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School Board takes safe, prudent direction
A Times Editorial
Published January 30, 2008
Asked by the superintendent to set policy on two security matters, the Hernando County School Board played it safe, and both decisions were in the best interest of students and parents.
At a workshop meeting Monday, superintendent Wayne Alexander allowed safety officer Barry Crowley to make his case for becoming a full-fledged, weapon-toting law enforcement officer with the legal power to make arrests and use force to detain, subdue, pursue or investigate individuals suspected of wrongdoing.
The School Board rightly turned down that request, noting that every middle school and high school already has a Hernando County sheriff's deputy on campus to impede or react to situations that require such a heavy-handed response. Those school resource officers already have full authority to enforce the law, and are fully trained about when and how to flex that muscle.
There has been no indication from either the superintendent or the sheriff that problems exist that would require the district to employ its own law enforcement staff. That day may come, but it has not arrived yet and it was an astute judgment by a majority of the board not to venture down that path.
The other safety-related matter the board discussed Monday was the possibility of eliminating bus service for students who live within 1 mile of the school they attend. State law does not require bus service for students who live within 2 miles of their school, but Hernando County has always provided that service and absorbed the expense without the state's assistance.
Superintendent Wayne Alexander's staff reviewed the issue with an eye toward cutting costs. Preliminary research indicated that the district could save about $750,000 by not busing about 1,700 students who live within the 1-mile radius.
It was a reasonable topic for discussion and Alexander should be commended for looking to save taxpayers money. It is unfortunate the board did not allow the superintendent's staff to make its presentation before offering its opinions on this subject. Even though board members were not open to the idea, they should not have pre-empted the staff's presentation. Those findings, even if they were not enough to persuade the board, could have helped the public better understand the issue.
That said, the board's gut reaction was right on.
The county's diverse geography makes it almost impossible to establish arbitrary pickup boundaries. Also, many areas lack sidewalks, which would force students to walk on roads or streets at dawn, when visibility is low and the potential for accidents is high.
Alexander should continue to look for ways to trim expenses. But in this instance, we're glad the board recognized the risk to public safety far outweighed the financial cost.