UK: Parliament won’t debate school fingerprinting

From: Andrew Johnson

Date: 2007-01-29 15:36:22… Parliament won’t debate school fingerprinting By Mark Ballard Published Monday 29th January 2007 14:35 GMT The question of whether it’s necessary or desirable to take school children’s fingerprints has not made it on the agenda for Parliament. Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West and the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, requested (www.publications.par…) a Parliamentary debate on school fingerprinting last Thursday.  “Legal opinion, including that of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, has stated that this practice contravenes the Data Protection Act 1998. Does he agree that it is time to debate this important subject in the House?” Mulholland asked Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons. Straw refused, claiming ignorance: “I am not aware of the practice [of fingerprinting children at school], but obviously people have accepted it,” he said. “There is a problem with ensuring people’s identity, and one of the ways of doing that is to use biometric data,” he went on, “Security in libraries is a big issue for younger and older people.” The matter could be left for an adjournment debate, Straw said. In a written statement, Mulholland said: “It is precisely because of that ignorance among many MPs that I want to have a debate.” He said the DfES, which has promised to issue guidance for schools that want to fingerprint pupils, should consult with schools and parents before doing so. “I’m concerned that there won’t be proper consultation because ministers’ top priority won’t be children’s rights but mitigating the political difficulty it would cause to admit that they’d allowed illegal practices to continue under their noses.” Mulholland has already tabled an Early Day Motion on school fingerprinting, to which 30 MPs have added their names. It noted (…) the MPs’ “alarm” at schools taking biometrics off of children “as young as three”. “Collecting the data from children under 12 without parental consent directly contravenes the Data Protection Act. No child should have biometric information taken without the express written permission of their parents,” it said. ® Related stories School fingerprinters say they don’t grab teaching cash (26 January 2007) MPs investigate school fingerprinting (20 January 2007) Parents gain MPs’ backing over school fingerprinting (18 January 2007) Info Commissioner: Too late to stop school fingerprinting (17 January 2007) Halt to school fingerprinting (9 November 2006) MPs condemn school fingerprinting (17 October 2006) Parents prepare to sue fingerprint grabbers (6 October 2006) Teachers break silence on fingerprinting children (14 September 2006) Schools can fingerprint children without parental consent (7 September 2006) © Copyright 2007

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