FL Schools Go Minority Report On Students, Give Parents Opt Out Choice Afterward

from the scan-you-see-the-problem? dept

In past discussions around the use of technology to achieve school security, we have typically found that the practice has more to do with money than safety. Such was the case when a Texas school district issued RFID-chipped student IDs, the impetus for which was actually all about receiving government funding based on attendance. While there was backlash from students and parents in that case, the ire was likely somewhat muted by the fact that these were still basically just ID cards with a little extra juice in them.

The situation is quite different in the case of Polk County, Florida schools, which instituted compulsory iris scans of its high school, middle school, and elementary school students, and then sent out a letter to parents announcing they could opt out after the scans had already been completed.

Reports were confirmed Wednesday that Daniel Jenkins Academy, a high school, Davenport School of the Arts, a middle school, and Bethune Academy, an elementary school, planned a pilot scan program with a security program and the schools allowed officials from Stanley Convergent Security Solutions to take iris scans of an unknown number of students. Parents of the students were sent a letter on Friday, May 24, although the letters were dated for delivery the day before. The letters stated that the scanning program would begin on May 20, and allow for students to opt out. However, all students were scanned before any letters were sent home.

There is a saying that goes something like this: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. While public school administrations can often be found rife with the latter, the lack of judgment in this case seems unbelievably grotesque. Anyone with a modicum of sense simply had to know that scanning irises of students was going to raise at least some controversy. To supercharge that by conducting the scans a full three days before a letter informing parents was scheduled to go out, and four days after it actually did, reeks of masochism. Add to that anyone on the lower levels of the operation, who might not be aware of the late-arriving letter to parents, not batting an eye when there wasn’t a single instance of parents opting out of the procedure and you have the kind of cauldron of dumb that keeps private schools in business.

To add insult to injury, parents are reporting that attempts to get answers from the school are about as useful as a wedding ring is to the Pope. One particular parent was hilariously directed by the school, which should have had the answers to questions about procedures conducted on its students, to instead contact PCSB, the county school board.

By the time we were able to make a phone call to PCSB (a time span of about 1 hour), the secretary told us that this pilot program had been suspended. When we did get a return call from one contact, she reiterated that the program has been suspended, like this should appease us. My husband continued to ask where our son’s private scans were, and she said the company was instructed to destroy the information. When we asked how do we know this has happened, there was no answer.

It is interesting that this letter went home on Friday afternoon at 3pm. Like I told you originally, everyone was gone by 4pm when I tried to make calls. So when exactly did this program get suspended? As of Friday afternoon, it was still in effect. Are they trying to say that somehow it was suspended by Tuesday morning (Monday being a holiday)? It seems like they are mostly focused on this program, like the program was the problem. It’s not, it’s the invasion of my family’s Constitutional right to privacy that is the problem, as well as the school allowing a private company access to my child without my consent or permission. This is stolen information, and we cannot retrieve it.

The district has since claimed that all records and scans from the program have been destroyed, but hasn’t bothered to offer any method for parents to confirm this claim. So now we get to endure the resulting suspicion and resentment that is likely going to go unresolved. The district will claim error, parents will stay outraged, and the lawsuits will likely fly. All because the schools couldn’t be bothered to tell parents their children were going to have their irises scanned.

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Comments on “FL Schools Go Minority Report On Students, Give Parents Opt Out Choice Afterward”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t know, seems like an iris scanner would be a lot more expensive than just taking attendance. Seriously, what happened to good attentive teachers and plain pencil and paper, that’s how they did it when I went to school.

I see absolutely no point to this, unless the feds give the school money for having computerized attendance, but then, why iris scanners, why not something a little… cheaper ?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I am sure the salescritter touted it was cutting edge, and how they could get a grant to pay to put it in, how it was more secure than other options and it would be awesome…
then they got paid and it went downhill from there.

