New iris-scanning program to keep track of kids at school sparks outrage among parents

Polk School District issued apology

HAINES CITY, Fla. - A new program designed to track students using iris scanners backfired for the Polk County School District.

The uproar from parents started when their kids came home and told them someone was scanning their eyes.

"I thought it was kind of creepy, it's kind of like big brother looking after your kids," said Emily Palmer, who has a son that attends Bethune Academy, one of the three schools in the Haines City area that is part of the pilot program.

It's called the Eyelock Iris Identity Management made by Stanley Security Solutions. A video on the company's website shows how the biometric screening system works.

The district decided to try it out on a trial basis on about 17 buses at Bethune Academy, Daniel Jenkins Academy, and Davenport School of the Arts.

Parents would get text alerts when their child gets on and off a bus.

The problem is no one explained it to parents.

"She came home from school and said they were doing eye scans on the bus and I thought that was a little unusual since nobody notified us," said Dennis Delaney, who has a daughter in the fifth grade. "There was no note, no letter, nothing."

The district planned to send out a letter that explains how it works and gives the option for parents to opt-out if they don't feel comfortable.

But the staff mistakenly forgot to send it.

"I would have had the same questions, so I apologize to those families because that was not our intent. The intent was not to cause chaos or confusion with the parents," said Rob Davis, Senior Director of Support Services for Polk Schools.

He said the district is working to ensure the company destroys all the initial iris scans of students.

The program is now on hold so the district can make sure the mix-up is straightened out.

Davis said they still hope to get the go ahead with the pilot program by the start of next school year, but this time every parent will receive a letter and will have ample time to opt out.

"There's not a day that goes by that we don't have a parent that is frantic about, 'hey my child was supposed to be home by three o'clock, and I just got off work. It's five o'clock and they're nowhere to be found'," he said.

"This was never supposed to be forced on anyone. It was an option for parents."

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