School scanning fingers, not ID cards

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Head librarian Marla Layman checks out a book from a student Friday at Clovis High School using the biometric scanner. Layman said that the scanner is faster, more efficient, and allows for increased accuracy.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ Staff Writer

Margaret Fritz was surprised when her 16-year-old daughter Lucinda came home from Clovis High School saying she was going to be fingerprinted to use the library at school.

“She was upset,” Fritz said. “We don’t have anything to hide but they are her fingerprints. That’s part of her identity.”

Fritz said she and her daughter were worried about what would be done with her fingerprints.

Though a new identification system will be going into place at Clovis schools next week, it isn’t fingerprinting. Students will be having their finger scanned in place of an ID card at cafeterias through out the district.

Using biometrics, technology that measures and analyzes biological data, the system assigns each student a unique ID number.

David Whitehead, information technology director for Clovis schools, said the system analyzes the students finger, placed on a scanner, and performs a mathematical calculation based on seven points which are unique to each person. From that calculation, the student’s ID number is created. Each time the student’s finger is scanned, it calls up the number the same way scanning or swiping an ID card would.

“There is no possible way to reverse the number into a fingerprint,” Whitehead said. “There is no graphic representation in the system of the fingerprint.”

Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said that when the district began looking to implement the system, student privacy and safety was a top priority.

“We were absolutely satisfied (of their safety) before we put any of this into place,” she said. “There had to be no violation of privacy and there isn’t.”

“It feels very cutting edge,” Siedenwurm said. “But it’s really not. It’s in place all over the country.”

Whitehead said the schools began implementing the program at Clovis High School’s library last year, but will begin the program this week at schools district-wide from kindergarten through 12th grade in cafeterias.

“We’d had some difficulty with kids forgetting their ID cards or pin number, but they always bring their finger with them,” said Whitehead.

The new system will increase efficiency and accuracy, as well as cutting down on fraud, Whitehead said.

“It can’t make a mistake,” he said. “We want to improve the system of education by removing inefficient operations.”

Students currently access their lunch accounts with a four digit pin number. Whitehead said that it’s difficult for young students to remember their pin and older students often forget their ID cards for the library, and slow-moving lines are a result.

The system will also save money for the district, Whitehead said. After students are enrolled in the program in elementary school, they won’t need to be rescanned as they progress through the district. He said the system will save money on ID cards.

Clovis Municipal Schools has also began using the biometric scanning process for employees to clock in and out.

The biometric scanners at the schools, which use the Skyward system, are $800 each with at least one at each school. The scanners for employees which use a program called True Time are $1,200. The district has 22 True Time devices in place.