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School Board Considers School Permit Policy

By Staff | Nov 25, 2011

As the lone school district in the area that does not allow middle school students to obtain school permits to drive to and from school, two families asked that the school board reconsider the policy during the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education meeting Monday night.

“Middle school students are currently denied permits due to safety concerns. Although I have mistakenly approved school permits for eighth graders in the past, I recommend we keep the policy,” said Superintendent John Joynt. “Iowa Code does indicate that the board, superintendent, or principal ‘shall certify a need exists for a license’.”

Middle School/High School Principal Jay Jurrens agreed with Joynt.

“I see denying eighth graders school permits as erring on the side of safety,” said Jurrens.

Jurrens explained he had spoken with Craig and Debbie Kassel, whose 14 and 1/2 year old son, Kyle, is in the eighth grade at Emmetsburg Middle School.

“School permits have been granted before to other 14 and 1/2 year olds, but those students were at the Catholic School, not our school,” Jurrens said. “One thing that came up in our conversation was the difference between a 14 and 1/2 year old in eighth grade and a 14 and year old in ninth grade. There’s definitely a difference. For those differences, waiting one more year is a positive thing,” Jurrens concluded.

Kyle Kassel then addressed the members of the board.

“I have met all of the State of Iowa’s requirements for obtaining a school driving permit,” Kyle stated. “I live 12 and 1/2 miles from school and when the weather permits, I drive my moped to and from school activities. I think I would be safer in a car than on a moped. I would like you to reconsider this policy.”

Kyle’s mother, Debbie Kassel, addressed the board, “It comes down to consistency. Five students in the past ten years have been given permission to drive. I called the surrounding schools and no other school district has this rule that prohibits eighth graders from driving to school. We shouldn’t have a policy that isn’t strictly enforced.”

Craig Kassel agreed and added that the school permit policy was intended to give rural kids the same opportunities as town kids.

“Parents need to make this call, not the school,” Kassel surmised.

The matter was then brought to a discussion by the board members.

“Safety is a concern,” said B.J. Schany. “Can we designate an area in the parking lot for 14 years olds? If we’re looking at enticing open-enrollment kids, a policy change would benefit the district.”

“We don’t create liability as a school if we allow kids to drive. If something happens, it’s on the parents. I don’t think we should be making the parenting decision,” noted Tammy Naig.

Rick Brennan was in favor of reconsidering the school permit policy.

“I would like to see our district look at this,” he said. “It boils down to a parental issue and merits a good hard look at our policy.”

“The policy is a safety net,” concluded Karla Anderson. “We’re pulling that safety net if we get rid of this.”