Aspen School District Superintendent Diana Sirko recently sent a letter to parents of students in the elementary and middle schools, informing them that the cafeteria plans to scan students’ fingerprints as a method to pay for lunch.
The technology, Sirko wrote, will allow students to get through the lunch lines faster. Parents also will have access to the students’ lunch accounts and can pay them online, Sirko noted.
Those benefits, however, are not enough to persuade us that the cafeteria needs this technology.
And neither is the assurance from the developer of the fingerprint-scanning software, Atlanta-based M2SYS Technology, that the scanners do not store the fingerprints, meaning there is no potential for identity theft.
There still is reason to be concerned, even if Sirko and M2SYS are leveling with the public. Chiefly, we worry about the message that will be sent through a seemingly intrusive technology.
The concept of scanning the fingertip of a second-grader in exchange for a sloppy joe is a chilling one. So, too, is the idea of spending tax dollars on the implementation of an Orwellian society at the local schools.
A world of surveillance at the elementary and middle schools might be tolerated by today’s technology-savvy generation of students, which is why parents should have a say in the matter like they do in Illinois, where law requires parental consent before a school’s use the image of a child’s finger.
As it stands at the Aspen School District, students either pay for their lunches with cash or checks. If the lunch lines are as slow as they are purported to be, we encourage the school district to look at punch passes or an ID to speed things up.
We realize that Sirko has the best intentions with this program, but it deserves more public discussion and scrutiny. To begin fingerprinting students without a public discussion only will fuel the sentiment that Big Brother is watching ” even in line at the school cafeteria.
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