FLAT ROCK — Deputy Steve Boone has missed his calling in life. He should have been an elementary school teacher.
Boone had the Flat Rock Elementary School first-grade students in Julie Taylor’s class in stitches Tuesday, giggling hysterically as they followed his instructions.
“They think it’s a game,” said Sheriff Graham Atkinson as he looked on. “But before you know it they will be done. He has them fingerprinting themselves without even realizing it.”
And while the actual fingerprinting was light-hearted, even playful, Atkinson said the reason behind it was much more serious.
“We hope it never happens, but at some point in the future we may have to identify a kid who has been abducted, or is in a situation where they can’t give us their information,” he said.
Which is why Atkinson said he began fingerprinting the county’s young people about six years ago.
“We’d done these fingerprintings sporadically at community events and festivals, but there wasn’t an opportunity to consistently provide this service on a county-wide basis,” he said. “In talking to the school systems, we pitched the idea to them and they were just thrilled.”
Children participating in the event do so on a strictly voluntary basis, he said.
“The parents sign a release allowing us the authority to fingerprint their children,” he said. “One of the big misconceptions about this process is some parents think we retain the information and we don’t. The children are given a card to take home with them so their parents have a copy of their fingerprints. We’re not trying to find a way to identify your children for our purposes, it’s to help parents if their children are in trouble.”
For Atkinson, the fingerprinting program is less a part of his job and more of a community service.
“I think most parents have good intentions and love their children, but this may not be something they think a lot about,” he said. “This is something we can do that doesn’t involve a tragedy. This is a service to the community that we hope they never need.”
In addition to fingerprints, the cards also allow parents to keep a DNA record, either through a hair sample or a saliva swab, Atkinson noted.
After six years, Atkinson said his office is well on the way to having fingerprinted most of the county’s young people.
“Every child who is a freshman in high school today, all the way back to those in the first grade, have had the opportunity to be fingerprinted,” he said. “Eventually, we’ll have everyone in the county from first grade on.”
In the background, children could be heard laughing as Boone told them to hold out their “r-r-r-r-ring” finger.
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.