Detroit schools issue ID cards storing student photos and fingerprints

The financially-strapped Detroit Public Schools will soon begin issuing so-called “child safety ID cards” in some elementary schools. According to a release from DPS, the card will contain the photograph, fingerprint, and other identifying information of each participating child. DPS officials gave assurances that the proposed cards will serve to assist law enforcement in finding and identifying missing children more quickly. DPS says it will provide one card to parents, while keeping information on file. This information, asserts DPS, would be shared with law enforcement only in the event of an emergency.
 
The Nov. 12 DPS news release said, “Fingerprints on file are a unique addition to this initiative and would only be utilized in circumstances in which State Police or Federal Agencies’ assistance is needed. The program is entirely voluntary. Parents must complete a permission slip to participate in the program.”
 
“We take the safety and security of our students extremely seriously and are proud that we have reduced the number of incidents in and around our campuses,” said Emergency Manager Jack Martin. “This new Child Safety ID Card program will be a major enhancement to assist police in the event of an emergency.” The ID program will begin as a pilot in November and December of this year at the Maybury, Gardner, Bagley and Chrysler elementary schools. If the pilot is successful, DPS hopes to expand the program throughout the school district to all K-8 students.
 
In an interview with Michigan Public Radio, Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police said “This is going to stay in the DPS database. It’s not going to come to the state police. It’s not going to go into a criminal database.” Said Lt. Shaw, “The only time it would be used is…when they have a lost child.”
 
“I think it’s a great tool for law enforcement to help keep kids safe,” said Detroit Public Schools Police Chief Roderick Grimes. “It will be efficient and effective to have this information at hand, at the ready, as soon as we get notice that a child is missing.”
 
The initiative is part of a strategic plan that DPS calls “Neighborhood-Centered, Quality Schools,” which calls for increased safety in and around schools to expand “Safe Routes and more volunteer citizen patrols near school campuses. DPS is also instituting and enforcing a new district-wide Attendance Policy and other safety initiatives in response to feedback from hundreds of parents, community members and stakeholders.”
 
 The cost of the technology supporting the program is partially funded by the Health Alliance Plan of Michigan. According to its website, HAP is a Michigan-based, nonprofit health plan that serves more than 670,000 members with award-winning health care coverage and wellness services.” It is a subsidiary of the Henry Ford Health System.
 
UPDATE: In response to a query by Spero about safeguarding of information collected by DPS from students participating in the I.D. program, DPS spokesperson Jennifer Mrozowski emailed an answer:  "The information will be stored in a separate database within the Detroit Public Schools Police Department's secured record retention system.  The fingerprinting will be taken by Detroit Public Schools Police Department personnel. Once a child leaves the district, the information will be purged."  


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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