The use of biometrics in schools is once again the topic of debate in the Florida legislature, with lawmakers considering a proposal that would prohibit school districts from collecting biometric information – including fingerprints, handprints, iris and voice.
The Miami Herald reports that the measure being considered by the Florida Legislature is part of a larger bill meant to address concerns over student data security. The fear expressed by biometrics skeptics is that the collection of students’ sensitive data can never be truly protected from private vendors and other third-party organizations.
Miami-Dade school board members have already approved a series of rules governing any future biometric programs. One of the stipulations will see parents provide written consent for the collection of their child’s biometric data, with the information not to be shared with outside entities.
Polk County parents were outraged last year when they discovered that the school district had been scanning the irises of their children without prior parental consent. Meanwhile, biometrics has been met with less controversy in the Pinellas County school district, where officials have allowed schools to scan students’ palms in the cafeteria instead of accepting cash.
Between a lack of transparency from school officials, and a general misunderstanding of biometrics as a technology, the future of biometrics in Florida schools will be hotly debated. Despite the backlash from parents, however, there are a number of Florida school boards that remain optimistic in the technology.
For the time being, however, legislation will push forward with plans to curtail biometrics in schools.
In addition to banning biometric data collection, the proposal mandates that parents must be notified annually about their rights regarding education records – a measure that is already required by federal law. Moreover, the bill will prohibit school districts from collecting information on the political affiliation, voting history or religious affiliation of a student, a student’s parent or a student’s sibling.
As data mining is a clear concern for parents, the proposal also clearly states that personally identifiable data would not be released to the federal government unless required by federal law.