Why My Kindergartener Will Not Be Getting Fingerprinted

My Sophia is upset. You see, today at school the local police will be taking the fingerprints of all kindergarteners whose parents signed a permission slip for them to do so. Her father and I have not and will not grant permission for her fingerprints to be taken. Which means that Sophia will be left sitting somewhere by herself while the rest of the kids get inked up. And she doesn’t want to be made to left out like that. I guess that this will just have to be an early lesson in the importance of standing up for something you believe in – even if it means being the only one left out.

There are several reasons that I won’t consider allowing the police to take my children’s fingerprints. First being that there is just no reason to. The police and school say this as a safety precaution, but taking a kid’s fingerprints doesn’t protect them from any harm. There’s not one terrible event which could be prevented by having my kid’s handprint on file. Even if something really awful were to happen to her, fingerprints could only help police to make an identification. But even then, this would only help if she were still alive or her body had been found within a relatively short time of death before decay set in. And even if that were the case, other means of identification like pictures and DNA can be used. So, the practical value of having her fingerprints on file is pretty much nil.

Even more than that, I think that the whole notion that it is reasonable or responsible to to keep her fingerprints on file “just in case” is corrosive in and of itself. You would never know it from watching the news or observing many parents, but our kids are safer today than they have been in decades. Crime – including crimes against children – have dropped precipitously from their high points in the early 90s. Yet rather than celebrating the fact that we live in a time where our children are so safe, we live in fear. And we pass that fear on to our kids.

Kids don’t have access to crime statistics, but they are sharp enough to understand that if we are taking their fingerprints “just in case”, it’s because there is a real chance that they will be needed. And yes, terrible things do happen. But close to 95% of violence against children occurs at the hands of people they know – often in their own homes. The chances of any particular child being the victim of crime in any other context are vanishingly remote. To put this into perspective, more than three times as many people are struck by lightning each year in the USA than there are children kidnapped by strangers each year. To make plans for this sort of “just in case” event would be much like buying clothing designed to conduct electricity in the event of a lightning strike. It happens, but not so often that we prepare for it!

And this fear that we have about our kid’s safety isn’t harmless. Aside from the anxiety, we have a very real childhood obesity epidemic. But fear of crime against children plays a major role in keeping kids indoors, away from playgrounds or taking long walks and bike rides. Even those parents who don’t live in fear for their child’s safety must worry that if they allow their child outside without a keeper neighbors will talk and CPS might even be called. This is not sane, how come I need to get my Tampa law firm on retainer so that I can let my kids roam freely, things are truly different now.

My brothers and sisters and I used to wander all over town and the neighbors never thought it was a problem! Well, there was that one time my mom got a call telling her that I was sitting on my bike on the corner eating candy – a sure sign I wasn’t supposed to have candy and had probably stolen coins to buy it with. But even though I was statistically more likely to have been the victim of crime as a child back in the 80s than my kids are today, no one thought my mother was negligent or putting us in danger to let us walk to the park by ourselves.

I want my kids to grow up to be strong, confident people who can move through their world freely, not afraid of shadows and boogey-men because my fear kept them from being given the chance to learn basic competence. So, I am philosophically and morally opposed to behaving as if my children are in ever-present danger. Heck, I even encourage my kids to talk to people while out and about. Because it’s good for them and our communities to be able to carry on friendly conversations with people they meet. They just can’t go anywhere with anyone -even a friend – without talking with me directly.

I know, I’m a terrible mother. But I’d rather be a terrible mother with competent kids than a “good” mother whose kids never get to practice being independent or taking small risks. I do not want my kids living in fear or thinking that it is normal to arrange life out of fear of things that could, but almost certainly won’t happen.

The reality is that terrible things happen. Terrible things will always happen. It’s part of life. I’m not super-human. I’m not God. I can take reasonable precautions against predictable tragedies, but I will never be able to make my kids or myself completely safe. It’s not my job and trying to do so is itself quite predictably harmful.

