Nebraska school district scans student fingerprints for lunch program

Nebraska school district scans student fingerprints for lunch program

December 4, 2014

By Kyle Olson

OMAHA, Neb. – Westside Community Schools have begun collecting student fingerprints for its school lunch program.

The school district has moved to a biometric identification program, saying students will no longer have to use an ID card to buy lunch.

“Students lose their ID, they left it at home, it went through the washing machine, there were all kinds of reasons why kids didn’t have an ID and it took a lot of time for them to fish it out of their pockets and holding their tray at the same time,” Diane Zipay of Westside Nutrition Services tells WOWT.

“They never lose their finger.”

Students pay for their items by scanning their fingerprint on a pad, which then connects to a database housing all the students’ identification, according to the news station.

Fingerprints were scanned last month. About 20 families and a “few individual high school students” opted out, the Obama World-Herald reports.

“At the high school, the new system, along with changes in federal snack rules, means students now can have just one account for the main cafeteria and the convenience store rather than two separate ones,” according to the paper.

The new technology also allows parents to monitor what their children are purchasing.

School officials say the information won’t be used by law enforcement agencies, but who will have access to the data – say, for example, federal bureaucrats running the National School Lunch Program – wasn’t addressed.

The biometric readers and software cost the Westside district a total of $55,000.

Other schools have implemented similar programs.

North Adams Public Schools in Massachusetts installed fingerprint readers “to move students through the cafeteria line more efficiently and ensure parents could accurately track their children’s lunch habits online,” according to

The move touched off a parental revolt.

“Let us not allow our children to allow privacy to become a thing of the past. Our duty is to educate and protect them, not to catalog them like merchandise,” parent Cara Roberts wrote in a letter to the mayor and the news site.

“Our duty is to teach them to protect and care for their bodies. What message are we sending when we tell them their body is a means of identification, a tool for others to use to track them?”

The Omaha World-Herald notes “provides greater anonymity for students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.”

The paper notes at least one other Nebraska district – Norris Public Schools – uses similar technology.


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