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Parent sparks fingerprint row at school
7:40am Thursday 13th September 2012 in News
A SCHOOL has been accused of taking its pupils’ fingerprints without their parents’ permission.
Grays School Media Arts College uses a biometric system in its cafeteria for pupils buying lunch and has done so for several years.
Anton Clark, whose son has just started in Year 7 at the school, was shocked when his boy came home and said the school wanted to take his prints.
Mr Clark, who lives in Grays, said: “I told my son not to let the school take them as I felt it was against his civil liberties.
“I waited for a letter or a phone call from the school to explain what they are doing, but nothing ever came.”
Mr Clark assumed the fingerprinting system was a new school policy, but was shocked to learn from his daughter, who is also a pupil at the school, her prints were taken three years ago, again without his consent.
He said his son wasn’t able to buy lunch in the cafeteria after refusing to give his prints.
Before May 2012, there was nothing preventing schools from taking children’s prints without parental consent, although it was considered good practice to obtain it.
Since then, legislation, which will come into force in September 2013, has been passed under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which means schools must get consent.
Mr Clark contacted the school, in Hathaway Road, Grays, to challenge it about the system, as well as Thurrock Council’s education department, but said he felt “fobbed off” by both.
He said: “I spoke to someone at the school who said they thought they had sent a letter out and I couldn’t get anyone at the council to speak to me about it at all.”
A spokesman for the school said it will not be using the technology from next year.
He said: “Students at Grays School have been using this system for several years and details are set out in the handbook each parent receives before starting.
“The no-cash system’s main advantage is that it enables students who are in receipt of free school meals to obtain their lunch in the dining room without being identified by other students
“This gentleman was offered an alternative within hours of making a complaint to the school and has been invited to the school for a full explanation.
“Although the system does not keep fingerprint details in the way police forces maintain their records, changes in legislation mean the school will not be using it next year.”