Besides, I prefer to direct my paranoia towards more realistic targets. For example, the real reason the police want everyone’s fingerprints on file has nothing to do with child safety – that’s just an easy, guilt-laden cover. They know perfectly well that there’s pretty much no practical safety-related reason to fingerprint 5 year olds. The fact of the matter is that the most likely use of my kid’s fingerprints would be to catch her if she were to commit a crime in ten years. Or if she were present in a place where a crime was committed – perhaps not even when it was committed! Innocent people have been convicted on less. Or they may be used by an identity thief looking for a way to get through biometric security. Or even for an out-of-control government keeping an increasingly unruly populace under its thumb so that the rich can live in peace. Maybe it’s not a real threat today. But how about ten years from now? Twenty? God willing, she has the genes to still be kicking around in 80 or 90 years and there’s no way that I can guess what will be going on then. I mean, good heavens – there could be a Marxist Kenyan bent on destroying all that is good and holy in office by then – bwahahaha! But whatever happens, it won’t involve a set of fingerprints kept on file from when she was 5.

41 thoughts on “Why My Kindergartener Will Not Be Getting Fingerprinted

    1. It’s hard not to be paranoid! I mean we all want to keep our kids safe. But there’s also so much social pressure to be “safety first” parents and the media shouting every freak accident or tragedy at us. (I recently saw a story on a toddler who died in the washing machine which insisted that this is a good example of why you can’t allow children in the laundry room. But of course, you can’t take your eyes off them for one second. So I guess we should tie them to the doorframe of the laundry room or only do laundry in the middle of the night?!?!?) I think we all need reminders that it’s not actually that bad. Almost every day I stop and ask myself what my mother would do. She was considered over-protective back when she was parenting, but by today’s standards all of us should have wound up dead, maimed, missing or traumatized. Yet all 9 of us made it out of childhood with nary a broken bone or a child sexual assault or any other tragedy of great consequence. It really helps me keep things in perspective.

      1. No Police department is going to keep your kids finger prints in CASE they commit a crime later on down the line. I have never heard of a worst mother than YOU!!! YOU have no idea what you are talking about. Kids are kidnapped every day young. They grow up not knowing who they really are. With finger prints you could tell. I was a officer for over 20 years. ONLY because of my Grand mother & my mom are I not allowed to tell U what I really think of U!!!!

      2. OK, this is one of more absurd responses ever. First of all, the jab about using fingerprints to commit a crime was – wait for it – a JOKE. So calm down, take a deeeeeeeeeeep breath and turn your humor antennae back on. I’m sorry that your time as a police officer has left you so mentally scarred. It is a very difficult job. But you need to get a grip.

        Secondly, my children’s odds of deciding to turn themselves into reptilian-human cross breeds is better than them being kidnapped and raised away from me. They are more likely to have a tail than to be kidnapped by a stranger. More likely to be struck by lightening. More likely to die in a vacuum cleaner accident.

        I mean, if not letting my kids get their fingerprints taken in kindergarten makes me the worst mother ever, well, you should go right ahead and report me to child services so my children can be rescued from me. I’m sure that once they hear that I didn’t let the police fingerprint my kids, they will recognize that I am an unfit parent and be all over dealing with the situation. Go ahead. Make the call. It’s the responsible thing to do if I’m the worst mother you’ve ever heard of. I think you can call 1-800-4ACHILD to make a report, in fact. See? I even gave you the number. Wasn’t that nice of the worst mother in existence?

        Otherwise, perhaps pour a drink (or put down the bottle if you’ve already had a few too many) or light up some herb or take a walk or meditate or do something to calm tf down. Because you’re being completely ridiculous.

  1. I found this through BlogHer, and I am so glad I did. I grew up with the most paranoid mother in the world, and I have major issues with anxiety as a result. I am a new mom (my daughter just turned 1), and I don’t want to pass all of that fear on to her. We’re about to embark on a move from Texas to Nebraska, away from our families, and I keep picturing all of these horror stories because I have to meet new people and eventually trust people with my child if I ever want to leave the house again (right now my mom always babysits). It is pushing me out of a lot of my comfort zones.

    The funny part is, I’ve traveled the world on my own and even lived in South Korea on my own for a year. So I know better. I know the world is not a horrible place. I don’t know why being a mom has brought out the complete spazz in me.

