Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Florida introduces three bills for biometrics in schools

After the appalling iris scanning of 750 Florida school children in May 2013, without their parents knowledge, to get on a school bus Senator Dorothy Hukill introduced two bills to the Florida Senate, SB232 and SB188 dealing with biometrics in schools.

SB232 would simply prohibit schools from taking and processing students biometrics whilst SB188 would allow schools or school districts to set policies on how biometric technology could be used.
“And the parents have to opt in, give permission for the information to be taken from their child,” Hukill said of SB188.
“Who would even think a school would take this kind of information from children?Hukill said. “We've had children get on buses and go through lunch lines for years without taking their biometric information. Why do we need to do this? And if we are going to do this then why not have a policy in effect?
Good questions indeed Senator Hukill!  

On 21st October 2013 Senator Jake Raburn introduced House Bill HB195 - 'Provides that students & parents have certain rights relating to submission of biometric information; requires school district that collects student biometric information to implement policies governing collection & use of information; requires security of information & notification if security is breached; provides penalties - which is a near replica of SB188.

It will be interesting to see the bills journey through the senate.  Here is a brief explanation of the difference between Senate Bills and House Bills.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Biometrics not so flavoursome for school catering

Over on What Do They Know, a UK website for Freedom of Information requests (FOIR), there have been some requests made to schools about biometric systems used.

Some interesting figures are emerging.  For example, Falmouth School in Cornwall has a biometric system for school meals, the take up after asking for parental consent is 34%.  Only 355 children are using the biometrics system out of a school role of 1044.

The school recently put a plea out to parents to use the biometric system: "Please could I ask as many students as possible to register to pay using the biometric system." 

Falmouth School's appeal to parents for consent to
 their children's biometrics used for cashless catering
Another school, Honiton Community College, has a biometric system where only 628 pupils and parents have consented to their biometrics being used - a 68% take up rate, with 203 not consenting, 22% .  As there are 926 students on their schools role, quite what the remaining the remaining 95 children are doing for lunch is not detailed in the Freedom of Information request reply from the college - maybe they are opting for packed lunch?

So why are schools buying identification systems for food that are only 34% - 68% effective, then having by law, in the recent Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, to provide an alternative means of identifying oneself in order to access food - surely this is a waste of taxpayers hard earnt money?

Why don't kids use use money?  Children use money out of school... oh yes, according to schools, it encourages bullying apparently.  Does it really?

Are the Headteachers and Principles so incompetent that they cannot sort out bullying issues? - if there is really an issue here at all.  If a leader of a school has to resort to buying an inefficient technology in order to eliminate bullying in a lunch line should that Principle or Headteacher be in the job, as presumably they cannot sort out bullying elsewhere too?  Also is it not the duty of a healthy society to encourage children to know how to handle money, keep it safe, not steal other's money and behave responsibly around cash?

The argument for having biometric technology in schools is weakening.  Complaints need to to be made to schools Governors, who have a responsibility to spend the public's money wisely.  On the governments Audit Commission's website (Protecting the Public's Purse)  there is an booklet entitled - Fraud risks in schools advice for school governors where it states:
"School governors share a responsibility for protecting taxpayers’ money:  As a school governor you have a special additional role. As governors you are individually and collectively responsible for proper control of your school’s finances. The buck does not stop with the financial administrator."
Maybe, in these times of austerity, we need to start holding these governors to account, spending our money on biometric systems that are clearly not fit for purpose in a school environment.