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Police needed at school polling places : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Police needed at school polling places

The Oswego School District Board is expected to vote during their next meeting on Monday, March 10 on an agreement with the City of Aurora Election Commission which would allow the commission to use The Wheatlands and Homestead Elementary schools in the Aurora section of the school district as polling places for the March 18 primary election.

Under terms of the agreement the city will station a police officer at each school polling place while polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day. The officers will be in plain clothes and they will park squad cars outside of the schools.

Class will be in session on election day and the police officers will be present to ensure that each person who enters the schools to vote does not go into other areas of the school building, according to a memo presented to the school board members Feb. 10.

Associate Superintendent Dr. Paul O'Malley and Maureen Lemon, the school board's attorney negotiated the agreement with the city election commission on behalf of the school district. In a memo to the school board, they note that election officials have statutory authority to utilize school buildings as election day polling places.

But during a Feb. 10 meeting, school board members voted to table action on the agreement. Board member Brent Lightfoot said he understood the reason for having the two officers at the schools was to provide extra security. "However, this hasn't been a problem before. I understand there are stupid people in the world who do stupid things. But I feel this is reactionary. I don't think it's needed and I'm having a difficult time supporting this portion of the request," he told his board colleagues.

Lightfoot also questioned the stationing of police officers in six other district schools in Kendall County that will also serve as polling places March 18.

"So it's no cost to the district, but that's eight officers being taken off the street," Lightfoot said.

In the interest of student safety we believe the school board should approve the agreement as presented to them last month. In this day and age when shootings and violence are tragically all too common in schools across the country, we believe it makes good sense for the district to take advantage of the opportunity to have police officers stationed at all of the district's schools that are serving as polling places.

Yes, it will cost the City of Aurora some money to station police officers at The Wheatlands and Homestead schools while the polls are open. However, we believe that expense is more than justified. In addition, we believe the city's police department is the agency best able to determine its officer staffing levels both on the city's streets and for special details.

We're also certain the parents of the children at The Wheatlands and Homestead Elementary School will feel better knowing that police officers are at their local schools on election day to help make sure everyone is safe and where they're supposed to be.

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