    It’s refreshing to read a realistic take on the world that reminds me that everything is going to be okay.

  2. I am a 15 year old male and i realized just now… why the heck did they take my fingerprints when i was young. i am a good kid i don’t do drugs and i stay away from everyone that is ”bad” and well i am NEVER letting my kids get their fingerprints taken by ANY cops so yeah

  3. I M not saying that it is necessary to have finger prints taken, but as for your reasoning i think that the fact that a majority of her class is getting their fingerprints taken and everything else in society today that she can see will influence her more than you not letting her get her fingerprints taken

  4. So if your child is ever taken and they need to be able to tell if your child was at a certain location or had touched a specific thing you now have completely eliminated that course of action. You not allowing your child to do something so minor will significantly reduce the chances of your child to be found quickly. This isn’t being a paranoid parent, its being a responsible parent. DNA can be used to identify your child, but why would you want to wait that long if your child had gone missing? Wouldn’t you want to know as soon as possible if the child found was yours? This can be done by FINGERPRINTING!!!! Not to mention, lets say little Johnny committed a crime in the future (what parent actually wants to believe their child could do such a thing) and his fingerprint was already on file and they got him on the crime? Maybe it wasn’t your child, but a different child he went to school with whose parents signed that paper. These things anger me so much when I read the stupidity of parents like yourself. Your reasoning is null and void because they are not reasons, they are your excuses to make your child feel the way you do, left out and different.

  5. If we lived in a Hollywood movie it would work that way. In real life, no one is going to be following a trail of fingerprints to find your kid. In real life you are far more likely to be suspected of an involvement of a crime you didn’t commit than kidnapped. And my kids are mixed race and we have a couple of felons in my husband’s family? Hell no.

    There’s no way I’m dumb enough to get fooled into being more frightened of the possibility that I may one day find myself in a Hollywood movie come to life than I am of real life. Which is at the heart of our problems; we’re so enthralled by our fantasies about what might happen or how things could work, that we fail to take seriously the things that happen all the time. So, no dice.

    The only one of my kids I’ve ever allowed to have them take fingerprints of was the one I turned into the police myself when I caught him doing something that had the potential to destroy him and others around him. I think I’m totally cool with taking my chances on this one, thanks so much.

  6. Most police departments that participate in child fingerprinting events DO NOT keep the fingerprints on file. The kit containing the prints is given to the parents, and they keep it until needed. If the child is ever kidnapped or runs away from home, the parents provide the kit to the police who enter it into the national databases to increase the chance of finding the child.

    1. I was going to make the same comment. I serve as a latent print examiner with a local police department and our police explorers fingerprint children, but the print cards are returned back to the parents. They are then advised to keep an updated photo with the card, place a hair sample and baby tooth in a bag within the freezer for DNA purposes. Odd that the department or school would want to keep that piece of information…if that were the case, I too would not want my child fingerprinted.

  7. Thank you for this. We actually just got a kit sent home in a school folder. It asks for a full set of fingerprints and a cheek swab for DNA. Then you mail it in…to a company. No thanks. Where would my child’s private information be, and who would have access to it? We may play detective, and keep all of this ourselves. But, we’ll never allow someone else to keep it and have access to it. Think about it this way: if the police wanted to fingerprint and cheek swab you as an adult–would you just mail that in?

  8. As a retired Officer I have fingerprinted thousands of children for ident-a-child programs. We never kept any records of the children but provided parents with all documentation and instructions. I find the paranoia unwarranted for a service that could assist you in locating and/or identifying your child. We always provided information on safeguarding the prints, photos and DNA of their children. My children are now adults living in major metro areas of the Country and I still have prints and DNA stored in my safe.

    1. Well, the last part about the government was tongue-in-cheek. What I’m really concerned about is the message that having her fingerprints sends to my child. I don’t think it’s a healthy one, but rather one that primes her to inflate her perception of risk and her fears. A sheet with some fingerprints tucked away somewhere strikes me as nothing more than a talisman offering impotent comfort to parents. But that’s just my opinion and I’m not in charge of much! 😉

  9. While I support your first amendment right to write and publish this disgusting and pointless rant, the disservice you provide to parents who care about their children but are unaware of valuable programs described above is immeasurable. To each their own, including parenting skills, but I only hope that your offspring remain safe. For mine, the only copy of their fingerprint card along with updated photo and DNA sample remains neatly tucked away in the family safe. I much rather be safe than sorry. I feel sorry for you and your twisted views on the world, but wish you only the best.

