A Central Florida school district has apologized after some students' irises were scanned as part of a pilot security program without their parents' permission.
High-tech eye-scanning cameras were installed on school buses at Davenport School of the Arts, Daniel Jenkins Academy and Bethune Academy in Polk County.
The children's irises were scanned May 23. In the program, a number is assigned to that student and that student's information. The district could then track the student's movements on and off the school bus and notify parents whether a child returned home on time.
"Within seconds, we could tell parents, 'Yes, they got on bus No. 0750. They got on the bus at the high school at 2:05; they arrived at their bus stop at 2:45," said Rob Davis, director of support services for Polk County Schools. The only information that would be connected to a student's iris number would be their name, identification number, bus number and eventually, parents' contact information, Davis said.
The district intended to issue a letter to parents before testing out the tracking system. But the ball was dropped, it said.
"The letter gave parents an opportunity to opt out and say, 'Hey, I don't want to participate.' So once I realized the letter had not been received by parents, we automatically said we got a big problem here, and we got to stop this," Davis said.
"I'll take full responsibility for it," he said.
Davis then sent the initial letter to parents to show it did exist, then followed up with an apology letter two days ago.
He still hopes the technology can be used one day. Another parent agreed.
"If a child got off at wrong bus stop, it would be great if they could know where they got off," Stuart Proctor said.
Meanwhile, Stanley Convergence Security Solutions, the company that created the security system, told the district it destroyed the information received from the iris scans done without parents' permission.
The eye-scanning pilot program has been in limbo since last week.