Digital Fingerprinting by School Districts Illegal
Published June 2016
The Iowa Department of Education has recently learned that a school was preparing to use fingerprint scans instead of a pin number for school lunch counting next year. However, Iowa Code section 726.26 strictly prohibits the fingerprinting of a child under age 17 by a governmental unit (including school districts).
While the law does not define “fingerprinting,” Department of Public Safety (DPS) administrative rules define “Taking of fingerprints” as obtaining a fully rolled set of inked fingerprint or electronically scanned fingerprint impressions of suitable quality for fingerprint classification and identification. Iowa Admin. Code r. 661-82.2.
There are a very few districts in Iowa that utilize a finger scan or finger code system for students to access school lunch, media recourses, etc. This law renders use of these systems unlawful. Consent by a parent or guardian will not help districts with such a system. The law does not allow a parent or guardian to consent to the use of a finger scan or finger code for a student for any school-related purposes. In fact, it specifically prohibits parental consent for anything except (1) to aid in specific criminal investigations or (2) in case the child becomes a runaway or a missing child. And in the latter event, any prints taken must be given to the parents. None may be retained by the governmental unit.
Thus, districts are advised to not use any type of finger scanning or algorithms of students.