The Pinellas school system is ready to approve a new technology that uses student fingerprints to keep track of who is riding school buses.

Beginning in the fall, the fingerprint system would identify students as they board and leave. The goal is to ensure they are getting on the right bus and getting off at the right stop.

School officials say the $2-million project will save money and dramatically improve safety for students, whose fingerprints will serve as authorization to board and disembark.

If the School Board approves the proposal March 9, Pinellas will become one of four Florida school districts in the process of implementing Global Positioning Systems with a student-tracking system.

"This is Management 101 in transportation. Now we will have good, factual information that we can use in a very timely manner to make our services as good as humanly possible," said Terry Palmer, the district's transportation director.

But some parents and national organizations are concerned about the implications of fingerprinting 45,000 bus riders, some as young as 5.

"This is probably a really good idea, but in my mind it was just this terrible feeling, like they're watching my kids wherever they go," said Nancy McKibben, mother of three teenagers at Palm Harbor University High School and president of the school's PTSA.

Critics say programs of this nature raise significant privacy concerns and teach students at a young age to accept what amounts to a "Big Brother" surveillance society.

"We are conditioning these children to understand that they have no personal space, no personal privacy," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Program on Technology and Liberty.

The School Board has given administrators a preliminary go-ahead


it seems like, no scratch that it IS a constant push from all side to get a system of tracking everyone in place. how long before people just get tired of hearing about it and then there it'll be. this one dosn't even have anything to do with terrorism just "saving money" (?). i just know when its all in place some "bright one" will have this great idea...

freedom isn't something that just happened. it was forced into being and it will take constant vigiliance and struggle to keep it. its not the natural order of things and it can leave us allot faster than it came.