“…The elementary school, with an enrollment of more than 750, will be shifting to fingerprint identification technology — broadly known as biometrics — to track lunch orders and eliminate the need for meal cards or numeric codes…”
Lisbon School Plans to use Fingerprint ID in Lunch Line
June 18, 2006
As posted at Boston.com
LEWISTON, Maine –A big change is in the works next winter in the hot lunch line at the Lisbon Community School.
The elementary school, with an enrollment of more than 750, will be shifting to fingerprint identification technology — broadly known as biometrics — to track lunch orders and eliminate the need for meal cards or numeric codes.
Lisbon is believed to be the first school system in Maine to shift to fingerprint ID in the lunchroom.
James Damsgaard, nutrition director for the Lisbon schools, has been fingerprinting students’ index fingers in preparation for the launch. Each finger is linked to an in-house debit account loaded up by parents.
Technical glitches and concerns among parents have dissuaded other school districts in Maine from taking similar steps to upgrade lunch lines.
“When you mention fingerprinting, (parents) just go off the wall,” said Walter Beesley, an education specialist at Child Nutrition Services in the state Department of Education. “There’s been a lot of noise about it.”
Alaska has been finger-imaging students for years, Beesley said, but he was unaware of any schools in Maine that have tried it.
A handful of families in Lisbon have objected to the practice, according to Damsgaard. “That’s their prerogative,” he said, and those students will get bar codes to swipe.
The lunch line package, which includes the image reader, costs between $10,000 and $12,000. Besides the high-tech ID, the new software better tracks what kids eat and spend, and can relay that information if parents ask, Damsgaard said.
The growing use of biometrics has been touted as convenient, accurate and theft-proof, but the trend is not without its critics.
“Compiling this information in a database is extremely dangerous. Government entities don’t have a good track record with maintenance of private information,” said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union.