    1. Ahahahahahahahahahahaha! Congratulations. You sir, win the prize for the funniest bit of over the top hyperbolic hyperventilating ever to grace this fine blog. I am going to go laugh my sick, twisted self to sleep now. Lololololololol.

      P.S. Me thinks though dost protest too much. My heavens! Color me duly impressed. Ahhhhhh . . .

  10. People call you paranoid, but it’s what ever. The fact is, in the past few years, thousands of “nutters” have been proven right about their paranoid ideas. I regret having my finger prints on file, I don’t think I’ve once heard of cops running around collecting finger prints while looking for a lost child. It’s like you said, identification purposes only, where would you even begin to dust for finger prints? Places we KNOW the child was? Pointless.

  11. Good for you. Don’t be blindly lead by wolves in sheep’s clothing. The guy who’s “safe than sorry” will be mighty mad if the day ever came and he presents his finger print card only to be told it’s literally useless by the authorities. Now.. gps tracking chips. That’s another story.. check behind your eyeballs folks. I found one, so did my friends.

  12. Rebecca, you are absolutely correct and every person on here that is voicing their opinion otherwise is simply an unintelligent person. Kudos to you! Anyone who thinks that having fingerprints on file can do anything good is ridiculously naive. Wake up people. You all watch too much CSI. I have 3 crime scene investigators in my family, new flash people: The real world doesn’t work like it does on TV. The fire department visited my 3 year old daughter’s school today, and when she came home and told me the first thing out of my mouth was: They didn’t take your fingerprints did they?? That thought wouldn’t even cross these other people’s minds.

  13. As a Police Officer who regularly offers this service,.. It’s simply for piece of mind for the Parents. That’s it.
    First and foremost, THE PARENTS KEEP THE PRINTS!. The police do not have the time or resources to spend time on storing, entering and processing the fingerprints of a 10 year old. And I’m reasonably sure it would violate state laws and ethics in most areas.
    Most are unusable anyway. The ridge detail is so dense that they are most often just an ink blotch.
    In my 20 years as a Crime Scene Investigator, I’ve never once accessed a child’s old fingerprint card from some database to make an identification. I’ve never even heard of such a thing. It’s a most often a souvenir for the parents and the child to keep in a scrapbook somewhere, and hopefully not ever needed to do anything else. But it’s still there just in case…
    The concept is another way for the Police to establish relationships with the children and the public and display our resources. We’re not the bad guys. I promise.
    So please, stop being so paranoid. And stop watching so much television.

  14. Do you have car insurance? Medical insurance? YOU FEAR MONGER YOU!!! So what you’re saying is that you’ll protect yourself from financial loss by having insurance regardless of the fact that most people who don’t drive like idiots NEVER have an accident, and most people who aren’t obese couch potatoes RARELY need medical care, but you won’t take an ounce of protection against the just-as-slightly possibility that your child may some day be in danger? Just… wow. I mean, nobody is saying that you should submit your child to serial number tattooing under the evil watch of the Guv’ment, but remind me, keeping a set of fingerprints at home hurts exactly whom again?

    1. Maybe you should go back and re-read the post. I deal with all of that above. Fingerprints don’t provide any help or protection for anything, first off. So they aren’t like insurance. Maybe a talisman from the local medicine man would be comparable. As for the harm done, I happen to think creating the impression for my children that 1. having your fingerprints taken by police is just a normal thing we do sometime and 2. creating the impression in their little heads that the possibility of kidnapping and murder is so omnipresent that we fingerprint them just in case. Neither of those things are alright with me. As for your blase acceptance of the practice, well, given your demonstrated reading comprehensions skills, I’ll just have to say it’s probably par for the course.

