Emery: No RFIDs for students

Freshman state Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, wants lawmakers to make sure no Missouri public school district requires its students to use “radio frequency identification technology,” or RFID.

“We do this on items,” Emery told the Senate’s General Laws Committee Tuesday afternoon. “We do it on animals. We do it on criminals.

“It just seems inappropriate to me that we do it on our children.”

Shippers use the RFID technology to keep track of individual orders among a mass of different shipments.

Retailers — especially large ones like Walmart — use the technology to help keep track of inventory and to keep items from going out the doors without having been paid for, first.

Emery said he knows of no Missouri school that has tried to use the RFID technology to keep track of its students.

“This issue kind of gained some momentum after a few Texas schools began to implement this — and it was objected to by a student because of religious reasons,” he explained. “She was denied her claim that she should not be required to wear the RFID device, and it went to court. ...

“I don’t know if it’s even been resolved yet.”

Elise Kostial, a St. Louis County teen who founded the group Young Women for America as part of the larger adult Concerned Women for America, told the lawmakers the issue already has come to Missouri, because St. Louis County’s Parkway School District “gave students polar tracking bracelets, to monitor their physical activity levels, even outside of school.”

However, she noted, a voluntary program like that one isn’t prohibited by Emery’s bill.

Kostial told the committee she supports the proposal “as a protection of the rights of young people, and their parents, against an unnecessary infringement. A mandatory radio tracking device program implemented by school districts would be an egregious infringement on the privacy rights of young people.”

Kostial also said the only time RFIDs could be justified would be when “used for criminals. Students, of course, are not criminals, and shouldn’t be treated as such.”

Otto Fajen, a lobbyist for the Missouri National Education Assn., said his group supports the bill because it helps further “a belief that the surveillance of individual citizens, including students, should respect traditional and historic American rights to privacy.”

Testifying for the Missouri Family Network, lobbyist Kerry Messer noted as American culture “continues to evolve, we are conditioning children to wear seat belts, to brush their teeth better — good things. But, there are also things going on that are a little more questionable.

“And I believe we are conditioning our culture just a little too far when we start using this type of technology on students in public schools.”

No one testified against the idea, and committee members took no vote on the bill Tuesday.

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