Monday, August 20, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Common sense prevails as School Board reject's armed guard plan

To be perfectly fair, you have to have a bit of sympathy for Hillsborough school superintendent MaryEllen Elia. There you are running the eighth-largest school system in the country — close to 200,000 students with 14,000 teachers and some armed-to-the-gills lunatic has just murdered 20 children and six school employees in Newtown, Conn.

People expect you to do something. So it's perfectly understandable why Elia opted for Knee-jerk Reaction 101. Clearly we needed to put more people with more guns in more schools.

But for all her good intentions, Elia didn't count on her bosses — the Hillsborough County School Board — rejecting the notion that more guns necessarily translates into more security. Elia didn't count on her plan being undermined by something so rarely found in large governmental bureaucracies — good, old-fashioned common sense.

The board voted to reject Elia's "a-gun-in-every-pot" approach requiring the hiring of 130 new security personnel at a cost of $4.1 million in its first full year.

In the end, the optics were always against Elia.

By advocating turning the system's elementary schools into armed enclaves, the superintendent, perhaps unwittingly, appeared to be kowtowing to the harrumphing shills of the gun industry at the National Rifle Association, whose sole response to Newtown was to lock and load school administrators and teachers in the nation's schools. Body armor optional?

You would have an easier time reasoning with a bobblehead doll than expecting any thoughtful approach to the nation's culture of gun violence from the NRA.

At best, Elia's idea to beef up armed security at public schools was a feel-good, window-dressing approach that would have done little more than provide a false sense of security to parents. Let us not forget that Columbine High School in Colorado, where 12 students and a teacher were gunned down, had armed security.

And even if the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown had been armed, as the NRA suggested, would she have been any match against a heavily weaponized killer who also was aided by the element of surprise?

Insert: Duh. Spelled: NRA.

At the same time, it probably didn't help that while Elia was pushing for $4.1 million in additional security expenses, the Tampa Bay Times' Marlene Sokol was reporting that exceptional student education aides and attendants responsible for helping the school system's most vulnerable children earn just slightly more than minimum wage, meager pay even by Florida standards. Many get no benefits and precious little training.

The revelations came in the wake of the deaths of two ESE students, Isabella Herrera, who stopped breathing on a school bus; and Jennifer Caballero, who drowned in a pond after wandering away from Rodgers Middle School.

Or put another way, the safekeeping of some of the most at-risk students in Hillsborough schools falls to ESE aides and attendants making an average of $14,277 a year.

If Elia is so concerned about the well-being of students, wouldn't it be a good idea to take some of the $4.1 million she wanted to spend on a fig-leaf of security and pay those who shoulder the responsibility of protecting special needs students a living wage while also making sure they are properly trained to do the job?

For the parents of Herrera and Caballero, the Hillsborough school system turned out to be as dangerous as Sandy Hook.

Comments
Editorial: The Catholic Church’s proper response to Pennsylvania scandal

Editorial: The Catholic Church’s proper response to Pennsylvania scandal

Forceful words are coming from the pope’s pen as well as pulpits around Tampa Bay: The sexual abuse of minors, which proliferated for decades within the Roman Catholic Church, were not merely sins but crimes whose repercussions are still being felt b...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/20/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18