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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 September 2006, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Pupil fingerprint plans defended
Dumfries Academy
Dumfries Academy is one of the schools introducing the scheme
Education chiefs in Dumfries and Galloway have defended plans to take pupils fingerprints before they can borrow library books.

The scheme, which is already used in Angus, Aberdeenshire and Edinburgh, is being proposed at Lockerbie Academy and Dumfries Academy.

It has prompted civil liberties concerns from parents and politicians.

Education director Fraser Sanderson said the system had been shown to be safe and was entirely optional.

Green MSPs have tabled a motion at the Scottish Parliament seeking an investigation of the scheme.

However, Mr Sanderson said he did not think such concerns were justified.

"I do not think they are legitimate at all," he said.

I just felt that the need to fingerprint school kids for the use of a library seemed really over the top
Nick Jennings
Lockerbie Academy parent

"We have two schools, Lockerbie Academy and Dumfries Academy, who purchased new computerised systems for their libraries at the end of last session."

As part of this the education director said they were offered a free fingerprinting package which they chose to take.

"Both schools have sent out letters to parents indicating their intentions and making it quite clear that this is an opt-in or opt-out option," he said.

"There is no detriment to the children who do not participate."

Mr Sanderson added that the system had increased book borrowing and reduced theft at 3,000 other schools across the UK where it was used.

Fingerprint
Green MSPs have expressed concern about fingerprinting pupils

He said it had been checked by both the council and the information commissioner to ensure the data stored was adequately protected.

He dismissed as "spurious" claims that pupils were being treated like criminals.

Lockerbie Academy parent Nick Jennings, however, has called upon the council to withdraw the system immediately.

"My first reaction was one of concern," he said.

"I just felt that the need to fingerprint school kids for the use of a library seemed really over the top.

"My main concern was that this seemed to be coming about without any public debate."

'No guarantee'

Mr Jennings said he was unhappy about the "casual way" in which the subject was being handled.

He added that although reassurances had been given about data security he remained unconvinced.

"There is no guarantee - we have hackers hacking into the American defence system," he said.

South of Scotland Green MSP Chris Ballance was alerted to the situation by concerned parents in his area.

We should be encouraging children to understand and value their civil liberties
Patrick Harvie MSP

"I have been contacted by local parents and I share their outrage at this mass fingerprinting of children without proper public and political debate," he said.

"Quite apart from anything else it is difficult to see how you can justify such a huge expenditure for the sake of a few school library books."

The party has tabled a motion at the Scottish Parliament seeking a debate of the issue.

"We should be encouraging children to understand and value their civil liberties," said the Greens' speaker on justice and communities Patrick Harvie.

"Instead there is a danger that we will be teaching the next generation to surrender them without question."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Reaction to pupils being fingerprinted



SEE ALSO
Row over fingerprinting children
22 Jun 06 |  Cambridgeshire
Hi-tech registration for pupils
07 Jun 06 |  Lincolnshire
School meals to get a thumbs up
28 May 06 |  Derbyshire

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