Bartow, Florida -- Two companies have offered a Bay area school district a chance to test the latest in student security systems for free -- but when it came time to roll out the plan to parents, that's when it all went horribly wrong.
The Polk County School District put on hold a high-tech pilot program that would have identified students getting on and off the bus using an eye scanning identification system after parents complained when they weren't given the option to opt out.
"What gives them the right to scan my child's eyes without getting parents' permission?" asked Cassandra Brooks, a parent in Polk County. "Next thing you know they will suggest microchips in our kids. That's an intrusion in our lives that's not necessary."
But Polk County School District Support Services Director Rob Davis defended the intentions of the program.
"We were not trying to do anything behind their backs; we were trying to be innovative," said Davis, before adding that a letter to parents was set to go out May 17 but didn't make it out until May 23 because of a clerical error. By then, Stanley Security had already started collecting student information at three schools.
"I want to apologize to those parents," said Davis.
The Eye Swipe Nano unit identifies a student using a scanned picture of their iris. District officials said each day, the device would immediately send parents emails or texts with the time and location of when the school bus picked up and dropped off their child before and after school.
"We were trying to provide families an extra layer of security if they chose," Davis explained.
In a statement from Stanley Security a spokesperson wrote, "Scans are transcribed to a unique code for each child, and those codes are only used to identify who is allowed access to a bus, and who is not."
"I don't see the big need for that. I personally see it as a bit invasion of privacy," said Ramesh Reddy, another Polk County parent.
Davis said the information collected has already been deleted and the district's pilot program planned for eight schools and about 1,300 bus-riding students this fall has been put on hold.
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