Ministry must approve fingerprinting at schools

Minister with responsibility for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Karl Samuda, addresses the media at the Ministry's annual Back-to-School Press Conference, held at the Ministry, National Heroes Circle, on Thursday (August 29). (Photo: JIS)

MINISTER with responsibility for education Karl Samuda says that, in keeping with the 1980 Education Regulations, schools introducing automated fingerprinting systems to monitor attendance must get his ministry’s approval.

Samuda was responding to follow-up questions raised by Opposition spokesman on education Ronald Thwaites, which were triggered by a statement from the minister on the issue of local schools using scanners to record the attendance and punctuality of teachers.

The issue was triggered by media reports Monday that eight teachers, out of a staff of 140 at the Mona High School in St Andrew, had refused to log on to an attendance fingerprinting system introduced by Principal Keven Jones.

The reports said that the teachers were unconvinced of the legitimacy of the system, which was introduced earlier this month to deal with the practice of teachers falsifying attendance records.

Samuda told the House of Representatives yesterday that, while the ministry understands the need for an accurate record-keeping system, “teachers cannot be compelled to provide biometric data such as fingerprints to schools”.

“Section 30(A) of the Finger Prints Act directs that a person can only be compelled to provide fingerprints in specific criminal matters. The law also allows an individual the right to refuse to give fingerprints,” he stated.

He said that while the ministry does not object to the use of the method, school boards and administrators are required to conduct extensive sensitisation and consultations before the implementation of any electronic system that will require biometric data.

The Mona High principal did not seek the approval of the ministry. However, the principal said that the school felt that the entire teaching staff was in agreement with the proposal.

He said that the school board will discuss the matter, but that there was no intention to take any action against the disapproving teachers.


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