The Palm Beach County School Board agreed last week to spend up to $372,000 for a political consultant to advertise about the proposed property tax hike on radio, TV and online.
At the risk of sounding cynical, they might have just saved the taxpayer’s money given Friday night’s tragic events. Although the logical argument for the new tax revenue highlight a long-overdue boost in pay of public school teachers, the emotional part of the argument is fueled by the school safety issue.
And over the last few days that emotion has been dialed up to a level we all hoped it never would.
You see, there’s school security, and then there’s school security.
That has become readily apparent in the wake of Friday night’s shooting at a football game between Palm Beach Central and William T. Dwyer high schools in that otherwise safe suburban enclave of Wellington.
The shooting wasn’t technically on campus; but I’m not sure it really matters at this point.
Much like the attendees at that football game, school officials and politicians are running scared of anything that raises doubts in the minds of parents’ and students’ that they can protect kids on a school campus.
Even before the shooting last week, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano said he wants state lawmakers to think about expanding the school-safety efforts approved during the 2018 legislative session after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
In a series of tweets last Tuesday, the Bradenton Republican implored senators to look more at school safety, according to the News Service of Florida.
“As incoming Senate President of the third-largest state in the nation — a bellwether for others — I am committed to making sure our re-examination of school safety policies does not end here,” Galvano tweeted. “Some issues simply must transcend politics. The safety of our children is one.”
In the 2018 session, lawmakers approved a wide-ranging, $400 million measure (SB 7026) measure that includes requiring schools to have safety officers, bolstering mental-health services and upgrading protections through school campus “hardening” projects.
And that’s kind of the rub here isn’t it? Friday’s shooting, which left two people injured — at least one critically — was barely on the school campus. In fact, Palm Beach County School District Police Chief Frank Kitzerow said it was an act of community violence that “barely spilled” on to the school campus. The shooting happened just outside the seating area — about 50 yards from a main road and outside the “secure” area of the stadium.
Most important, Kitzerow added, “Your children are safe. Come to school on Monday. We will be there.”
They were indeed. A couple of extra sheriff’s deputies were stationed outside Palm Beach Central High Monday morning. But more importantly, school district and sheriff’s officials are rewriting the security playbook this week to among other things, incorporate the area outside of a football stadium.
To be sure, it sounds like a knee-jerk over-reaction. But they don’t have much choice. The school board can either make adjustments so that parents and students feel better, or get hammered by those same parents and students for their lack of compassion.
As the Post’s Sonja Isger reported, those adjustments include morning kickoffs for some of the biggest games of the season and an hour earlier starts at 6 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. for others.
Once fans get to the game, only clear bags — and searched diaper bags — will make it through the gates.
And going forward, security staffing plans for football games and other large events will be devised by school police and paid for out of district accounts rather than pinning those obligations on each school. A group of principals will be putting together a list of protocols to be standard at events countywide.
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But how much is really enough? Especially when you’ve got teachers rethinking whether they support being armed and parents refusing to send their kids to any more football games.
A week ago, if you had mentioned doing either of those things to most Palm Beach County residents, the majority would have looked at you like you’re nuts.
Do you think school district officials are going too far changing when games are played?… Vote in our poll and leave a comment here.