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Computer Chip ID Lands School in Court

SAN ANTONIO (CN) - A magnet high school is booting out a Christian student because she has religious objections to wearing the school's chip-embedded ID badge, the student claims in court.

Andrea Hernandez, a student at John Jay High School and John Jay Science and Engineering Academy, sued the Northside Independent School District, Jay High School Principal Robert Harris and Jay Academy Principal Jay Sumpter, in Bexar County Court.

"Plaintiff is a Christian high school student," the complaint states.

"Plaintiff is academically gifted and is an exemplary student. She was awarded a place in Academy after completing a rigorous application process which requires, among other things, that she have no history of disciplinary infractions, that she have good grades and that she provide a suitable essay.

"District, by and through its Board of Trustees, has determined to pilot a 'Student Locator Project' in John Jay High School and Academy in an effort to increase public funding for [the] district. Pursuant to the project, students have been instructed to wear around their necks 'Smart ID' badges. The badges are implanted with chips that transmit radio signals, thus allowing school officials to track the location of students wearing the badges on campus."

Hernandez and her father object to the badges, based on Scripture in the book of Revelation.

"According to these scriptures, an individual's acceptance of a certain code, identified with his or her person, as a pass conferring certain privileges from a secular ruling authority, is a form of idolatry or submission to a false god," the complaint states. "Plaintiff was offered an 'accommodation' whereby the radio chip would be removed from the plaintiff's badge. Under this 'accommodation,' however, plaintiff would still be required to wear the badge around her neck as an outward symbol of her 'participation' in the project."

Hernandez says defendant Harris has banned her from distributing flyers and petitions to other students at the school, arguing against the project. She says that on Nov. 13, three days before a hearing on her grievance was scheduled, the defendants informed her father that she would be withdrawn from school on Nov. 26 due to her refusal to wear the badge.

Hernandez says the defendants claim that her refusal violates district rules and policies, yet there are no such rules or policies in her student handbook.

"Plaintiff is not aware of any duly-enacted rule, policy or procedure providing students with notice that they may be disciplinarily transferred from their academic programs as a consequence of their failure to wear the badge," the complaint states. "Plaintiff has observed a large number of other students at John Jay High School and/or Academy who have similarly refused to wear the Smart ID badges, but as far as plaintiff is aware, they have not been subjected to the intense retaliation and discipline that has been imposed on the plaintiff."

Hernandez seeks a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief for violations of the Texas Religious Freedom Act, and the First and 14th Amendments.

She is represented by Jerry Ward, with Garlo Ward, of Lakeway, Texas.

Follow @davejourno
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