No need for speed

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: August 18, 2006

OHATCHEE – It’s a familiar sight for school administrators: Teenage drivers hopping in their cars at the end of the school day and tearing out of the parking lot, blithely speeding past school zone signs in their haste to leave.

Ohatchee High School officials hope to slow student drivers down by revoking parking permits for those who receive tickets in the school zone. It’s enlisted the help of the Ohatchee Police Department in reporting students stopped for traffic violations.

Principal Robin Kines said this policy has been in place for a few years. Over the summer, she met with police Chief Wayne Chandler several times to discuss traffic.

“It was new to the chief because … he wasn’t aware of what we were doing here at the school when he made us aware of situations that might have happened,” Kines said. “He is just going to make his officers much more aware of the fact that they should contact us if they stop anyone or give citations.”

Assistant Principal Natasha Scott said that last year she took away about 10 parking passes after seeing students speeding and passing buses around the school.

Students at Ohatchee pay $20 per year for their parking permits, and administrators aren’t afraid to revoke them for traffic violations.

“It’s a privilege to drive to school, and we would just look at revoking that privilege for a period of time,” Kines said. “I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s been a problem, but there have been some situations where a car may pass a bus or something of that nature, which is a serious safety concern.”

Chandler agreed that tickets have not been very common in the school zone.

“So far the traffic has been pretty heavy and there’s not been a lot of space available where they could get up a good bit of speed,” he said. “If it becomes something (where) we need to give tickets we will, and that applies to parents, teachers and students or anybody else that might be in that area.”

Kines said that students have been made aware of the policy. The president of the Student Government Association, Jenna Bowden, said the concept was stressed by teachers in home room and that many students are talking about it.

“Some people say it’s pretty crazy, I guess because, you know, they’re used to their rights and outside of school doesn’t have anything to do with school.” But Bowden said she agrees with the policy: “It’s helping safety all the time.”

Bowden said students often drive recklessly after school, “squealing tires, showing out, not paying attention to what’s going on around them.”

She added that she thinks it’s fair for the school to punish students even for violations that occur outside of school hours and off school property.

“School’s a big part of our life and I think they should have the right to discipline us for things we do outside of school, especially if it’s threatening to life,” she said.

Since school started last week, there have been more officers patrolling in the area and more speed limit signs have recently been added, Chandler said. The school zone has a limit of 15 mph during the morning and afternoon.

Bowden said she thinks losing parking privileges would be more important for many students than having to pay a fine.

“Most parents would make them ride the bus,” she said. “I think getting our parking deeds taken away would make for more of an impact than just the ticket alone.”

The loss of a parking permit may or may not be a strong deterrent, Principal Kines said, but the main goal is increasing safety and decreasing speed around both the elementary and high schools.

“Both of those things are quite important to teenagers,” she said, “money and driving.”

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