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FL Schools Go Minority Report On Students, Give Parents Opt Out Choice Afterward

from the scan-you-see-the-problem? dept

In past discussions around the use of technology to achieve school security, we have typically found that the practice has more to do with money than safety. Such was the case when a Texas school district issued RFID-chipped student IDs, the impetus for which was actually all about receiving government funding based on attendance. While there was backlash from students and parents in that case, the ire was likely somewhat muted by the fact that these were still basically just ID cards with a little extra juice in them.

The situation is quite different in the case of Polk County, Florida schools, which instituted compulsory iris scans of its high school, middle school, and elementary school students, and then sent out a letter to parents announcing they could opt out after the scans had already been completed.

Reports were confirmed Wednesday that Daniel Jenkins Academy, a high school, Davenport School of the Arts, a middle school, and Bethune Academy, an elementary school, planned a pilot scan program with a security program and the schools allowed officials from Stanley Convergent Security Solutions to take iris scans of an unknown number of students. Parents of the students were sent a letter on Friday, May 24, although the letters were dated for delivery the day before. The letters stated that the scanning program would begin on May 20, and allow for students to opt out. However, all students were scanned before any letters were sent home.

There is a saying that goes something like this: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. While public school administrations can often be found rife with the latter, the lack of judgment in this case seems unbelievably grotesque. Anyone with a modicum of sense simply had to know that scanning irises of students was going to raise at least some controversy. To supercharge that by conducting the scans a full three days before a letter informing parents was scheduled to go out, and four days after it actually did, reeks of masochism. Add to that anyone on the lower levels of the operation, who might not be aware of the late-arriving letter to parents, not batting an eye when there wasn’t a single instance of parents opting out of the procedure and you have the kind of cauldron of dumb that keeps private schools in business.

To add insult to injury, parents are reporting that attempts to get answers from the school are about as useful as a wedding ring is to the Pope. One particular parent was hilariously directed by the school, which should have had the answers to questions about procedures conducted on its students, to instead contact PCSB, the county school board.

By the time we were able to make a phone call to PCSB (a time span of about 1 hour), the secretary told us that this pilot program had been suspended. When we did get a return call from one contact, she reiterated that the program has been suspended, like this should appease us. My husband continued to ask where our son’s private scans were, and she said the company was instructed to destroy the information. When we asked how do we know this has happened, there was no answer.

It is interesting that this letter went home on Friday afternoon at 3pm. Like I told you originally, everyone was gone by 4pm when I tried to make calls. So when exactly did this program get suspended? As of Friday afternoon, it was still in effect. Are they trying to say that somehow it was suspended by Tuesday morning (Monday being a holiday)? It seems like they are mostly focused on this program, like the program was the problem. It’s not, it’s the invasion of my family’s Constitutional right to privacy that is the problem, as well as the school allowing a private company access to my child without my consent or permission. This is stolen information, and we cannot retrieve it.

The district has since claimed that all records and scans from the program have been destroyed, but hasn’t bothered to offer any method for parents to confirm this claim. So now we get to endure the resulting suspicion and resentment that is likely going to go unresolved. The district will claim error, parents will stay outraged, and the lawsuits will likely fly. All because the schools couldn’t be bothered to tell parents their children were going to have their irises scanned.

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