Outrage of the Week

Posted: May 31, 2013 10:41 AM
Outrage of the Week

A Florida school district is facing outrage after a private security company conducted eye scans on students without notifying parents.

A Polk County School spokesman confirmed to Fox News that students in three schools were scanned – but the program has since been stopped and the iris scans that were already collected have been destroyed.

“I have a letter from the security company telling us everything has been destroyed,” said Rob Davis, the district’s senior director of support services. “We never intended for this to be something forced on parents.”

But those reassurances have done little to calm parents who want to know why they were not notified that a security firm was performing eye scans on children – a story first exposed by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin.

“This is all a bit ‘Big Brother’ and parents should be quite disturbed,” one unidentified parent wrote to The Ledger newspaper. “These people sent out an opt-out form to watch the presidential address, but they can’t notify the parents of children when the are acquiring extremely personal information about minors?”

Another parent posted her thoughts on Facebook – calling it an “invasion of my family’s Constitutional right to privacy.” She also took issue with the “school allowing a private company access to my child without my consent or permission.”

Davis told Fox News that a letter was supposed to have been sent to parents on the week of May 15th.

“Unfortunately, that did not happen,” he said. “The person responsible for sending the letter had a medical emergency.”

The iris scans were part of a pilot program targeting students who ride school buses and three of the district’s 130 schools. The scans were conducted by a private security company called Stanley Convergent Security Solutions.

“We were trying to provide an extra layer of security for parents whose child rides a school bus,” Davis told Fox News. “It would identify the student who got on a bus, when they got on the bus, what bus they got on, when the arrived at school and vice versa in the afternoon.”

The scanning started on May 22 and was finally halted on May 24 when the district realized the opt-out letters had not been sent.

Davis said it’s unclear how many students had been scanned because all of the records have been destroyed.

Davis said he understands why parents are upset.

“I’m a father of three daughters,” he said. “I can understand their concerns. If the information had been sent out when it should have – they could have opted out.”

Regardless, he said parents have nothing to fear about the iris scans - and - he stressed - the data has been destroyed.

But parents aren’t so sure – considering the records were kept not by the school –but by a private security firm.

"It seems like they are mostly focused on this program, like the program was the problem," one parent wrote on Facebook. "It’s not, it’s the invasion of my family’s Constitutional right to privacy that is the problem."

And while the pilot program has been suspended, Davis said he’s not ruling out using iris scans in the future.

“We will always look for innovative ways to communicate with parents that will provide a level of comfort and safety for their child who rides a school bus,” he said.