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Why Some Nebraska Students Now Have to Give Their Fingerprints in the Lunch Line


“They never lose their finger."

Image source: WOWT-TV

Students at two schools in Nebraska no longer have to worry about losing their school lunch identification cards. All they need to pay for their lunch are their fingers.

Westside High School and Middle School introduced the new $55,000 biometric technology for the school lunch program Tuesday. Before that, students were issued ID cards that allowed them to pay for lunch but it sometimes took students a lot of time to get them out of their pockets while holding their lunch trays at the same time. In addition, they were often lost or left at home, Diane Zipay of Westside Nutrition Services said.

But, as Zipay pointed out, “They never lose their finger."

Image source: WOWT-TV Image source: WOWT-TV

So the schools scanned students' fingers last month as part of the registration process. The technology does not store images of fingerprints. Instead, it uses the lines and swirls on students' fingertips to create a binary number with which they can be individually identified. Those images are encrypted and stored. They cannot be used by law enforcement agencies, Omaha World Herald reported.

Zipay said the new system will improve security for students' accounts, eliminate clerical errors and help students access their accounts more easily. However, with change also comes concern. In this case, it's no surprise that privacy was one concern the school felt it needed to address.

“That’s extremely important to us, that we protect children’s identities,” Zipay said.

But of the 3,000 students who attend the two schools, 20 families decided to opt out of the program after the schools sent letters home to parents notifying them of the change and explaining how the technology would work.

While the school anticipates this will help move students through the lunch line faster the lines since since the technology was rolled out on Tuesday have moved slower, according to one student: “Everything new takes a lot longer," she said.

Watch to hear what other students have to say:


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