Ku-ring-gai High students ‘forced’ to accept ID scans

By Brad Norington and James Madden

A SYDNEY high school has been accused of intimidating students into having their fingerprints scanned for a new attendance monitoring system, and branding parents who object as “idiots”.

Parents of students at Ku-ring-gai High School in Sydney’s north say their children have been bullied into taking part in a trial of the scheme introduced this week.

According to a principal’s note sent home with students last Friday, parents were permitted to opt out by sending an “exemption” letter to the school.

Parents told The Australian yesterday their children were told their fingers would be scanned anyway, and data later deleted, only if there were still objections.

Alison Page said her daughter in Year 10 and other students who carried exemption letters were told “their parents were idiots for not agreeing”. She said they were asked again if they would have the scans. “They were told to go home and tell their parents they were worrying about nothing,” she added.

Ms Page said her other daughter in Year 12 was among students required to provide finger scans without notice after an English exam on Tuesday. Her daughter had an exemption letter but had not been allowed to take it into the room.

“They were not allowed to leave the room until it was done,” she said. “They were told it could be deleted later if they didn’t want it done.”

Parent Chris Gurman said his daughter Alex was also told she could not leave the exam room until her fingerprint was taken.

“My daughter was the only one who refused,” Mr Gurman said. “She’s read 1984. When she refused to co-operate, a teacher let her out of the room.”

Alex Gurman, 17, said they were told: “‘If any of your stupid parents have any worries about this we will talk about it later.’ I felt like crying, I felt like I was being forced to do something I didn’t want to do, it was very confronting.”

The Australian Council for Civil Liberties raised concerns about people being pressured into fingerprint scans, and said they posed dangers to privacy.

Council secretary Cameron Murphy said: “This is exactly why the process is unacceptable, because in most cases where this biometric information is collected it is very rarely by consent.”

The principal of the creative arts high school, Glenda Aulsebrook, said she was unaware of allegations that students had been forced to accept scans, saying no one was obliged to participate. Ms Aulsebrook denied fingerprints were kept on record, saying only numbers were kept on a database.

She said she first became aware of the procedure at a principals’ conference where she was shown how it operated.

NSW Education Minister John Della Bosca said a small number of schools had introduced fingerprint scanning with the support of parents, adding it was not a government nor department initiative.

“In each case the department has ensured there are strict privacy safeguards and parental consent,” Mr Della Bosca said.

NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said he was worried parents who wanted to opt out might have been forced to participate. The process had also never been formally announced by Mr Della Bosca nor the Iemma Government, he said.

An Education Department spokeswoman said inquiries would be made about the scheme.

Sources in the childcare sector said some long day care and family day care centres used touch screen sign-in systems that recognised parents’ prints.

UPDATE: School stops fingerprinting students

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One Response to “Ku-ring-gai High students ‘forced’ to accept ID scans”

  1. Terry Wright Says:

    I recently watched a BBC mini series called The Last Enemy which was set in a post terrorism England. The government is implementing a “national ID security system” using bio-technology.

    Very real, very scary. Interestingly they are actually about to introduce such a system and I wonder how close to the truth this mini series is.

    Slow and intense show … definitely not a US style drama thank god. Well worth a watch.

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