Goluboff

Do you remember those famous commercials that list a time and then inquire to the viewer as to whether or not they know where their children are? I don’t either, because I was born in the nineties. Nonetheless, it seems as though the thought process that catalyzed those commercials is making a bit of a resurgence in one American school district.

Northside Independent School district of San Antonio, Texas issued new student i.d. cards to their pupils this week that came with some astonishing features. The new identification cards, dubbed colloquially as “smart” i.d.’s, hold capabilities far beyond the standard identification card. Most notably, they allow school administrators the ability to remotely track the geographic location of any student carrying the card from school computers.

Not surprisingly, there has been a decent amount of uproar in the Northside Independent School District community as a result of this. Parents, students and community members alike feel as though the personal space and privacy of their students and children is being violated throughout this tracking process. Perhaps even less surprising is the form of rebellion that the students have begun to engage in as a means of combatting this ‘big-brother’-esque technology. Simply enough, students have begun to simply refuse to carry their identification cards (shocking, right?)

Since the programs launch on October 1st in the districts John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School, respectively, students have gone so far as to throw away their identification cards (which the district requires students wear around their necks at all times). Some students have reportedly even become so emboldened as to place their identification cards in inappropriate areas so as to intentionally raise an alert to the administrators that monitor their location. For example, male students have begun placing their cards in the female bathrooms, then requiring an administrator to go in and retrieve the card (good, honest fun right there).

According to The Huffington Post, the district has responded to the backlash caused by the cards by threatening to ‘suspend, fine, or involuntarily transfer students who refuse to wear their cards at all times through the school day’. I suppose that the school district needs to be able to institute some sort of repercussion aimed at inspiring obedience, but involuntary transfer of a student seems to be a bit of overkill. As administrators, these people should be able to understand that negative reinforcement is not a feasible means through which to endear their students to following the rules.

Schools do, admittedly, need to take increasingly drastic measures in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all of their students. It should be our hope, however, that we can be able to do this in a way that does not infringe too greatly upon the personal liberties and freedoms of those same individuals. Perhaps I’m wrong and this is for the best, but I suppose we shall find out when the program reaches its expected 112 schools and over 100,000 Texan students. We cannot expect to foster a culture of understanding and obedience within our public school students through making them wear a physical representation of the fact that they are quickly becoming a number in the eyes of their superiors.