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The [Friday] Papers

I went downtown today to get fingerprinted.

The urban journalism program I work with has worked with the Spark mentoring program this year, and Spark in turn works with CPS.

I always wondered if CPS did background checks on folks like me. I've been in their schools and working with their students for two years and I don't recall anything about a background check. Maybe my boss just vouched for me.

But now, CPS is not only doing a background check but requiring fingerprints of everyone working with Spark.

So I went today to comply.


I don't know why it kind of bothered me to offer up my fingerprints. Maybe because we're in such a hyper-surveillance state, it just kind of rankled.

But anyone working with public school children should go through a background check. I get it. They should check to make sure I wasn't a creep with a shady past who might be there to prey on children. I get it.

I did wonder, though, where my fingerprints would end up. In a national criminal database? Nah. Probably not. But what if they did? What would be wrong with that?

Well, I thought to myself, if I ever commit a crime, it would be easier for the cops to catch me.

So was that my objection? That giving my fingerprints would make it harder to commit a crime?

I couldn't think of a reason not to give my fingerprints.


Then I recalled when the Chicago Police Department started fingerprinting journalists. That was wrong. This was not that.


What gave me bigger pause was being required, for the first time, to sign a release indemnifying CPS for any liability under the sun. I signed, but told the Spark folks they might want to reassess that: What if, for instance, we're having our big end-of-session celebration in the lunchroom at Chavez Elementary and the roof caves in and CPS had been warned to fix the roof or close the school and now we're all crippled for life? Did I just sign away my right to sue? I think I did.

A friend tells me, though, that what I signed is meaningless. He says those kinds of clauses assume that the institution involved will behave with due care. Any good lawyer, he says, will get around what you signed. I hope he's right. Or, let's say, I hope I never have to find out.


Then I almost got stuck in the building I was in. I'm sure this isn't uncommon. I stepped into an elevator on the 5th floor and pushed "L" for lobby. Nothing happened. The light did not stay lit. The overhead lights were off. The doors did not move. So I got out and saw another open elevator and stepped in. There was a mail lady in there with her cart and I said hello and realized I was in the service elevator. She said it was okay, she was going down. But she got off the 4th floor. I got off at "L" but I wasn't in the lobby at all; I was in the building's nether-most regions. I got back in and pushed "2" and that was just a regular floor. So I took the stairs that said "Re-entry L/1st floor" and found myself outdoors in a small wire cage of sorts quite quickly. I went back inside fearing this could be it. I recalled to myself the time I almost got stuck in the stairwell of the Cook County Jail. I wondered if I had at least a chocolate bar on me if I wasn't found until Monday.

I took the stairs back up to the second floor and got in a different elevator full of regular ol' folk, and went down to "L" with them and this time when the doors opened I really was on "L."

And that's what I did today.


By the way, they didn't use an ink pad, which really disappointed me. You just stick your fingers on a screen thingy. Totally not as much fun.

I mentioned this to one of the Spark folk, and said, you know, I wanted to black up my hand! Like in that Snow song!

He didn't know the song.

I won't turn informer!


I asked for a lie detector test too, but they didn't have one and said it wasn't necessary. I know, but I thought it would be fun.


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Posted on February 6, 2015

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SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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