From the June 2007 Idaho Observer:
Ident-A-Kid: Corporate franchisees taking pictures
and prints of children with or without parental consent
by Julie Chmelik
A very disturbing situation came to my attention that I feel is necessary to share with others who have children attending public school.
The PTA in Grangeville, Idaho, arranged for a representative from the Ident-A-Kid Services of America program to come into the Grangeville Elementary School on April 4, 2007, in order to produce a driver’s license-like identification card for the students. The Ident-A-Kid ID includes the child’s photograph, fingerprint and personal information.
This ID was defined as an identification card which could be given to the police in the event the child should be reported missing. It was offered to parents as a voluntary program and cards would be issued for only those students who had a signed authorization form from a parent. I did not want the card and therefore did not sign the consent.
To my horror, I learned that a form was later filled out for my 5-year-old child by school personnel that included personal information from school records and my child was then photographed and fingerprinted. In fact, ALL the children in the elementary school were put through this process—with or without parental consent.
Who’s paying for this?
Authorization forms were sent home to the parents. However, on the day in question, if your child did not have written authorization from a parent, it was "assumed" that you, the parent, "forgot" to sign the form (that is the explanation I was given). I was also told by principal Charles Stefani that PTA scholarship funding was provided so that no child would be excluded from receiving an ID card ($6 per card).
The PTA, however, gave a different version of the same story, stating that a private benefactor paid for all the children.
Both explanations are suspect and raise considerable ethical, legal and security questions. If you, as a private individual, are willing to spend the money, should you be granted the authority to finance policies you, in a private capacity, have decided is best for everyone? Should such authority extend to having unauthorized individuals photograph and fingerprint children without parental consent?
Simply put, the service was paid for so it didn’t matter to the school or the PTA if the parent consented to it or not.
Are you a lawyer?
Ident-A-Kid is not an organization with a legitimate board of directors. It sells franchises to privateers. The "agent" obtaining the child’s information does not have the proper credentials lawfully authorizing them to obtain fingerprints.
The website for this organization states that, "Information is only collected from children with signed consent of the parent or guardian."
To that end, I called the President & Chief Operating Officer of the Ident-A-Kid program, Lonnie Helgerson, (727-577-4646) to question him about the total disregard of parental authorization that took place in Grangeville. After hearing my concerns regarding the Ident-A-Kid representative proceeding without signed consent forms, he stated that he was not responsible for the actions of individual representatives once they acquired a franchise operation.
Before he would answer any further questions, he wanted to know if I was a lawyer and then went on to tell me that I was the only person who had ever placed a complaint out of millions of cards that had been produced.
On further inspection of the website (www.ident-a-kid.com), it goes on to say that the company (ISA) "is the owner of the information collected on the site and reserves the right to access and disclose individually identifiable information to comply with government requests…"
The Ident-A-Kid program is specifically target marketed as "the Pre-Driver’s ID Program" and is being offered to children from pre-school through middle school; ages 1-15. Their website also states that "[t]he Ident-A-Kid cards are accepted by Canadian and Mexican border authorities" which I believe means they are being accepted as a national ID for kids.
The buck stops...where?
Trying to determine the person(s) responsible for this situation has been extremely difficult, from the principal to the superintendent, to the school board. I called the ISA representative responsible for taking the pictures and questioned her about obtaining the information without parental consent. She told me that she was paid by the school to make cards for ALL the students and she assumed permission was granted through the school as they had solicited her services.
Again, money was the deciding factor rather than parental authority.
I contacted District Superintendent Dr. Wayne Davis. Dr. Davis appeared to be concerned but had other pressing matters to handle (i.e., getting the $2.5 million levy for the school district to pass) before he could look into this matter.
I filed a formal written complaint with the school board on April 27, 2007 and asked to be placed on the agenda of the next public school board meeting (scheduled for May 21, 2007) to discuss my concerns. With the board having three weeks to investigate the matter before the next meeting, I asked to receive answers to five specific questions that were put in writing along with the formal complaint.
On Friday, May 18, just days before the meeting, I received a letter from Dr. Davis stating that I was not on the agenda of the meeting scheduled for May 21 and, while I could present my complaint to the board at the meeting, "…[i]t is the practice of the board to listen to the input, clarify any questions and determine if a response is required at a later date." IF a response is REQUIRED?
I did attend the meeting on May 21 and specifically asked the board who had authorized Dr. Davis to send me this letter on their behalf. They had no response. I asked why I was not on the agenda—again, no response from the board.
In fact, the board had not been made aware of my formal written complaint until one week before the meeting. Board Chairman Bobbi Bodine stated she would take my concerns under advisement and discuss them with the board. I was not told at what time, if at all, the discussion would take place or if I would even be a part of the discussion.
I wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper outlining what took place at the board meeting, an excerpt of which follows: "To the citizens of Grangeville, I implore you to pay attention to this; these are the same people who are asking you to vote yes on the school levy; the same people who are asking you to trust them with your money; the same people who broke my trust with regard to ignoring my parental authority and divulging personal information from the school records and allowing an outside agent to fingerprint my child. How can you vote ‘yes’ to give more money to the same people who are avoiding taking responsibility for their part in identity theft of our children?"
It came as no surprise to me that the letter was not printed in the paper prior to the levy vote; however, it was printed two weeks after the levy had passed. Interestingly, the editor conveniently omitted the last and most important sentence of my letter regarding identity theft. What happened to freedom of speech?
I made inquiries at the Idaho State Department of Education (www.sde.state.id.us/Dept), only to be told there was nothing that they could do to help me as Idaho is an independent state and each school district is governed by its respective school board.
Unrelenting, I filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC (www.ed.gov) and found that the unauthorized disclosure of directory information from school records was a violation of my rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the school is being investigated for noncompliance of provisions under this act.
Section 99.30 of the FERPA regulations states.. "[A]n educational agency or institution shall obtain a signed and dated written consent…before it discloses personally identifiable information from the student’s education records."
The facts are clear: (1) Parental authorization was blatantly disregarded in lieu of payment; (2) A private citizen obtained personal identification on the children and left the school premises with such on a computer "memory stick."
The people involved need to stand up and take responsibility for their part in identify theft of these children and total lack of respect for parental rights. Whatever happened to common decency, morality and respect for your fellow man? In my opinion, when the government stepped in and took God out of the schools, they left the doors wide open for all evil to come inside.
Note: A related article appeared in the May, 2007 edition of The IO. In this country today, we are experiencing the merger of government and corporate interests on just about every level. In the case of Ident-A-Kid, the interests of the state and private enterprise are merging to squeeze out parental rights. It’s not difficult to see the familial disintegration that will inevitably result from the responsibility of raising children being transferred from parents to government and industry. The most puzzling aspect of this scenario is that school faculty and staff, the school board, the local media and other parents do not see the harm Ident-A-Kid represents. (DWH)
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