Sunday, 20 April 2008

The day they stole the prints

Oakgrove College, an Integrated Secondary School in Derry, North of Ireland, on Monday 14th. April 2008, fingerprinted most of its pupils in the name of school meals.

This assault on civil liberties passed unremarked in the local media and unchallenged by most parents. The reason ? The media didn't know about it and most parents didn't realise the significance of it.

Myself included. Until the week before the day. The day they stole the prints.

A letter from the school on March 18th. had lain unread or not fully comprehended. Who takes much heed of a letter about school meals ? On clearing a heap of papers for dumping more care was taken and letters scrutinised.

The letter I was about to scrunch and dump only caught my eye because of the words "fingerprints are scanned". Children were to be fingerprinted in order to "...significantly speed up queues for school meals".

What ? But surely people are only fingerprinted if they're suspected of a crime ? Surely only the police can fingerprint suspects and even then only according to well defined legal limits ?

And surely again, even the police can't fingerprint children without serious and compelling reasons ? And, on even such occasions, their parents must be present.

Fingerprinting then, is surely to be done only in exceptional circumstances for adults - never for children except in extraordinarily exceptional circumstances.
What is extraodinarily exceptional about Oakgrove College wanting to speed up its school meals queues ? The answer is - nothing. So there must be really another reason for fingerprinting. But what ? Oakgrove are not saying. Yet...

The letter from Oakgrove to parents paints a picture of a benign almost cuddly technology that is simply another efficient tool for the modern era that makes life that wee bit easier. In such bland language is piracy cloaked.

The march of the fingerprint pirates is a march towards a totalitarian future which every parent should oppose. That a school which was set up to challenge sectarianism and promote equality should arrogantly set aside the principle of informed parental consent is to strike a blow against those very principles.

From school meals to totalitarian state might seem a mighty leap in one paragraph but by increments we'll get there.


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