CANTON, Ohio – An Ohio school district is implementing fingerprint scanners for student lunches, despite the fact that students receive free lunches at two out of three district schools.
“Instead of punching in codes and kids remembering their codes, they put their fingers on it,” Canton Local School District Superintendent Stephen Milano told the Canton Repository. “That fingerprint goes right there, then it brings in their name and picture.”
The district’s food service director, Ashley Ritz, told Fox 8 the change from student pin numbers to fingerprint scans is designed to speed up the lunch line and attempted to protectively alleviate any privacy concerns.
“If you can imagine we are feeding about 86 percent of our students in each building and we are about 700 students, give or take,” she said. “So in two hours, that’s a lot of students to get through the line so with this we are hoping it will speed up the line.”
“We don’t collect fingerprints in the process. The student comes through and they get registered,” Ritz said. “They have to scan their finger four times. The system will put seven dots in place and each dot is generated by a number so it’s just a long pattern of numbers in our system that is stored. There is no fingerprint in the process at all.”
Nick Stepanovich, the district’s technology director, claims the old system was a “breach of security.”
“It just wasn’t a very efficient profess. Unfortunately, we had students behind them watching them every time type in that six digit code. So there’s a little security risk as we use that lunch code for other IDs within the school as far as their computers and tech as well,” he said.
“So it was kind of a security breach in a sense,” Stepanovich said. “The biometric allows us to keep that security with the individual.”
The new fingerprint scanners are going in at Canton South High School, Faircrest Middle School, and Walker Elementary School. The advantages of the system will obviously provide the most benefit for younger students, who more easily forget or fail to protect their codes.
The change comes despite the fact that the district offers free meals to all students at the elementary and middle schools through the “Community Eligibility Provision” of the National School Lunch Program. None of the district’s younger students pay for lunch, which raises obvious questions about the need for fingerprint scanners in the first place.
“We are up over 60 percent poverty rate here,” superintendent Milano told the Repository. “There is no exchange of money at all at the elementary or the middle school. It is free for everybody.”
Regardless, district officials are pressing ahead with the program they plan to use to track students from elementary school through graduation, Ritz said.
“It does take a process because we are registering about 2,100 students in our district and we now have added about 60 to 70 preschoolers on top of that,” she told Fox 8. “So it has been a profess, but I’m still confident that this will be the most efficient when we are all said and done.”
According to the Repository:
Software for the biometrics program was created by PaySchools, a software development company based in the Denver, Colo., area. PaySchools recently acquired Esber Cash Register, which is a local company.
“The software that we always used, we just updated it,” said Ashley Ritz, food service director for Canton Local, explaining the rationale for her school district to adopt the new system. “The PIN pad we were using is no longer compatible with it. The option was either buy new PIN pads or use biometrics.”