KINGSPORT — Fingerprint scans will be used this fall at Dobyns-Bennett High School to help increase security in hard-to-secure areas, school officials said.
The fingerprint or biometric scans are used, among other things, to help secure the career technical education and band room, also known as the instrumental music building, school system spokeswoman Andy True and D-B Principal Chris Hampton said.
Hampton said the scanners were installed in January and February as part of ramped-up security at the Kingsport school of about 1,900, and Hampton said parents of existing students were notified at that time.
“We added this in response to parents’ concerns after the Newtown, Conn., tragedy,” Hampton said Thursday of the killing of 26 at an elementary school by a gunman. He said the scanners will allow students free access in and out of the CTE and music areas while keep them secure from outsiders.
Although installed in the winter, he said school officials decided not to implement the system until August because they were not functional until around March or April.
Hampton said the six scanners are located on the entrance to the music building; on the nearby entrance to the CTE area; on the other end of CTE going to the main campus; at the main campus near the other CTE entrance; at a math pod area that indirectly leads to the music building; and on the field house, used during the school day.
A seventh is planned for the new ROTC facility in the old American Legion building.
The biometric program Wednesday drew the ire of at least one parent whose student had a fingerprint scan during freshmen orientation that day. Hampton said the orientation gave school officials a chance to do the scans without calling students out of class this fall.
“They never mentioned the fact they would be doing this,” Sherry Shugart said Wednesday. “Don’t you take my child and scan her without telling me.”
Shugart said she was not opposed to the added security, only to parents not being asked permission or at least told.
“Why didn’t they let this be known?” Shugart said. “I’m ticked off they didn’t ask people of legal age (parents or guardians) what they thought of it.
“Why try to hide it?” Shugart said. “They didn’t actually implant the chip. Is that coming next?”
Hampton said the system Friday sent out emails to parents and posted a notice on its Web site about the biometric scanners and the reason for their use.
True said he was unaware of any other concerns about the fingerprint scans and security system. Hampton said parents of D-B students in the just-ended school year were made aware of the change back in the winter and that it never was the intent to hide the increased security or scans from parents.
Other than Shugart, Hampton estimated about 10 other parents or students had responded to the biometric scanners and that all were in support of it.
The biometric scanners came after security upgrades at the start of the 2012-13 school year that included a new more secured main entrance. Shugart, however, remained upset.
“It’s the back-door entry, do it for the minors and not let the adults know,” Shugart said.
Future plans call for a walkway between the main building and CTE building to be enclosed, which could cost about $750,000, and another enclosure of the walkway between the music building and CTE, which has no cost estimate yet.
However, Hampton said the biometric scanners might then be repurposed in other areas of campus.
Hampton said students are not being forced to have the scans made but that it gives them access to areas between class changes they otherwise wouldn’t have.
So far, he said no students or parents have turned down the scans, and he said many teachers have done the scans even though they already have cards that grant them access to entry doors throughout the building.