Aspen school cafeterias plan to scan fingerprints of students |

Aspen school cafeterias plan to scan fingerprints of students

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The cafeterias at Aspen’s elementary and middle schools will soon take a cue from science fiction.

The Aspen School District recently announced plans to implement a fingerprint-scanning program to check students through the cafeterias in both schools. The district expects the new technology to expedite the lunch line.

Despite concerns from parents and privacy advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union, fingerprint-scanning programs have gained national and international popularity in the past several years. Advocates say the programs speed up lunch lines and reduce stress among younger students prone to losing their lunch money.

Detractors worry that stolen fingerprint codes could be misused in new forms of biometric identity theft. Biometrics identify humans based on unique traits such as fingerprints or irises.

The system will scan a student’s fingerprint, identify a series of data points and convert the information to a file composed of zeroes and ones, wrote Superintendent Diana Sirko in a letter that was sent to parents last week.

Fingerprint images are not stored, according to Sirko, and the template cannot be used to reconstruct the actual fingerprint image.

“This is a new method of secure fingerprint recognition that will allow us to get kids through more quickly and help parents keep track of their student’s balances,” Sirko wrote. “I want to assure you that this is a very secure system where several important security features are present to protect the privacy of those using the system.”

As students pass through the lunch line, a scan of their fingerprint will find their account and delete the appropriate amount of money. Through the district’s website, parents will be able to track lunch charges and the account balance ” and eventually pay the account online.

Throughout the United States and Europe, the programs have been introduced in school cafeterias, buses and libraries ” as well as at school entrances, to monitor attendance and security. Since students don’t have to remember a card, a code or money, the systems arguably make things easier on both students and staff.

However, after concerned parents questioned the decision, several school systems in districts like Irvine and Boulder have decided not to use the space-age technology.

In Michigan and Illinois, the programs have been banned, according to Time magazine. Sweden’s Supreme Court is currently considering whether the technology can be legally used with students, according to English-language Swedish newspaper The Local.

Superintendent Diana Sirko did not immediately return calls regarding her letter to parents.

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