Pennsylvania School District to Install Fingerprint ID Lunch Buying System

Published: November 21, 2006

KINTNERSVILLE, Penn. – On Nov. 15, the Palisades School Board signed off on the implementation of a new computerized meal purchase system estimated to cost $49,000.

The new system uses fingerprint identification to deduct the cost of a meal from a student’s lunch account. Parents can deposit up to $200 at a time into their child’s account via cash, checks, credit or debit card, or electronic check online. Account information will be stored on a secure server, and access will be restricted to a few personnel. The district will not have access to credit or debit card information.

Besides enabling a faster moving lunch line, the fingerprint identification system has several advantages over the old system. It eliminates the need for children to carry money to school, which is expected to cut down on bullying. Parents would also be able to review their children’s dietary habits by visiting a school Web site that lists exactly what their children ate for lunch. Lastly, the system does not attract attention to students who qualify for free or reduced lunches, thereby eliminating any possible embarrassment they may feel.

Participation in the new system is voluntary. Parents who choose not to opt in can still have their children pay for their lunches using a swipe card or photo identification.

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Approximately 100 parents have signed a petition criticizing the school board’s decision to purchase the system as wasteful. The nearly $50,000 spent to acquire the system, as well as its operating and maintenance costs, they argued, could be used to purchase more free or reduced lunches.

Another concern is that the system may pose a safety hazard to students in terms of the fingerprint scanner’s accumulation of germs as each student touches it. Hedrick, however, said scanners would be wiped clean frequently.

The systems will be installed in every district school by fall quarter of 2007. The Tinicum and Springfield elementary schools will each receive one fingerprint ID scanner, and the high school, middle school and Durham Nockamixon Elementary School will each receive two.

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