DNA kits are being sent home to families of public school children in Texas

The move goes beyond active shooter situations, officials say
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 6:59 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - School districts across Central Texas are beginning to distribute DNA kits to families of public elementary school-aged children.

In 2021, the state of Texas signed Senate Bill no. 2158 into law, establishing the Child Identification Program.

The law requires the Texas Education Agency to supply DNA kits to parents of public elementary school students to help identify their children in cases of emergencies.

Parents can voluntarily request these kits for both their elementary-aged and older children, and then submit them to law enforcement officials in hopes of locating a missing or trafficked child.

“They’re inkless fingerprint kits, it looks just like a letter envelope sent home,” Taina Maya, Chief Communications Officer of Killeen ISD, told KWTX. “It has all the instructions laid out for them. And really this is something for parents to keep in case of emergencies. but we hope they never have to use these kits.”

The timing of these kits is a stark reminder to some, coming just months after the deadly shooting in Uvalde that tragically killed 19 school children and two teachers.

Local school officials and detectives urge that their uses, however, go far beyond this worst case scenario.

“Parents need to be also understanding that this kit can be valuable for them beyond what they think of at this time as far as school safety,” Maya said. “This is something where… human trafficking, these are dating violence, these are potentially fingerprints and pictures of your students in a safeguarded place. It could be something that might help them further down the road.”

McLennan County Sheriff’s Office Detective Joseph Scaramucci gave similar sentiments.

“For general detectives, investigating any crime where DNA is needed, especially when identifying victims, is huge,” Scaramucci said.

The Texas Education Agency partnered with various organizations -- the Safety Blitz Foundation, the National Child Identification (I.D.) Program, Education Service Centers, and school systems -- to distribute these kits.

The National Child Identification (I.D.) Program has been around for nearly 25 years.

“We’ve worked with the state of Texas almost 25 years,” Kenny Hansmire, CEO of the National Child ID Program, told KWTX. “It’s been overwhelmingly a success until, because of the timing I believe, you got some people who are questioning it. But the ID kit is for no other reason than to help parents locate a missing or a human trafficked child.”

Since its inception in 1997, the National Child ID program has distributed over 70 million kits throughout North America.

According to a statement on behalf of the Texas Education Agency, families with public school students in kindergarten through sixth grade during the 2021-2022 school can expect to receive these kits from their respective school systems.