Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Finger Printing in Cafeterias

A recent Time article talks about a new trick that school officials have began using to speed up lunch lines- finger print identification. What is the advantage? In Boulder Valley, Colorado the children couldn't remember their 6 digit ID numbers they had to give to get lunch. It would save time for kids and also help out those who forgot their lunch money. Colorado isn't the only place using this new technology. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia kids are asked to use finger scans to pay for lunch and prove class attendance. Parents, not surprisingly, are not happy about this. It seems to be too personal a form of ID, too risky in a world where ID theft is already a problem.

Michigan and Iowa have passed laws prohibiting schools from scanning fingerprints of children. Illinois law now requires parental consent to get a child's fingerprint. What is interesting to me is that legally teachers in public schools must be fingerprinted. Even substitute teachers must submit two forms of ID along with fingerprints in order to teach in a school district. This goes along with a criminal background check in many states. It is comforting to know teachers who are in close contact with lots of youth are screened and records are kept in case there is ever suspicion of something illegal. And it works to the teacher's benefit too- their fingerprints may end up protecting them from false accusations.

So why is it OK for teachers to be fingerprinted and not students? Teachers are there voluntarily. They chose to teach, they want to be employed. They have a contract and get paid. Children's fingerprints are not there for legal matters- they are for the convenience of school staff and lunchroom efficiency. That isn't a good enough reason for me.

You want to speed up the lunch line? Give kids a plastic ID with a bar code. The bar code can be scanned just as easily, they can wear the ID on a lanyard around their neck. But kids will inevitably loose their IDs. Yeah, they probably will. They're kids, and that's fine, a new ID card can be printed up for them. It will still speed up the process and it won't feel as much like a violation of privacy.

No comments: