Central Florida is the most dangerous place in the country, at least if it's lightning strikes that worry you.  The tragedy of a girl who was struck by lightning just after descending from her school bus is still fresh in our memories, so it's no wonder the Orange County school board policy errs on the side of caution:  No student is allowed outside until 30 minutes after the last lighning flash, if thunder follows the lightning within 30 seconds.

They are wisely reconsidering the policy, however, after a recent debacle.  A long-lasting storm coupled with rigid enforcement of the rules kept some 2000 students trapped at two schools until nearly 9 p.m.  Snacks were trucked in (the district apparently caring less about the safety of their employees), and no doubt many of the students thought the excitement high adventure—at least for the first hour.  But most of the children—not to mention the teachers—must have been anxious to get home to their families, with not a few kindergarteners crying for their mommies.

Certainly their mommies were longing to get to them.  If the students were imprisoned in relative comfort and safety, their parents did not fare as well, trapped as they were in a long line of cars, with no idea when their children might be released.  The students may have had food, but picture the poor mom, waiting in a hot car with a couple of preschoolers and no more than a couple of rice cakes and a bottle of water among them.  If that.  The schools would not even allow parents to sign their children out and walk outside with them under their own responsibility.  This policy, above all, needs to be rethought.

There are scenarios in which it may be necessary to keep parents away from campus and their children for a time.  We had a situation not long ago where a student was threatening others with a gun; under such circumstances, adding a swarm of panicked parents to the mix would only increase the danger. But such very exceptional cases should not be the model for less critical situations.

While students are on campus, schools have an awesome and serious responsibility for their safety, but this is a delegated responsibility.  The true authorities in a child's life are his parents, and if they temporarily transfer some of their responsibility to someone else, be it babysitter or institution, they must retain the right to take it back at will.  A school that does not recognize the primacy of parental authority needs to rethink its raison d'être, or risk tempting parents to rethink their educational choices.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 8:23 am | Edit
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Before reading about the situation that kept the students in until 9pm I exclaimed in shock at the policy. In Florida, it means very often never getting home! I remember counting the time between lighting and thunder in hopes of being able to swim. 30 seconds is a long time and there is very often lighting that far away. 30 minutes between such strikes is a long time indeed! The people who made the policy obviously hadn't paid much attention to Florida weather or it would have been obvious to them that it would result in such ridiculous situations. Or do they make policy with the intent of covering their backsides knowing that nobody in his right mind would actually follow it?

Posted by IrishOboe on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 11:40 am
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