Three schools in Polk County, Fla have had to cancel a new program after the schools subjected their students to iris scans without informing any parents. Reports were confirmed Wednesday that Daniel Jenkins Academy, a high school, Davenport School of the Arts, a middle school, and Bethune Academy, an elementary school, planned a pilot scan program with a security program and the schools allowed officials from Stanley Convergent Security Solutions to take iris scans of an unknown number of students. Parents of the students were sent a letter on Friday, May 24, although the letters were dated for delivery the day before. The letters stated that the scanning program would begin on May 20, and allow for students to opt out. However, all students were scanned before any letters were sent home.
Parents began contacting the schools when their children came home Friday evening. Unfortunately, all staff at the school had stopped answering phone calls at 4 p.m. (roughly one hour after the students leave the school) and, with Monday being Memorial Day; parents were unable to confirm that this had already happened until Tuesday.
Rob Davis, senior director of support services for the district, stated that the notification letter being sent out after the scans were completed was a mistake, due to a secretary who had a medical emergency. Davis stated that the unauthorized scans were conducted on May 22 and 23. Schools were notified that Stanley Convergent Security Solutions was coming, but not the parents.
I have been in touch with the principal at my son's school this morning regarding the iris scans. She verified everything my son told me, she says the scans were completed on May 22. She said that she was following instructions from the Polk County School Board (PCSB), and that she knew very little, if anything, about this before it occurred, she just did as she was told. She gave me the name and number for her two contacts at the PCSB whom she said were pulling these strings on this "security pilot program".
By the time we were able to make a phone call to PCSB (a time span of about 1 hour), the secretary told us that this pilot program had been suspended. When we did get a return call from one contact, she reiterated that the program has been suspended, like this should appease us. My husband continued to ask where our son's private scans were, and she said the company was instructed to destroy the information. When we asked how do we know this has happened, there was no answer.
It is interesting that this letter went home on Friday afternoon at 3pm. Like I told you originally, everyone was gone by 4pm when I tried to make calls. So when exactly did this program get suspended? As of Friday afternoon, it was still in effect. Are they trying to say that somehow it was suspended by Tuesday morning (Monday being a holiday)? It seems like they are mostly focused on this program, like the program was the problem. It's not, it's the invasion of my family's Constitutional right to privacy that is the problem, as well as the school allowing a private company access to my child without my consent or permission. This is stolen information, and we cannot retrieve it.
Davis stated that all the data has been destroyed and that the district has contacted their attorney about the next step. Many parents have expressed outrage over the iris scans and have mentioned suing either the school or the district. One mother stated, “it is disgusting too is that the school did not bother to tell parents until after this was done. It is unnerving to hear from your own child that the school has done something to them without your knowledge and certainly not with your permission.”
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