Ban of biometrics in Tampa Bay area schools - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Ban of biometrics in Tampa Bay area schools

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State legislature may ban palm scans like these in Pinellas schools. State legislature may ban palm scans like these in Pinellas schools.
TALLAHASSEE, FL (WFLA) -

Use of biometric devices in two Tampa Bay area schools prompted the state legislature to take a hard look at the use of personal information of students.

Last week the Senate in Tallahassee passed a ban on the use of biometrics in schools. A house version by Representative Jake Raburn, (R)Valrico, is ready to go to the floor at any time.

Raburn said it important to protect students' privacy and personal information.

"When we look at big data breaches, credit card numbers , we can get a new credit card number, we can get a new debit card number but we can't change our fingerprints and can't change our eyes," said Raburn. 

Rep. Raburn said he was first contacted by worried parents after some controversy in Polk County.

Polk County parents were outraged last year when they learned that their children's eyes were being scanned before they entered buses in a pilot program to keep track of students.

Parents were not informed of the use of biometrics before the plans were implemented.

In Pinellas County, palm scanners are being used to check children into the lunch line. The school district paid more than $176,000 for the scanners four-years ago. 

Parents can go online to transfer money into their student's lunch account. After getting their lunch tray, students place their hand over the scanner and it brings up their account on the cashier's screen, and deducts the cost of the lunch. Also, students on free or reduced lunches are not singled out publicly. 

Parents are notified of the palm scanners and can choose to opt out for their child.

Wendy Huntington, who has a daughter at Osceola Middle School, doesn't believe the scanners should be banned.

"I don't know if that's a good idea. I think it's helped the school system. It's expedited the school lunch lines, she puts her hand in there and she's good to go through the line. Before they had to look it up by name and by grade and it slowed everything down," said Huntington.

If the bill becomes law, Pinellas would no longer be able to use the scanners.

"If that's the will of the legislature, so be it. We want to protect the children at all costs, so we'll find another way," said Art Dunham, Pinellas Schools Food Service Director.

In the senate version of the ban, Pinellas County schools may continue using the palm scanners through next year until they can find a different program. The House version is expected to come to a vote on the floor this session.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.

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