Parents furious after their children's eyes scanned by school district without permission

Monday, June 24, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: privacy, public schools, retina scans

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(NaturalNews) Not only is Big Brother's surveillance leviathan growing larger by the day but it has become a most arrogant creature as well, operating at will against the people - or, perhaps more appropriately in this case, operating against the will of the people.

The latest example originates in Florida, where a school district scanned and catalogued the irises of hundreds of students without the permission of their parents.

According to

The unraveling began in late May, when the Polk County School District sent home a letter to parents. A new pilot program, it explained, will track bus riders using a feature unique to every child - their irises.

Parents could opt out, but by the time they learned about it, a company named Stanley Convergent Security Solutions had already captured images of about 750 children's eyes.

Um, opps! Sorry...

Immediately upon discovering what had occurred, school officials both halted the pilot program amid a torrent of parental complaints and blamed their failure to notify parents ahead of time to a "clerical error." Rob Davis, district administrator for transportation and school security departments, said his secretary emailed the parental notification letter late to principals, who then would have sent it onto parents.

There was more to it than that, however. According to, emails sent between other district staffers - in addition to interviews the paper conducted with administrators - indicate that the late letter "was only one of multiple behind-the-scenes mistakes that left parents and some top school administrators in the dark, allowing a company to collect children's biometric information without the parents' knowledge."

According to the records:

-- Under terms of the pilot program, it would have remained in operation at no cost to the school district for 60 days, though that still required a contract. However, district staffers permitted Stanley Convergent onto three separate school campuses and allowed them to scan the irises of children before a contract was ever finalized;

-- Interim school superintendent at the time, John Stewart, was to have final approval over the contract. As Stanley Convergent prepared to begin collecting iris scans, Davis told staffers to send Stewart the contract, but it never made it to Stewart, meaning the district's top official did not learn about the program until the scans had already taken place;

-- In addition, members of the district's staff never discussed the program with Stewart in person. That includes Lum Thornhill, assistant director of operations, as well as Ann Marshall, "a safe schools specialist who is also assigned to the superintendent's office to handle public records requests."

The excuse offered for this rash of failures borders on the criminal.

"It's just a busy place," Marshall told "And unless you have an appointment to move something ahead, it's not like you have an opportunity to chitchat. It's not that anyone didn't want to tell him (Stewart)."

And yet, had the process been followed, said Wes Bridges, an attorney for the school board, the iris scan program would have been stopped until parents could have been notified.

"It was almost a comedy of errors," Bridges said - only there is nothing funny about collecting the data of children without permission.

'They have no concept of what they've done'

Many parents whose kids were caught up in the "comedy of errors" weren't laughing either - or buying the excuses.

Connie Turlington, who was upset that her 11-year-old son was scanned, said what happened did not appear to the outsider as a coincidence. "It sounds like a simple case of it's better to ask forgiveness than permission," Turlington told

April Serrano, whose eight-year-old son was scanned at a district school, was angry. "They have no concept of what they've done here," Serrano said. "I feel like my son's civil rights were violated."

Thus are the pitfalls of the rising surveillance leviathan - arrogant, dismissive and getting larger every day.

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