June 1, 2013
Parents in Polk County, Florida are outraged after learning that students in area schools had their irises scanned as part of a new security program without obtaining proper permission.
Students at three facilities — an elementary school, a grade school and a high school — had their eyeballs scanned earlier this month as part of a ‘student safety’ pilot program being carried out by Stanley Convergent Security Solutions.
“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,” he added.
Parents at Daniel Jenkins Academy, Bephune Academy and the Davenport School of the Arts received the letter from the school board on May 24 informing them of the EyeSwipe-Nano program and that their child’s principal should be notified if they don’t want their son or daughter to participate.
But elsewhere in the letter, the board explained that the program would begin last Monday, May 20. By the time the letter was received on Friday, iris scans had already been completed at the three area schools without a single student opting out, Angel Clark wrote for The Examiner this week.
Because Memorial Day landed on May 27, parents were unable to receive confirmation from the school until this Tuesday, nearly one week after the scans began.
In the letter, Davis described the scanning as a safe and noninvasive way of collecting students’ biometric data as a way of ensuring the safety of pupils in the Polk County school district. Parents are appalled that they weren’t informed of the program ahead of time, though, and are calling it an invasion of privacy.
“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,” one concerned parent wrote in a Facebook post that has since been shared hundreds of times. “This is stolen information, and we cannot retrieve it.”
When the parent reached the school on Tuesday, she was told that the program was suspended.
Reporter Michelle Malkin caught up with Davis on Wednesday and he apologized for the board’s actions and confirmed that the data had been destroyed.
“Davis told me that ‘it is a mistake on our part’ that a notification letter to parents did not go out on May 17,” she wrote. “He blamed a secretary who had a ‘medical emergency.’”
Polks planned to install EyeSwipe-Nano units on 17 local school busses starting next year. The scandal comes just months after a high school student in Texas was suspended for refusing to wear an identification card to class.