Wednesday, June 29, 2011

School board is overreacting on security


The situation with the Blaine County School District's board of trustees' consideration of spending money to remodel the entrances to the high school and middle school "to reduce vulnerability" is a perfect example of what fear does. It makes human beings make irrational and often destructive decisions.

A quick check on the Internet yields lots to support Trustee Paul Bates' lambasted view that the presentation of the school security director, reportedly ending with, "I only ask you this—what's the life of your child worth to you?" was "really inappropriate" in that it was "just paranoid ranting."

Here's a quote from, one of many I found on the subject:

"In a nation of 119,000 schools, a rate of 9.3 cases per year (of school homicides) means that the average school can expect such an event about once every 12,800 years (119,000 divided by 9.3). This calculation is not intended to be a precise measure of risk, but an indication that there is a huge gap between the general perception of risk and the actual rate for the average school."

I have calculated from the statistics in this same site that for every student who is killed at school:

- 16 die from flu or pneumonia.

- More than 600 die of heart disease.

- More than 1,700 die of cancer.

- Almost 2,000 die of suicide (the most heartbreaking).

- More than 2,200 die from out-of-school homicides.

- Almost 9,500 have an accidental death.

Another site, listing the top 20 causes of death in 15- to 19-year-olds, lists motor-vehicle traffic as the cause of nearly 40 percent of all accidental deaths. That means your child is 3,800 times more likely to be killed in an auto accident than to be killed at school.

If caring best for our kids is the point of this proposal, wouldn't it be better to spend more money in efforts to educate our young drivers about safe driving related to seatbelts, alcohol, cell phone use and driving with passengers (3.6 percent increased risk of crash compared to driving without passengers)?

I am sad that Paul Bates' factually supported position was dismissed so disrespectfully and critically by Vice President Daniel Parke's reported comment, "Frankly, I'll be honest with you, Paul, you don't support anything the district wants to do except to be a contrarian and saying no just for the sake of saying no. I don't frankly know if you're representing the kids or if you're representing your special interest group. And I'll be frank with you, that fact came across very poorly tonight that you are not putting the children first."

Essentially, Mr. Parke is publicly calling a member of the board a special-interest contrarian who doesn't support anything the district wants to do and doesn't represent children or put them first. These are pretty caustic allegations. Since Mr. Parke likes frankness so much, I'd like to tell him (frankly) that he is seriously (and I should think embarrassingly) misinformed about the risk of a student being killed at school, and that he seriously owes Mr. Bates a complete apology for poor judgment and poor behavior, on the record, for the unwarranted, demeaning comments he made.

Considering the extreme economic conditions, the public's money needs to be very carefully spent. The decision regarding security upgrades should be a no-brainer and I will be at the next board meeting to see how our money gets spent.

Pamela Plowman-Weston is a resident of Hailey.

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