The Journal of History     Fall 2002 TABLE OF CONTENTS

Fingerprints for Food?


By Libertarian party representative
March 7, 2001

Should your children be required to submit 'fingerprints for food' at school?

WASHINGTON, DC -- A new "fingerprints-for-food" program -- which encourages children to submit their fingerprints to purchase  school lunches -- is another frightening example of how law enforcement-style technology is being used to monitor children in  public schools, the Libertarian Party said today.

"Should 7- and 8-year-olds be required to submit biometric identifiers so they can eat lunch?" asked Steve Dasbach, the party's national director. "Should children in grammar school be treated like criminals for the convenience of public school bureaucrats? Or has schoolyard surveillance finally gone too far?"

This week, national attention has become focused on 35 public schools in Pennsylvania, where school officials have implemented an unprecedented "fingerprints-for-food" program.

Using technology supplied by a company called Sagem Morpho -- which also sells fingerprint-tracking devices to the FBI and the Secret Service -- schools such as the Welsh Valley Middle School encourage children to have a fingerprint scanned, and a numerical representation of it saved in the school's database.

Then, children can put an index finger on a scanner as they move through the cafeteria checkout line. The print is matched in the database, and the price of the lunch is deducted from the family's account.

Editor's note: This is the excuse (plausible denial) the government uses.

School officials say fingerprinting speeds up lunch lines and ends the problem of lost or stolen lunch money. It's so successful,  they say, the technology may be expanded to allow children to check out books from school libraries, board school buses, and have their attendance taken.

Not so fast, says Dasbach. Before schoolchildren are routinely fingerprinted, Americans need to ask: * Do we want our children treated like criminal suspects?

"Fingerprinting isn't just for criminals any more -- now it's  for schoolchildren who only want a hot lunch," noted Dasbach. "Is that the message we want to send about our children?"

* Do such programs desensitize children to government demands for biometric identifiers?

"Adults are reluctant to allow the government to build databases of biometric identifiers because we know how politicians can abuse such information, and because we understand the Constitutional prohibitions against such privacy-invading programs," he said. "Perhaps the most ominous thing about fingerprinting schoolchildren is that it conditions them to surrender biometric data whenever the government demands it."

* Will the government eventually misuse the information it collects?

"School officials insist these fingerprint images won't be used for any other purpose," said Dasbach. "But keep in mind, politicians once promised that Social Security numbers would never be used for general identification purposes, that IRS employees would never illegally divulge your income tax records, and that state motor vehicle departments would never sell your drivers license photo. Yet each of  those things happened.

"So, should we trust school bureaucrats when they say they won't misuse your childrens'  fingerprints in the future?"

* Are we sacrificing too much for the sake of efficiency?

"This fingerprinting procedure may indeed save time and money,  like any other industrial assembly line procedure," said Dasbach. "But do we really want our children to be monitored like pieces of machinery?

"In a way, this new program exemplifies what is wrong with government-run education: It treats children like interchangeable cogs in a machine, rather than respecting each student as a unique individual."

In light of all these concerns, parents ought to find out whether their local school district is planning to start implementing a similar "fingerprints-for-food" program, and speak out against it, he said.

"Don't allow your children to be fingerprinted like criminals,"  he said. "Don't allow your children to be put under the government's thumb."
The Libertarian Party                      
2600 Virginia Ave. NW, Suite 100                    voice: 202-333-0008
Washington DC 20037                                   fax: 202-333-0072
Editor's note: My apologies to prisoner advocates and prisoners for the words of the Libertarian party. The real criminals are as free as birds while the victims of racism and unmitigated greed are incarcerated who are either not guilty in the first place or who are driven to perform crimes due to circumstances beyond their control in many cases.


The Journal of History - Fall 2002 Copyright © 2002 by News Source, Inc.