Manatee school district fails to engage stakeholders in dialogue
Originally published on Sept. 17
School Superintendent Rick Mills misses the point regarding hiring a security firm for elementary schools.
He and his staff do not ask the schools what they need. Whether it is security issues, technology needs, hiring or finances, there is no dialogue between the district and stakeholders.
Again and again, district leaders make insulated decisions and then simply announce what's going to happen. How difficult would it have been to discuss this issue with School Advisory Councils, parents and principals?
If discussion had ensued, the district may have discovered that schools would like to see security cameras, fencing, and gates with "panic bars" that allow them to lock from the outside.
Even with SROs in place at secondary schools, the parents on Haile Middle Schools SAC have in the past requested these security measures, but have been told money was an issue.
Of course, the school survey (being used to justify security guards) indicates that parents think "safety and security" are paramount. As a parent, I completed one and marked that generic wording myself. I do not interpret that, however, to necessarily mean hiring a security firm.
Troy Pumphrey was quoted as saying these guards would have standards of "probable cause" and "reasonable suspicion."
Apparently, he does not understand school law, which requires law enforcement to have "probable cause" and school principals to only have "reasonable suspicion" to search students for contraband, for example. This distinction is important so students' rights are not violated.
So what authority will govern these security guards? Will they be searching our elementary students or physically restraining them?
Questions abound because no other districts have gone this route. Why the hurry? Why can't our superintendent understand that true dialogue with parents and schools is valuable? Perhaps, he doesn't really believe that "together we can."
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