Last night Rob Sawyer, Nick DiChario, and I did a reading/signing/panel at the local B&N. This was a lot of fun, and well-attended, thanks to the excellent publicity manager. Both before and afterwards, I had dinner/drinks with Rob, Nick, and other people, and the subject of fingerprinting came up.
In August I'm teaching at the Writers & Books "writing camp" for kids. I have only one section of 9-13-year-olds, mornings for a week. Many of the children, however, attend different types of writing classes all day. Many are younger. Some will be going on field trips with the instructors and interns. This year, for the first time, the Writers & Books Board of Directors has decided that all instructors working with children should undergo background checks, including fingerprinting.
At least one instructor has refused and may quit before the summer even begins.
I have already been fingerprinted and background-checked, a necessary requirement of some volunteer work I've done with children (Court Appointed Special Advocate in Maryland, Big Brother/Big Sister program here). I had no objection, since it makes sense to me that if you're going to allow a nine-year-old to get into a car alone with a stranger, you want to know a lot about that person beforehand. I didn't object to the government talking to my neighbors to check up on me, or searching my police records (two speeding tickets in 35 years), or whatever else they want to do. The other instructor does object. Given the current political climate, she does not want information about her life on file anywhere. She's apprehensive about what future uses it may be put.
This is a difficult question, with arguments on both sides. The most interesting thing to come out of last night's discussion, however, was from a man who said he was supposed to be printed, and then was told, "Oh, we don't need to do that -- your fingerprints are already on file with the FBI."
He said, astonished, "They are?"
"Yes," he was told. "You did a fingerprinting merit badge when you were a Boy Scout."