Parents Hesitant On DNA
Child Identity Plan
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is trying to provide parents with a way to prove their children's identity for a lifetime.
But many parents want nothing to do with the program to use blood samples to identify their children's DNA. And no state has adopted the program, although the cost is less than $1.50 per child.
The Florida department offered the program to three school districts -- parents would get a free ID kit with their children's DNA -- but only one district agreed. And that district, Leon County schools, used only 300 of the 500 donated kits.
"It's the whole privacy issue," said John Rabun, vice president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "Parents are saying, "I don't want outsiders deciding what to do with that."'
Children gave blood at three Leon County elementary schools in February, with their parents present. A drop of blood was sealed on a special chemical paper, then sent home with the parents.
No blood was kept by the government.
Fear of 'Big Brother'
Some school districts are reluctant to use the program because of concern over privacy issues.
"It's the 'Big Brother is watching' syndrome," said Bill Johnson, spokesman for the Brevard County School District, which turned down the program. "Everybody's concerned that we are tracking people and that kind of thing. The concerns are unjustified in my view. I think we need to do everything and anything we can to protect our kids."
Bill Hagmaier, chief of the FBI's violent crime analysis lab in Quantico, Virginia, said fingerprinting also once concerned the public, and that people will learn to like the DNA program when they better understand it.
DNA samples can help law enforcement identify a decomposed or dismembered body, or identify infants switched at birth. It can also be used to prove guilt or innocence.
Although tragedy, such as murder, is unimaginable, especially for a parent, Hagmaier said it happens more often than people think.
"There's not a week that goes by where there aren't remains found somewhere of some human being," Hagmaier said. "The key is the investigator finding some way to identify the victim."
When 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce was abducted in Miami in September 1995, raped and dismembered, authorities used DNA from the boy's parents to identify the remains.
Miami schools cite liability
Miami-Dade County schools also rejected the DNA program.
"It was the testing of students," Deputy Superintendent Henry Fraind said. "We just don't get involved if we don't have to. We get offered so many different things with various ID cards or blood tests. For us, everything seems to be a liability issue."
The DNA kits were offered by Life Technologies of Rockville, Maryland.
All members of the military must now give a DNA sample, which means there is virtually no chance that the United States will ever bury another unknown soldier.
A success in Leon County
Despite the general wariness, Leon County Superintendent Bill Montford called the pilot program a success. Other schools have called wanting to sample their children, he said.
The reaction was also positive from parents who took their children to Pineview Elementary one evening for the samples, although children had mixed feelings.
"What's that? She's gonna stick me," 6-year-old Carl Bryan protested when a nurse assistant brought out a needle.
He cried, kicked and screamed until his mother agreed to do without the sample.
Carl couldn't be persuaded by an offer of pizza, a $1 bribe or even the proud announcement by 8-year-old Eboni Major that "It didn't hurt. I wasn't scared."
Parents, on the other hand, were grateful.
"I'm keeping this in the envelope with the birth certificates," Sharon Conyers said of the DNA sample from her 12-year-old son, Cedrick. "It'll be one of my most important papers."