Caribou High School has changed course and decided against implementing a biometric identification system to track student attendance.

Parents and guardians of students who attend the high school were notified Wednesday that Regional School Unit 39 has abandoned its plan to use a finger scanning system at the high school, which enrolls about 460 students in grades 9-12. The RSU39 district serves students from Caribou and Stockholm.

“Following careful consideration and feedback from our community, it was determined that the implementation of this system will not proceed,” Superintendent Jane McCall said in a statement released Wednesday.

Only 2% of parents opted out of the finger scanning option to track attendance, the district said, and confusion about how the system would be used is what prompted the decision to ditch the plan.

“One of the primary concerns expressed by community members and parents was a lack of clarity regarding the purpose of the system,” McCall said. “Contrary to some interpretations, the main objective of considering this possibility was to enhance safety practices for our students.”

“Maintaining accurate and up-to-date attendance records is crucial during emergency situations, and the system was intended to assist in this regard,” McCall said, adding that the manual attendance record kept by staff would have been used in conjunction with finger scanning.


McCall said there was a misunderstanding regarding the nature of the finger-scanning process. The superintendent said some community members believed the system to be similar to fingerprinting used by law enforcement. She said that was not the case with the identiMetrics system.

Finger scanning uses flat images of only two fingers to create templates, according to identiMetrics. The fingerprinting used by law enforcement captures rolled images of all 10 fingers.

“The identiMetrics system does not store actual fingerprints but utilizes data solely for identification and attendance tracking within the school environment,” McCall said in her statement.

In a message to the Caribou High School community on Wednesday, Principal Jamie Selfridge said the high school will continue to review its options for providing attendance record-keeping for its students.

“At this time we will not be implementing the finger scanning portion of the identiMetrics system at Caribou High School,” Selfridge said.

The decision to not use identiMetrics, which is based in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, comes a day after the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine criticized the district’s plan, saying that it would place students’ privacy at risk. The ACLU also filed a public records request seeking a copy of the contract and all communications between RSU 39 and identiMetrics.


A spokesperson for the ACLU said on Wednesday that it will move ahead with its public records request despite the district’s decision to abandon its plan.

Carol Garvan, the ACLU of Maine’s legal director, said she was pleased to hear that RSU 39 had changed course, but said her agency will continue to pursue its records request.

“We think public schools in Maine are not the place to use this type of system,” Garvan said. “We want to understand what led the school district to reach this decision, what kind of factors were involved.”

Garvan said the district could have been placing highly sensitive and vulnerable information about students at risk if their system was breached by hackers.

Garvan said RSU 39 would have become the first K-12 public school district in Maine to use fingerprints or other biometrics to track student attendance.

In an informational document posted on its website, identiMetrics said that schools in the United States and around the world have been using biometrics to streamline operations, increase the time available for teaching and improve school security.



The company, which was founded in 2002, says that fingerprint recognition is by far the most widely used biometric technology. Fingerprint biometrics have been used in United States schools for more than 20 years. Currently, more than 2 million students in 48 states use biometrics on daily basis, identiMetrics said.

West Virginia is leading the country with more than 70% of the state’s school districts using biometrics in their food service operations. The system is used to implement breakfast programs ensuring that more children are given the opportunity to eat a healthy breakfast.

Anil K. Jain is a professor in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at Michigan State University with an expertise in biometric recognition and fingerprint matching.

Jain said that while commercial fingerprint identification systems are accurate and have safeguards built in to protect the database, there is still concern that the database could be compromised. He’s not sure that it would be wise to use a finger-scanning system in a public school setting.

“For this reason, we need to consider the security versus privacy tradeoff,” Jain said. “Is the school attendance system so vital that we need to use fingerprints stored in a central server? That is why, to my knowledge, not many schools use biometrics for attendance.”

He said a simpler solution would be to use an attendance system based on mobile phones, which almost every school student has.

“Depending on which phone they have, the student can confirm their attendance using fingerprint or face sensor built in the phone. This is similar to the way we use our mobile phone for payments. This approach will be a lot cheaper to install for the attendance system and the face/fingerprint images never leave your mobile,” Jain said.

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