The Rutherford Institute (RI) has issued a press release announcing that the Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) has agreed to cease installation of biometric palm readers in county schools, and seeks an alternative program to meet CCPS’ efficiency goals. The biometric devices scan the unique vein structure in a child’s palm and then match that unique identifier to stored information regarding the child’s lunch account. CCPS’ decision came in response to RI’s warning to school officials about security and privacy concerns relating to its use of biometric palm scanners in school lunch lines.
However, the scanners will continue to be used in the ten schools where they have already been installed until a decision has been made about which input method to use in the place of the palm scanners. RI also recently came to the defense of a student at a Texas public school who was expelled because she refused to wear an RFID tracking badge as part of the school’s campaign to track students’ whereabouts in order to secure state funding. RI is making an opt-out letter available to parents concerned about the use of biometric devices in other school districts.
“While this is a significant development in pushing back against the encroachment of the surveillance state in the schools, the battle is far from over – in this school district and everywhere else these tracking and surveillance programs are being implemented,” said RI’s president John W. Whitehead. “Communities need to hold government officials accountable to representing their interests, rather than marching in lockstep with programs aimed at enriching the schools and their corporate partners that don’t make the schools safer or help students learn more but merely advance the surveillance state.”
Palm scanning identification devices are becoming increasingly common throughout the country, and can be found in over 50 school systems and 160 hospital systems, spanning 15 states and Washington, D.C. The biometric palm reader takes an infrared picture of the palm’s vein structure and then matches that image with stored information to identify the child.
In calling on the Carroll County Board of Education to cease its implementation of the program or, at the very least, only allow students to enroll in the program with express written consent from a parent, Whitehead warned school officials against making government tracking and surveillance ubiquitous in the schoolhouse and, in the process, desensitizing young people to threats to personal privacy when used in broader contexts.
Source: Rutherford Institute, 12/13/12, By Nisha Whitehead
[Editor's Note: In November 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Christian Science Monitor, which reported that the Northside Independent School District had been sued by a student and her parents over the requirement that students display their student ID badges at all times. The badges are equipped with a “locator” chip that tracks a student anywhere on campus. The article noted that RI is supporting that suit.]