State senators have given preliminary approval to blocking schools from collecting fingerprint data from their students.
SB1216 is being pushed by Sen. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, who fears Arizona schools could soon be swept up in the nationwide push to force students to identify themselves with fingerprints. She said lawmakers need to step in now, before youngsters have their prints on file - or at least the digital images - which she fears could eventually be used to steal their identities.
But Johnson did agree to amend her measure to allow "finger imaging" if parents provide specific written permission.
The technology is taking root as schools look for ways to track students. Mike Smith, lobbyist for the Arizona School Administrators Association, said it is particularly useful in school lunch programs, especially for youngsters who qualify for federally subsidized free or reduced-price meals. Right now, Smith said, many schools are using a version of credit cards, with a magnetic stripe that can be "swiped" through a reader.
"Kids lose the darn things," he said. Smith said it also presents problems for schools who have to account for the meals, as it becomes difficult to prove that the student who has the card is the one who is supposed to get fed.
Marana Middle School is using what's been labeled "biometric information" for about a year and a half. That data replaced individual student PIN numbers.
But district officials said there are no plans to put in scanners at other schools, at least not at the current time.
Johnson wants to quash the practice now, and said her fear is what could be done with the information.