Christie: Palm Beach County school security rewrites will placate parents, but won’t stop shootings

A Palm Beach County School District resource officer opens the gates to the Palm Beach Central High School parking lot so owners can retrieve their cars after the shooting Friday night, during the football game between Palm Beach Central and Dwyer high schools. (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)

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.

RELATED: Woman: I witnessed shooting at football game in Wellington, ‘couldn’t believe it’

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.

Galvano

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.”

On Satuday, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw (R) and Palm Beach School Police Chief Frank Kitzerow (L), brief the media on the shooting that took place at Palm Beach Central High School. (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)

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.

Not today.

Do you think school district officials are going too far changing when games are played?… Vote in our poll and leave a comment here.

Christie: Rising tide of horse manure threatens Palm Beach County water, FAU prof warns

Frank Merlino of JH Hauling & Services Inc. in Wellington prepares a pile of horse manure for disposal. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)
Frank Merlino of JH Hauling & Services Inc. in Wellington prepares a pile of horse manure for disposal. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Only in Wellington and Loxahatchee Groves could horse manure be an issue.

And only this time of year would that issue be a topic of discussion.

As Post contributor J. William Louda, a research professor in Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Environmental Sciences Program, noted this morning:

“The equestrian season is once again upon us.

Catherine Sullivan rides Belladonna Z during a competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington last month. The Winter Equestrian Festival starts this week, and runs to April 2 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Catherine Sullivan rides Belladonna Z during a competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington last month. The Winter Equestrian Festival starts this week, and runs to April 2 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

This a fantastic industry that provides many jobs, financial gains for Palm Beach County and tremendous entertainment for observers, such as myself. However, it also comes with a huge environmental burden — hundreds of thousands of tons of nitrogen and phosphorus-laden wastes.

I have been studying phosphorus pollution from horse manure and bedding wastes for more than a decade, and can offer some simple math. The waters of South Florida need to have low levels of phosphorus for the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and our coastal waters to function properly. The target for the Everglades is 10 parts per billion (10 ppb = 10 micrograms per liter).

One point source that I sampled was a nursery that has a lot of horse waste … “

Louda, who was quoted often during last summer’s toxic algae crisis, has also been a bit of a lightning rod for critics of the sugar industry’s alleged role in helping cause the pollution in Lake Okeechobee that spilled into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River estuaries.

But bringing Wellington’s high-minded equestrian community — during equestrian season — into the debate could be the last straw for some.

In fact, calling today’s Point of View op-ed “horse manure” may be the most appropos pun of all.

What do you think?

Christie: Why can’t we say ‘Merry Christmas” anymore without offending people?

A satanic display went up in Boca Raton s Sanborn Square, a designated freedom of speech zone, near a Christmas tree and biblical Nativity scene. (Photo by Lulu Ramadan / Palm Beach Post)
A satanic display went up in Boca Raton s Sanborn Square, a designated freedom of speech zone, near a Christmas tree and biblical Nativity scene. (Photo by Lulu Ramadan / Palm Beach Post)

It’s just not the holiday season anymore without a controversy over religious displays.

For years, more and more Americans are feeling like their holiday celebrations — especially Christmas — are coming under attack by so-called proponents of religious freedom.

And increasingly from those who don’t practice a religion, and thus feel offended that their hard-earned tax dollars are going toward displays like Nativity scenes and menorahs. In recent years, folks have chosen every thing from Festivus poles (“It’s a Festivus for the rest of us!”) to the old stand-by Satanic display to prove their point.

I should that is their right. Period. Because we not only have freedom of religion in this country, but freedom of speech.

That doesn’t mean, however, that some folks are just getting downright tired of it all. I’ve recently had folks who, after recognizing me in my local Publix, launch into a tirade about feeling vilified just for saying “Merry Christmas!”

Well, that’s unfortunate. Especially since saying “Merry Christmas” to someone is supposed to be a friendly way of greeting them this time of year.

Today, Palm Beach Post letter writer Larry Wingate of Jupiter went off on the issue of local Nativity scenes, or lack thereof:

“How many Nativity scenes have you seen this Christmas season? Is Jesus in the decorations and lights or are they only commercial settings? Jesus is the reason for Christmas. We have been conditioned to change this to “Happy Holidays” and winter festivals so as not to offend anyone.”

Does he have a point?

And the Post staff writer Lulu Ramadan has been extensively about the controversy surrounding a Satanic tribute erected at Sanborn Square park in Boca Raton.

On Tuesday, Ramadan reported that more than 50 members of Church of All Nations in Boca Raton church marched, prayed and chanted that afternoon for the removal of the display, which was placed last week between a Christmas tree and Biblical Nativity scene at the public park.

“Tear this thing down,”  Rev. Mark Boykin shouted into a megaphone, met with cheers from the crowd. Preston Smith, a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, secured permits before placing the aluminum pentagram at the park.

Above the pentagram, a sign reads: “In Satan we trust. One nation under Antichrist.”

City leaders are in a tough spot. The only thing saving them so far is that no formal complaint has been filed against the group.

But what should they do if a complaint is filed? Take our quickie poll and tell us here…