It has been revealed following an alert from concerned parents to Green MSPs, that the practice of fingerprinting schoolchildren as young as 5 years old, in some cases without parental consent, is being introduced to a number of Scottish schools as part of a high tech biometric ID system to access school libraries. (1) Campaigners claim that Portobello High School in Edinburgh is using a biometric related system. (2) Greens have called for the practice to be investigated and have submitted a series of questions to demand answers from the Scottish Executive on the matter.
Greens, who have led political campaigning in the Parliament on civil liberties and the use of biometric data on individuals, say that children should be taught the importance of civil liberties, and fear that practices such as this could be ‘teaching the next generation to surrender them without question’. Lothians MSP Robin Harper, Green Speaker on Education, said: “I think many parents will be deeply shocked to learn that their children are being fingerprinted – apparently without their knowledge or consent in some cases – for something as simple as a library system. I cannot imagine any justification for such intrusive use of technology in schools – how many books would a library need to lose each year to even make this system save money? “We should be encouraging children to understand and value their civil liberties, but instead there is a danger that we will be teaching the next generation to surrender them without question. At the very minimum I would want an assurance that no school will go ahead with this system without a full and open debate with parents about the implications of fingerprinting, and no child should be fingerprinted without their parents’ or guardians’ consent.”
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1. Motion submitted to parliament: S2M-04776 – Fingerprinting of Schoolchildren
That the Parliament is deeply concerned that children in some Scottish schools are required to submit to fingerprinting to access school libraries; notes that school libraries have somehow managed to function for generations without needing to treat schoolchildren like criminals; believes that children should be taught in an environment which respects their autonomy and privacy and, indeed, encourages them to hold their civil liberties in high regard, and urges Scottish schools to reject the use of fingerprint systems.
2. For further information about this issue go to: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/07/kiddyprinting_allowed/
For named schools see http://www.leavethemkidsalone.com/schools.htm#A Today’s Herald says “several” schools in Edinburgh are fingerprinting pupils.
3. Green MSP Patrick Harvie has submitted the following questions to the Scottish Executive:
To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has a policy of supporting the installation of fingerprinting systems in Scottish schools, and if so what the objective of this policy is?
To ask the Scottish Executive whether it provides funding for the installation of fingerprinting systems in Scottish schools, and if so how much has been spent on this in the last three financial years?
To ask the Scottish Executive whether it considers that parental consent is required before schools take the fingerprints of pupils?
To ask the Scottish Executive what correspondence it has had with Scottish schools and local authorities regarding fingerprinting systems in schools?
To ask the Scottish Executive what correspondence it has had with the UK Government and the UK Information Commissioner regarding fingerprinting systems in schools?