Campaigners slam child fingerprinting

HUMAN rights campaigners have criticised education bosses after it emerged thousands of schoolchildren are being fingerprinted.

HUMAN rights campaigners have criticised education bosses after it emerged thousands of schoolchildren are being fingerprinted.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show 83 schools in the county are using biometric data to identify pupils.

Human rights groups said the move was an unnecessary invasion of privacy and that children should not be encouraged to give out sensitive personal information.

Suffolk County Council has defended the practice, saying biometric recognition is only used for the issuing of library books and is not passed on to any other organisations, including the police.

But Phil Booth, national co-ordinator for human rights organisation NO2ID, said to use fingerprinting technology instead of simple library cards was “overkill”.

He said: “Fingerprinting every child in a school just so they can take a book out of the library is like using a gold-plated sledgehammer to crack a nut.

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“Parents should be given the choice to 'opt-in', not 'opt-out', of such schemes and make an informed choice having been given the full facts.

“Instead their consent is presumed and they are pressured into handing over their children's biometric identity.”

Terri Dowty, director of Action on Rights for Children, said: “Our main concern is around the casual use of biometric data. We are entering an age when this information will be very important to help us get passports and ID cards and we should not encourage children to get in the habit of giving it out easily.”

Jonathan Adams' 11-year-old son was fingerprinted at East Bergholt High School for his library card.

Mr Adams, a filmmaker from Hadleigh, said: “I think it's completely wrong. Children are having their human rights infringed upon and what's more schools don't even have to ask for parental permission.”

However, Steve Howard, head of corporate information and records at the county council, assured that at no point does the biometric technology take or store images of a pupils' fingerprints.

He said: “Where a school has experienced problems using library cards (these can be stolen or 'borrowed' leading to the loss of books) schools may decide to implement the use of fingerprint recognition as an alternative.

“This is the individual school's responsibility. When a school does decide to introduce a library management system complete with fingerprint recognition, the county council advises the school that they should write to parents explaining the system, and the fact that no fingerprint itself is stored, and that they can, if they wish, opt for their child not to participate.”

N Do you think the system infringes on a child's human rights? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

List of Suffolk schools with biometric recognition systems

Abbots Green Community Primary School

Amberfield School

Belstead School

Beyton Middle School

Blackbourne CE Middle School

Brantham Brooklands Primary School

Breckland Middle School

Britannia Primary School

Bungay High School

Castle Hill Junior School

Castle Hill Middle School

Cedarwood CP School

Claydon High School

Claydon Primary School

Clifford Road Primary School

College Heath Middle School

Copleston High School

Combs Middle School

Crowfoot Community Primary School

Deben High School

Downing Primary School

East Bergholt High School

Elm Tree Middle School

Elmsett CE Primary School

Fairstead House School

Foxborough Middle School

Grange Primary School

Great Cornard Middle School

Hadleigh High School

Handford Hall Primary School

Hardwick Middle School

Hillside Community Primary School

Holbrook High School

Holbrook Primary School

Holton St Peter Community Primary School

Honington CE (VC) Primary School

Horringer Court Middle School

Howard Middle School

Ixworth CE (C) Primary School

Ixworth Middle School

Kirkley High School

Kirkley Middle School

Kyson Primary School

Lakenheath Primary School

Laxfield All Saints CE Primary School

Leiston High School

Lothingland Middle School

Moreton Hall Preparatory School

Murrayfield Primary School

Norton C of E VC Primary School

Occold Primary School

Old Buckenham Hall School

Paddocks Primary School

Priory School

Ranelagh Primary School

Roman Hill Middle School

Rose Hill Primary School

Sidegate Primary School

Springfield Junior School

Sprites Primary School

St James CE School

St Mark's Catholic Primary School

St. Gregory CE Primary School

St. John's CE (A) Primary School

St. Joseph's College

Stoke Ash Primary School

Stowmarket Middle School

Stowupland High School

Stradbroke Business and Enterprise College

The Abbey

The Denes High School Business and Enterprise College

The Harris Middle School

The Oaks Primary School

Thurston CE (C) Primary School

Trimley St. Mary Primary School

Tuddenham CE Primary School

Walsham-le-Willows CE VC Primary School

Wells Hall Primary School

Whitton County Primary School

Whitton Green Community Primary School

Wickham Market Community Primary School

Woodbridge Primary School

Woods Loke Primary School

Source: Suffolk County Council