Two days before their Memorial Day weekend break, kids from at least three different public schools -- Bethune Academy (K-5), Davenport School of the Arts (K-5, middle and high school), and Daniel Jenkins Academy (6-12) -- were subjected to iris scans without their parents' knowledge or consent. The scans are essentially optical fingerprints, which the school intended to collect to create a database of biometric information for school bus security.
One mother took to Facebook to decry the outrageous breach after her son informed her of the unauthorized imaging. She posted a face-saving letter from Polk County Senior Director of Support Services Rob Davis notifying families only after the high-definition eye scans had been conducted.
The mom, April Serrano of Kissimmee, Fla., recounted: "I have been in touch with the principal at my son's school this morning regarding the iris scans. She verified everything my son told me. ... She said that she was following instructions from the Polk County School Board (PCSB), and that she knew very little, if anything, about this before it occurred. She just did as she was told."
The principal "did as she was told," no questions asked, just like a compliant servant of Big Brother is expected to do. Thank goodness for whistle-blowing parents unafraid to speak truth to mind-numbed power.
I phoned Davis, the school bureaucrat who oversaw the intrusive iris scan initiative, on Wednesday after education reform activists spread the word about Serrano's protest across social media. He confirmed to me that the Orwellian incident indeed took place. Davis sheepishly admitted that it was "a mistake on our part" that a notification letter to parents did not go out earlier in the month. He then blamed a secretary who had a "medical emergency" for the administrative mishap.
But this was far more than an innocent clerical error. Instead of verifying that parents received the letter and ensuring that any families who wanted to opt out had a chance to so, the schools allowed officials from Stanley Convergent Security Solutions into the schools to take iris scans of an unknown number of students as part of a "pilot" security tracking program for students who ride the bus. Stanley operates "identity management" systems using "Eyelock biometric readers" that "ensure maximum convenience with unprecedented accuracy."