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Biometrics a step forward in making schools safe

Let's hope schools throughout the state -- and the country, for that matter -- follow the lead that Robert C. Byrd High School has taken when it comes to security.

ANSER Analytic Services installed a biometric access control system for the school's mechanical room this week. Now, authorized personnel must not only swipe their identification badge, but scan either their palm or finger as well.

The installation is serving as a demonstration of biometrics' potential in enhancing school security. Such systems provide control over access, allow positive identification of individuals and provide a record of those entering and leaving schools.

According to Grant Norman, ANSER program manager, the technology -- a process of positive identification through the scanning of unique body characteristics such as fingerprints, eyes, voice patterns and more -- "raises security up a level."

Other security measures have some glitches.

Identification cards, for instance, can be lost and used by other, unauthorized individuals. Video cameras -- in order to be effective -- need to be installed throughout the entire school building. They would also need to be monitored in "real-time" by several school officials throughout the entire day -- an impractical and costly proposition.

Biometrics may not be an infallible security measure, but it appears to be the best we have today. It also appears to be cost-effective, with the palm-scanning equipment costing $1,200 and the fingerprint scan device priced at $700.

That seems a small price to pay to provide students, faculty and parents with the peace of mind they deserve.

Kevin Courtney