Fingerprints for Food? Lunch Scans Raise Concern

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A Los Angeles school district has gone high tech to speed things up in the cafeteria -- using a fingerprint scanning system to record children's lunch purchases.

But the move has some worried about students' right to privacy.

Students at the Foshay Learning Center are the first in the school district to try the scanners. With the touch of a finger, they can buy sloppy joes, a slice of pizza, or a carton of milk.

"It's very safe," principal Yvonne Edwards said. "The children don't have to bring money to school."

She added that the technology speeds up cafeteria lines and eliminates the problem of forgotten lunch money.

Los Angeles Unified School District administrators are watching to see if the scanners would benefit other schools.

"When people knew that they were on free or reduced lunch, especially at the high school level, no one wants anyone to know, so sometimes they would not eat," Edwards added. "But the great thing about it is that everyone can eat now. Everyone does eat and they feel good about eating."

The process sound simple, but some parents find the privacy concerns hard to swallow. The American Civil Liberties Union says the students' rights are being violated.

"We don't use fingerprint identification to pay for our groceries or our clothes at a department store, so why would we ask our children to use fingerprints to pay for lunch at school?" asked ACLU lawyer Peter Bibring.

Roy Smith is a concerned parent.

"It doesn't seem right because they are only kids," he said. "So I don't think it is right to fingerprint them to get something to eat."

The program is even making some students uncomfortable.

"Yeah, because what if they use it for something else," student Elizabeth Garcia said.

Administrators argue that the machines only capture a partial image of fingerprints, and students can opt to use a seven digit code instead.

The district is looking to spread the technology to all schools that accept it by 2012.

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