  15. Wow, you ARE clueless! It’s wonderful that you live in such a great existence that you would never have to worry about anything happening to your child but the fact of the matter is, not everyone’s world is as perfect as yours! Not everyone is in a marriage that the father wouldn’t steal the child, not to be seen for four years until she turns 16 and tries to get a license and is found. Not everyone raises perfect children that don’t run away from home only to be found two years later committing petty crimes to survive after their prints are run. Not everyone has a child that isn’t abducted by someone they know because THAT is how it’s going to most likely happen. NOT by the stranger on the street.

    Do you even know that the police DO NOT keep the fingerprints of your child on file???? They simply print them and then YOU keep the card in a safe place in case anything ever happens. Then you would turn them over to the police.

    You are sorely misinformed and before you start advising other parents on what they should or shouldn’t do you really need to get a clue and get outside of your perfect bubble. Bad things DO happen and only if you can look at the next say,15 years of your life and predict that absolutely nothing bad will ever happen In your life, only then should you be so clueless.

    1. DNA can be used to identify a child in a matter of hours. And in a situation like one you described, it would be run regardless of fingerprints. If you go back through the comments, several people with experience in law enforcement say that my stance is quite reasonable. And the bottom line is that I think that any benefit of having fingerprints on hand is offset by the harm of teaching a child that it’s normal to have your fingerprints taken by police and to fear being kidnapped. I really don’t understand what the super intense reaction to this post is. You’d think I said I used my kids for alligator bait or something. Yeesh. Chiiiiiillllllll. It’s gonna be ok.

  16. listen and listen good very simple do what you believe in and i believe its wrong to peer pressure people into doing things like how they come to a dam school an brain wash parents into believing its a good thing you people are so far gone in this generation wow you know what we do need a war to get get rid of people that depend on the system should of voted for Hilary haha….. but i’m good f this system i don’t want them to take my kids fingerprint did my parents did that hell no its foolish an obvious what the real reasons are RFID chips chipped social security cards trying to control us every way possible an if you smarter people let them do what they want then they will force it in the future knowing they can control us. my opinion here an like that cop hes too far gone to know whats really going on an brain washed people like him dont listen to these people who are against this thinking its harmless thanks to people like them we will probably loose everything an be slaved like they are now go ahead an call me a conspiracy theorist its OK that just means they got you!!!!

  17. Ugh. Things are much different now a days. You are worried what ur child would think by getting fingerprinted? Well I’d be more worried that a child’s info would be in a database. Why would this even be necessary when parents can do this at home? Why would you need any company to take your child’s info and fingerprints? Insane if you ask me

    1. You do realize that nobody actually keeps the child’s fingerprints in a database, right?? The prints are just taken by volunteers, one kid at a time, and then the cards are given to the kids to take home for the parents to keep in a safe place. There is no one maintaining a database of child fingerprints. And nowadays the police who do this don’t even print the kids most of the time. All they do is hand out kits for the kids to take home. The kits include a DNA swab as well as single use ink sheets and print cards that the parents use and then keep in a safe place.

  18. A safeguard for the future is all it is really. Doing this has nothing to do with paranoia or whatever your category is for it. Do you leave your doors unlocked or do you lock your doors at night as a safeguard? I meaning locking them isn’t a sign of paranoia right?

  19. How about just letting her because it’s fun! I’m now 46 and my friends and I all have the fond memories of getting all inked up! WE LOVED IT! Same as chewing the pink tablet to see where we needed to brush our teeth better. Common this is your beef on the planet!? Should’ve just kept her home and took her out for ice cream. Would’ve done no harm either way. Party pooper.

  20. Congratulations to both you and your daughter. I believe you were spot on in your reasons for not having her participate in “finger-printing” day.

    Many parents wouldn’t have made the same choice, given that:

    – it’s fun (c’mon – how often are kids ASKED to get messy)
    – the event looks harmless on the surface
    – everyone worries at some point about their kid being/feeling singled out

    However, it’s very cool that you thought this activity through a bit more thoroughly. While I believe your observations are very accurate (minus the “Marxist Kenyan” remark) overall – these are the ones that stuck out to me in particular:

    -a general misdirection (safety) in terms of what kids and parents should actually be fearful about (surveillance)
    – what the finger-printing activity represents in terms of an early indoctrination into surveillance culture

    When taking about safety, you brought up an important concept: fear. Parents (and kids) are being given the wrong information (I.e., no accurate statistical data) as to the real dangers of the outside world, and are instead being taught to fear the wrong boogeymen.

