Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Armed guard overreach

The Hillsborough County School Board again will consider superintendent MaryEllen Elia's plan this week to put an armed security guard in each of the district's 142 elementary schools. Board members batted it down earlier this year, but Elia never stopped pushing. The board members, though likely worn down by intense public pressure, should hold firm and reject the proposal. It remains an expensive overreach, and one armed guard is not going to provide absolute protection from the rare unconscionable act of violence.

Elia first introduced her security plan to board members less than a month after gunman Adam Lanza went on a murderous rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 students and six adults. The tragedy sent school officials across the nation scrambling to shore up security. For the short term in Hillsborough County, law enforcement sat sentry at each of the district's elementary schools in the mornings and at dismissal times, an understandable temporary response that eased anxiety for parents and educators.

Elia's long-term solution calls for placing guards at the schools at an annual cost of $4.5 million a year after a four-year phase in. The guards' tasks would include patrolling school grounds, interacting with students during lunch and providing security for after-school events such as PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences. Guards are already present at 19 elementary schools, chosen largely because of their location or prior incidents that merited an increased security presence. That sort of informed decisionmaking is smarter than a blanket approach.

The School Board rejected Elia's proposal in January. Since then, it has held several workshops to examine school security. It hired a security consultant and put $1 million toward hardening school campuses, making them more difficult for intruders to access and harder for wandering children to escape. Those were necessary, commendable actions.

Keeping children safe is of utmost importance. But putting an armed guard in every elementary school doesn't translate to safety. To be sure, there's a place for the guards in middle and high schools, where they deal with older students and everything from drug dealing to bullying. But in elementary school, such a show of force is extreme. And while it is impossible to put a price tag on saving lives, $4 million a year is a lot to spend for what amounts to little more than an act to soothe angst. That money would have greater impact used for math or reading incentive programs, efforts to close the achievement gap or expanded counseling programs to identify at-risk kids.

Each board member should balance his or her responsibility to keep children safe with the duty to make financially prudent, informed decisions that are not hyped by emotion. No board member wants to come face to face with tragedy and wonder if more could have been done to prevent it. Equally important is knowing that reasoned decisionmaking trumped passionate politicking — and that no security force can guarantee absolute safety. The School Board did the right thing the first time. It needs to do it again.

Comments
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18