Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fingerprinting Elementary Students: A Good Idea?

Three California elementary schools will be fingerprinting their students in order to speed-up cafeteria lines:
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A plan to fingerprint elementary school students when they buy lunch has some parents worrying that Big Brother has come to the cafeteria.

The Hope Elementary School District has notified parents that beginning this month, students at Monte Vista, Vieja Valley and Hope elementary schools will press an index finger to a scanner before buying cafeteria food.

The scan will call up the student's name and student ID, teacher's name and how much the student owes, since some receive government assistance for food.

"It raises sanitary issues, privacy issues - it is kind of Orwellian," said Tina Dabby, a parent of two at Monte Vista Elementary. "It just sounds kind of creepy."

School administrators said the idea is to speed up the cafeteria line. The same information is currently handled with old-fashioned paper and then transferred to computer so that reports can be compiled.

The annual reports are sent to the state and federal governments, which reimburse school districts for the subsidized lunches served.

"It's so archaic to transfer something from a sheet of paper to a computer day by day," Hope schools Superintendent Gerrie Fausett told the Santa Barbara News-Press.

A similar procedure already is in use in the Santa Barbara School Districts, where students punch a six-digit number into a keypad that calls up their name, photograph and other details, including whether they have any food allergies.
We don't have any major issues with this; as long as the fingerprint records themselves aren't uploaded into an off-campus data base without parents' permission.

That very large question remains unanswered.
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