Florida School District Draws Ire Over Student Retina Scans

Parents are up in arms in Polk County, Florida, because their children were subject to an iris scan without getting acceptable parental permission. The iris scans are part of a new security program being put in place in an elementary school, grade school and high school by Stanley Convergent Security Systems, reports Reuters’ Mike Blake.

Daniel Jenkins Academy, Bephune Academy and Davenport School of the Arts parents received a letter in the mail informing them of the new EyeSwipe-Nano Program. The letter stated that if parents would prefer their child not be a part of the program they should contact the child’s principal.

“It simply takes a picture of the iris, which is unique to every individual,” Rob Davis, the school board’s senior director of support services, wrote home to parents in a letter dated May 23. “With this program, we will be able to identify when and where a student gets on the bus, when they arrive at their school location, when and what bus the student boards and disembarks in the afternoon. This is an effort to further enhance the safety of our students.The EyeSwipe-Nano is an ideal replacement for the card based system since your child will not have to be responsible for carrying an identification card,”

The letter was dated May 23, with parents having received it on May 24 — but the scans started on May 20. Some parents didn’t receive the letter until May 28 due to the long Memorial Day weekend.

Due to the strong backlash from the community, the school has suspended the program. Davis confirms that all of the data has been destroyed and has apologized for the board’s actions.

Privacy concerns are a growing issue with many parents, as schools are increasingly using technology to collect and store their children’s personal information.

Recently the corporation inBloom, a database provider that allows schools to store students personal information, came under fire due to parent worries of potential privacy violations. After protests, the $100 million multi-state database project had one state pull their partnership, two states decide to reconsider, and three more deny that they had ever been affiliated with the proposal.

Parents’ concerns may be valid, as hackers or data leaks could put children’s information into .

This past November, San Antonio’s school district endured criticism when they announced they would use RFID tracking chips in student ID cards. A local teen hacked the school’s website in protest of the invasion of privacy, while another sued the district because she felt the tracking plan was in violation of her religious freedom.

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