Parents fight school over mandatory RFID on kids | February 10, 2005

A school in California has declared that chipping its young pupils is mandatory - and parents are furious about it.

Brittan Elementary School in Sutter, California, introduced a scheme last month to use RFID to identify its pupils. The RFID chips are worn around the neck in the form of ID badges and can be used to monitor where the children are on school grounds, and carry the child's name, photo, grade and unique school ID number.

A recent letter sent home to parents from the school said: "It is important the badge be worn at all times during school hours. This additional step will help keep your child safe while at school."

The letter concludes: "Students who lose or destroy their badges will be accountable for the cost of replacing them."

According to the school's weekly bulletin, the system allowed the staff to find when a non-student was in the school, due to the interloper's lack of badge. The bulletin also says the RFID tags could be used to help identify any missing children in the event of an emergency.

The newsletter adds: "Questions have arisen regarding the safety of the materials used in the badges. The chip that is used to activate the attendance of a child entering a classroom does not have any radioactive elements."

Parents aren't just complaining about the chips on health grounds, they're complaining about the civil liberties implications too.

Michael Cantrall, parent of one of the children at Brittan Elementary, said: "Are we trying to bring them up with respect and trust, or tell them that you can't trust anyone, you are always going to be monitored and someone is always going to be watching you?", according to a report in the Associated Press.

Some parents have complained to the school authorities about the use of the tags and civil liberties groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have taken up the cause.

Principal Earnie Graham told the AP that he hopes to add a barcode to the RFID tag to allow the children to pay for meals at school and take out library books. He said that while the whole school must wear the badges, only the seventh and eighth graders are being tracked.