The Washington County school district in Florida has a little problem with inconsistent attendance. After weighing their options, school officials decided to place finger scanners at the entrance to Chipley High School, where incoming students are scanned in each morning. Because most kids in the district ride buses every day, and because keeping track of everyone in the halls is difficult, the system will be moved to select buses for a trial period to determine if it's a more efficient way to save time and to ensure students are accounted for from the time they arrive until they're dropped off at home.
The program has been in place for about two months, and so far, attendance is up--but not everyone is happy about it.
There are questions about the security of a device that reads a fingerprint, "which is a unique, identifiable piece of information," and then "stores it in a database, and links it to a name" (Kelly Hodgkins, Gizmodo). Being that the students are mostly minors, it's a legitimate concern, and one that Washington Co. Schools Superintendent Sandra Cook is quick to dismiss: There are only four or five points recorded in each scan, which are translated into a 60-digit passcode. "We can't go backwards with it. We can't turn around and take that number and recreate the points on a finger." (DailyMotion)
The scanners cost about $22,000. Per student, this breaks down to about $30 a year each, which is a problem for some parents, and an expense they say the school doesn't need. But Clay Dillow at PopSci thinks it'll all come out in the wash: "At $30 per student per year, the system isn’t necessarily cheap. But considering the uptick in attendance (which means more money from the state in many districts) and the inherent increase in accountability and student safety, it may well be worth the cost."
Even accounting for privacy, security and the cost, isn't it "kinda Orwellian that the school wants you to flash your fingerprint before you can learn"? And what does it say about the district schools? As Micheal Trei at DViCE comments, "it seems like a sad commentary if you need to treat students like prisoners to get them to attend."
But Superintendent Cook has no concerns. "When it's all said and done, we're going to find that this is going to be one of the most monumental things that Washington County has ever done," she says. And parents can always opt out by signing a waiver and having their children check in with a teacher each morning.
What do you think? Is it too "Big Brother" to ask students to scan a finger for attendance, or is this just an example of technology improving an inefficient process?
- Finger Scan Devices Coming to Washington County School Buses
- Are Fingerprint Scanners Really Necessary On School Buses?
- A Florida School District is Taking Attendance by Scanning Students' Fingers
- Florida schools are using fingerprint scanners to track students
- New Finger Scanning Programs Being Used At Washington Co. High School In Chipley