OREGON CITY, Ore. – Parents are outraged after an Oregon school district implemented fingerprint scanners for student lunches without informing them.
“That is a huge violation of our privacy,” Stina Turner, a mother of three at Gaffney Lane Elementary School, told KATU. “You have to get a signature to use my child’s picture for anything, and for using her fingerprint for anything you would definitely need a signature for that, too.”
A prepared statement by the Oregon City School District states the fingerprint scanners “are intended to provide students more time to enjoy a nutritious meal and less time standing in line,” and acknowledged that parents were not notified about the change.
“Sodexo, our nutrition management services provider, has implemented various improvements to their meal management systems over the summer,” the statement read.
One “change to the system is the optional finger recognition system that students at the elementary schools can use as an alternative to using their student ID card or name,” it continued. “Finger recognition technology does not store a fingerprint. Instead, it collects a few data points from the finger that are used to connect the student to their meal account.
“Based on parent concerns raised the district has directed Sodexo to delay implementation pending direct parent communications to provide time for parent opt-out.”
The statement does not detail whether any student fingers were scanned without parental consent.
“Parental notice should have been provided before the implementation of this new feature,” superintendent David Didway said, according to KOIN
. “We sincerely apologize to our district families for our failure to better communicate this change in advance.”
The statement directs parents who wish to opt their children out of the fingerprint scans to call the school or contact the district’s nutrition services department via email.
And while a district spokesperson told KATU officials plan to use the scanners again this week, parents are questioning whether the devices are really necessary at all.
“You already have their names and records on file, why do you need their fingerprints too?” questioned Alyssa Fletcher, mother of a fifth grader at Gaffney Lane Elementary.
“It sounds like a great form of technology, but not for something to go into an elementary school,” she told KATU. “All our district money should go to furthering education of arts and science and learning, not to make sure the lunch line gets five seconds faster.”
The ACLU of Oregon is encouraging parents to press district officials with questions about who has access to the data, how long it will be kept, and what else it may be used for.
Tripwire security researcher Travis Smith, meanwhile, argues that the fingerprint scans are more secure than pin codes or passwords, and “would be very difficult to reuse … if not impossible.”
“Going forward, being a digital citizen and trying to secure yourself online, figuring out a way to move beyond passwords is ideal,” he said.
The Oregon City School District is among numerous districts nationwide that have implemented biometric scanners in schools, often over the loud objections of parents.