    Like you, I was also fortunate enough to experience that strange era where kids were able to hang out with their friends and roam their neighborhoods without knocks on the door from CPS. Life was in the real world, and there was a healthy distinction between school time and after-school. What was formally known as “playing outside”, is now “non-climate controlled, non-focused, child-endangerment,” with predatory dangers lurking around every corner.

    As a result, the message kids are internalizing is that it’s generally more acceptable, and far safer to shelter-in-place (and engage primarily online) rather than step out, unsupervised, into an anxiety-ridden fearscape — which has gained the reputation for being extremely dangerous, and yet, somehow, also mind-numbingly boring.

    Yet, it’s online where stranger-danger is presently in full effect – with clever surveillance capitalists tracking a users every move. Whether actively attempting to engage kids (and adults), or just quietly monitoring in the background, they are combining immense amounts of individually identifying data with pinpoint accurate location information.

    And, as for the school finger-printing activity itself (and inspite of its most-likely benign intent) — unfortunately it fits into the larger/worsening picture of schools actively indoctrinating kids into a rapidly emerging “surveillance culture”. Where school kids are being asked to accept increasing amounts of surveillance activities and products (biometric ids, online activity tracking, surveillance cameras, etc) into their day, and to provide personally identifiable data (biometric or otherwise) on demand. This is by no means limited to schools, post high-school, they will enter colleges, workplaces, and live in/travel to cities doing much more of the same in terms of enhanced surveillance tech.

    In any surveillance culture there are serious implications regarding privacy and freedom of speech. Short of the full-blown future dystopian scenario you presented of “an out-of-control government keeping an increasingly unruly populace under its thumb so that the rich can live in peace” – there are also intermediary steps in terms of homogenization and self-censorship that are already taking root.

    I’m not sure that the general concept of “a strong, confident person who can move through her world freely” is an option in a surveillance culture. At this stage, it’s going to require a much broader awareness of the situation along with some across the board cooperation to move in a different direction from what’s currently happening – where, in the guise of safety and innovation – individual privacy rights are being actively exchanged for control, convenience, and profit.

  21. The racist remarks shows your ignorance. To not to let your child participate in school fingerprinting is your decision. My children had fun the day they had school fingerprinting. Not a single child was scared or scarred for life.

  22. I am sorry you feel the way you do and I am happy you are supermom BUT you might have wanted to get your info totally correct. I pray for your children.

  23. My cousin was my best friend growing up. She went missing when we were 14 years old. I was distraught obviously. I remember begging the detective to check for her fingerprints to confirm she was there. They just kinda laughed me off and said that’s only on TV and if I seen them doing fingerprints it wasn’t a good sign. Two days later a search group found a body at the edge of shallow stream. I will never forget them getting their kits out then. It was her, They also found a trail of her possessions. Like she was running from someone. Her keys, water bottle, and a shoe. She was drowned in 2 ft of water. She is now a cold case and would be in her 40’s.
    So everytime schools ask for fingerprints “incase something happens” I want to laugh & cry at the same time. I have 3 boys now, God forbid if anything did happen, they can get prints from their room.

    On another note, my sisters house was broken into. I was asked why my fingerprints were on the window ledge (in a non suspect way). I said that’s weird I’ve never been fingerprinted before. Come to find out back in the 80’s these people (not police) came to the mall and were taking pictures of kids and fingerprints then gave my mom a laminated card that had a smaller image of my prints on the back The originals were sent into a database. So I think it depends on who is doing them. No, I was not charged lol.
    Anyways it’s your right as a parent to make decisions for your child until they can make them for themselves. No one has a right to judge you and call you a bad parent because they disagree. I know this is a older post, I’m willing to bet your daughter has not been traumatized by the event and more than likely doesn’t even remember it. Oh, and I did laugh when you wrote about when they commit a crime 10 years later. Thanks for sharing.

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