They no longer care much if the kids are in class, as we seen in the statements from the TX school with the RFID tagged badges… it just made sure they were in the school and recorded that number to make sure they got the funding for having x bodies in the building.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I really doubt the company has ANY use for scans of random children. Retinal scans are not something you can do surreptitiously like facial recognition cameras, and they aren’t something you leave all over the place like fingerprints, and they aren’t something you can inherently gain ultra-private information from like DNA.

You know what the real problem is? Schools that have so many students that they think need a retinal scanner to know who belongs. If the school was reasonably sized, the teachers would simply recognize any students that weren’t supposed to be there, and it would also help if the school wasn’t so huge that there are many places to hide.

And how does this make students safer, anyway? Most students, if they are going to shoot up a school, do it to their OWN school. They’d PASS the retinal scanner, because they’re a student there. Wouldn’t you be better off with a metal detector?

And now I’m wondering how long it takes for each student to go through a retinal scanner line. If you have 600 students and each one takes 6 seconds at the scanner, that’s an hour.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ah but building a database of iris scans for 12 years of schooling lets you show real world how your system works. And you have records of these children’s scans and someone at somepoint will suggest a new way to use it to verify they are citizens because it doesn’t require them to produce papers so its not saying papers please as they investigate people.

The fact they were unable to explain the program to the parents shows an absolute failure to think, someone told them this was the bestest thing ever and they believed them.

Anonymous Coward says:

it's lawsuit time

It’s time for a class-action lawsuit against that school for (the lifetime value of privacy for a student) multiplied by (the number of students scan) multiplied by (an aggressive penalty factor).

In addition, the school officials involved should be fired and blacklisted for life from any job involving contact with children.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: it's lawsuit time

Class-action lawsuits are civil suits, not criminal. No need for a DA to be involved.

I am quite certain that a number of private attorneys will be more than happy to file lawsuits on this.

I personally would love to hear justification for this, hell even getting Top Secret Clearance from the government doesn’t require an Iris scan.

Unfortunately, some poor technically inept school leaders were probably sold a ‘security system’ that was ‘foolproof’ and went “Wow, I will be a hero and the kids will be safe” (As if).

Bengie says:

Re: Re: but

Gene pressure to select genes to “not be stupid”, would eventually reduce the amount of gene caused anti-social behaviors.

Paradoxically, trying to cull said genes would also be anti-social and to whom do you give that power?.. Slippery slope.

In the end, anti-social people should just be kicked out of society. If they don’t want to participate and help, then GTFO.

Michael (profile) says:


They manage to let us parents know three months in advance about picture day, but oops…forgot to mention we were doing iris scans last week…

And what kind of teachers are at this school? There was nobody teaching at this school that looked at the morning schedule, saw “scan everyone’s eyes for future use” and said “what the heck are we doing?”. It’s way past the time that we raised the bar a bit on hiring teachers.

The Real Michael says:

Clearly the school knew full and well that parents would be angry, hence why they did it before notifying the parents. Whatever company was involved with the iris scans, you can bet they still have what they came for. The school deceived those parents; the students were nothing more than guinea pigs in their invasive quest to collect personal data.

Shon Gale (profile) says:

Since Students don’t have the same rights as adults. What’s the big deal? The school already control’s what they do all day, and the parents are happy to let them babysit.
Not one student was allowed to say NO on their own. The sad thing is most of the students were led to the scanner like sheep and they put up with it. Never even questioned it. Sad.

Lurker Keith says:

Re: Re:

There are a couple problems, actually. Perhaps more, but 2 come to me off the top of my head.

First, not all parents are OK w/ some institution having the iris scan. The typical “privacy” concerns. Iris Scans are supposed to be unique identifiers (not sure how even that works w/ twins).

Second, & probably more importantly, there is a potential danger w/ Iris Scanners. Why do you think they’re not totally widespread yet? Most, if not all, Iris Scanners are laser devices. How many parents do you know who would be OK w/ a laser scanning (or the assumption of laser scanning) their child’s eye/s for any reason? What if it malfunctions? Most parents would assume there would be a [slight] risk of blinding, whether justified or not. & theoretically, if the power output of the laser glitched & the level or duration increased, then you get to eye melting or brain penetrating concerns.

