Tuesday, August 23, 2011

'Big Brother' school ID program should bother everyone

I have a love/hate relationship with school districts.�   I did when I was a student. I did when I was a reporter. I do as a father of two school-aged children. And I do as a taxpayer.

It seems like not a school year goes by without one school district or another angering me in some way. Fans of my former radio show may recall the problem I had with the “agendas” the kids had to carry around. Or the $100 calculator that every student has to buy.

Today’s issue is ugly. And scary. And is a much bigger deal than a $100 calculator that I can’t afford and my daughter will never use outside of that math class.

Last week, the Starpoint Central School District instituted a policy that will require any visitor to their buildings to present their state-issued identification, which the district will then scan for what they have determined to be pertinent information.

Some members of the community have found fault with this plan, saying it violated their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

The district, however, retorts that all the information they’ll be gleaning from your driver’s license or other form of ID is just public information anyway, so … no harm, no foul.

This argument is nothing but a distant cousin of “If you don’t have anything to hide, why do you care if we search your belongings?”

I care if you search my belongings because they’re mine. And I care if you look at my “public record” because it’s mine. And I don’t think that just because I may have a reason to be in a Starpoint school, that gives the district the right to download my details into their system.

It’s not like people meander the school district’s halls without reason. When you get to most schools, you have to stop in the office and sign in. That seems somewhat reasonable to me. But stopping, signing in and handing over your traffic records seems unnecessary to me.

The district says the new provision is for the safety of its students. Forgive me, but I don’t see how it makes them any safer. Maybe someone could explain to me how it does. Until then, I have to say this is a very slippery slope that I don’t like.

Imagine if in the future, you have to scan your ID at any government building. Or to get into parks. Or at random intersections. How about at government-funded sports arenas? And your information could show up on the JumboTron for everyone to see. After all, it’s all public information, right?

Now, the folks from Starpoint might say I’m being overly dramatic and engaging in hyperbole. But I’d rather we stopped this whole issue of scanning your ID now, before it starts.

The members of the Starpoint Board of Education need to remember that they answer to the taxpayers — and not the other way around.

And people from outside the Starpoint district should not sit back and wait on this issue. If Starpoint gets their way on this, your school district will be next.