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Indiana school board OKs fingerprint-scan policy

 

A plan to implement a policy that would use fingerprint tracking for Fort Wayne, Indiana school lunches was approved earlier this week, according to a report by the Journal Gazette.

Members of the Southwest Allen County School board voted 4-1 in favor of a biometric scanning policy that will go into practice in the upcoming 2014-15 school year.

Tim Loomis is the sole board member who voted against the policy, expressing concerns about how parents will be asked to give consent for the district to obtain students’ fingerprints. He says parents should be asked for approval instead of automatically enrolling children in the program if no response is received.

The board will have another meeting in the coming months to give final approval for the devices to be installed, says district business manager Jim Coplen, who added that the board wanted to have a policy in place so they “could show parents the way the program would work and the corresponding policies”.

In the event that the devices are approved, Pennsylvania-based IdentiMetrics will install a biometric scanning system designed to read fingerprints by next school year.

The program will be piloted in four schools – Covington and Deer Ridge elementary schools, Woodside Middle School and Homestead High School.

Since 2002, IdentiMetrics has been helping schools with implementing finger-scanning identification. The system takes a fingerprint of an individual and identifies several major markers from the print, which are then converted to a number and linked to the students’ identification number.

According to Coplen, the process cannot be reversed to determine a student’s identity, putting an end to any privacy concerns.

The topic was first introduced a year ago and since then, district officials say they have not heard many concerns from parents.

However, as an extra precaution, the district plans to hold several meetings in the next couple of months to facilitate any questions or concerns. Parents would also have the option to opt out of the program, says Coplen.

In addition, students’ biometric information will be terminated within 60 days after graduation or withdrawal from the district or if the students’ legal guardian asks for the information to be removed.

The school district would pay a total of $32,314 to install the fingerprinting devices in all cafeterias, which will be paid through the food-service fund. The pilot program at Southwest Allen would start with the food-service department but could potentially expand to include buses and classrooms so that the district could track where students are at all times (with each additional unit being purchased for $789).

This marks the second time biometric scanning is being used in an Allen County school district, following the use of identiMetrics devices at Northwest Allen County Schools for middle and high school student lunches four years ago.

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