110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Joe Crews
posted Oct 2, 2013 - 9:49:25am
One Florida lawmaker said students in the Sunshine State shouldn't be forced to surrender biometric information — fingerprints, retinal scans or other data — to school officials.
School districts that do collect this kind of personal information would be stringently regulated under a bill filed recently by Florida Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange.
Hukill's bill would give parents with the right to consent or refuse to have their child biometrically scanned by a school, and also stipulates that students cannot be excluded from school activities and services if they do not provide biometric information.
“There are currently no established policies for collecting the data used in these applications,” Hukill said. “There is no way of knowing if the information being provided is given with parental consent or if the data is being kept in a secure manner.”
Hukill said some Florida schools are already collecting biometric information for purposes such as paying for lunches, recording attendance, checking out library books, boarding the school bus and tracking students’ movements on campus.
Hukill's senate district encompasses a wide swath from coastal Volusia across the northernmost part of Lake County to Interstate 75 near Ocala in Marion. However, none of the school districts in those counties uses biometric information.
"The district is not using biometrics and we have no plans to implement any systems using them," Volusia County Schools spokeswoman Nancy Wait said.
Chris Patton of Lake County Schools said collecting biometric data is a technology that may be coming — even the new iPhone has a fingerprint reader, he noted — but it's pretty expensive to use on a districtwide basis.
"There might be more advanced districts that may be using this, but Lake County is not one of them," Patton said.
Kevin Christian, public relations officer for Marion County Public Schools, said his district also doesn't collect biometric information on its students.
"Bus riders simply get on and off the bus; breakfast and lunch students type their ID numbers into a keypad; attendance is manually taken and inputted into a student database daily," Christian said. "At this point, our district is not pursuing biometrics for several reasons, primarily for privacy purposes and technology costs."
According to Hukill's office, if the bill is made law, Florida's 67 school districts would be required to give written notice to parents of their biometric-collection policies at least 30 days prior to collection. Parents would also have the right at any time to revoke their consent to the information being used.
The school districts would be required to have policies in place that define who has access to the collected data, how long the data is kept, when the data will be destroyed, and notification to the parents if there is a security breach of their child’s information.
“Securing and protecting students’ personal data is a sensitive matter and we need to have procedures and safeguards in place,” Hukill said.
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