& the parents weren’t informed of any dangers (even if it’s a 1/2 a percent likelihood) ahead of time, since they weren’t even told it was happening at all until after the fact.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Most, if not all, Iris Scanners are laser devices.

You are conflating iris scanning with retinal scanning. Iris scanners just use a close up photo of the iris, the colored part of the eye around the pupil. Retinal scanners actually project a beam of light into the eye to image the blood vessels in the retina, the back surface of the eye. Just FYI.

Doing either of these things to children without their parents’ notice or consent is abominable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The sad thing is most of the students were led to the scanner like sheep and they put up with it. Never even questioned it. Sad.

Quoted for emphasis. They put up with it because schools can pretty much have students arrested for saying ‘boo’, and when that happens it looks bad for parents. Obedience becomes the number one priority for parents. And the circle of tyranny is complete.

Mr. Applegate says:

So just to get this right

Let’s see we need to have a parents signature to let a student take a Tylenol, participate in sports, go on field trips…. allow students to fart in the wind…

Don’t need parents permissions to violate students Civil Rights. Got it.

I assume of course that all the staff, administrators and school board members had their iris’ scanned as well.

Transmitte (profile) says:

Gold intentions and gold roads

Someone came up with the idea to do this or it was pitched to them via some sales douche and away it went. No real planning, no thought of what this would entail(cause your iris never changes AFAIK). And in some grand scheme of “IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN!!”, they wound up doing more harm than good and are now on their way to the wood shack for a nice ass whooping.

And they honestly believe people will take the word of them now that the scans were destroyed? WTH?? They not only dropped the ball about letting parents know, but kicked it out of the damn stadium, and they are wondering why they are not being believed? Man, I’ve seen some bone headed plays, but this ranks right up there as on of the best in recent history.

Enjoy those lawsuits(even though nothing of any good will come out of except teachers getting fired due to having to the school district having to pay some possible fines, damages and court/lawyers fees.)

Ophelia Millais says:

The parents and administrators probably still give this security company the benefit of the doubt. It’s assumed the scans would only be used for attendance and would only be useful when the child is in school.

They don’t even think of things like what could go wrong, how secure is this data being kept, how long do they keep it, what else might be done with it, what if someone uses the data to identify and track the children in places & situations where they (and their parents) expected anonymity, what happens when the company goes out of business or is acquired by a big government/military/law-enforcement contractor, etc.?

Eponymous Coward says:

What I find worriesome...

What I find worriesome is how our schools (along with prisons) are used as incubators for these authoritarian maschinations and test programs. This is troubling on two front. The first is that this is conditioning children to adhere to the dictates and programs of authority without question, even if it violates their personal rights. The second is the future creep of these activities as they’re expanded from school (and prison) life to the broader society at large. Essentially once programs like this are established and gain acceptance (or at least not outright resisted) there will be an inevitable push for these databases to be used by both law enforcement and private companies. I feel our schools (and prIsons) are the frontlines in our struggle to maintain a free society.

Nancie smith (profile) says:

Look at the 2013 FERPA at ED.gov. It was interestingly updated in 2009 or 10 to include the collection of biometric material from our children WITH OUT parental concent (99.31) along with Biometric records (99.2). It gets better… Schools are or soon will be required to have the collection of 44 data points on students ( 20 states recieved State Longitudinal Data Grants) soon to be 100 from re-k to 20. [Asked a collection specialist and he said to have 44 can tell you a heck of a lot and this info is sentive but 100 is down right scary stuff to have on every child.]

tim says:

iris scans

we have lived in florida since 2006. Everything….everything …..everything about this state’s government, police, school, emergency services, hospitals is fucked up. this state is run by rich people for rich people. they send their kids to private schools and as far as they are concerned everyone else can go fuck themselves. the republicans have tied the (corrupt) legislature in knots where nothing gets done except what benefits the rich.

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