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Student Driving Policy Revised By School Board

By Staff | Jan 31, 2012

The Emmetsburg School Board revised the policy for school driving permits Wednesday evening. The action came after concerns were raised by two families in regards to their sons obtaining school permits as eighth-graders in the Emmetsburg Middle School.

The issue was continued from the November 2011 board meeting when eighth grader Kyle Kassel appeared to request an exception to a policy that denied school permits to middle school students. Kassel cited the fact that he lives some 12 miles from the school as a reason for his request.

Superintendent John Joynt shared information presented during a meeting of the District’s Policy Committee, which included information obtained through surveys conducted by both Joynt and Debbie Kassel, mother of Kyle, researching the policies of other area school districts in regard to the topic.

“Basically, one member of the committee wanted to keep our policy as it is, while one liked it as it was, but thought we could be somewhat flexible,” Joynt noted. “A third member felt we could be flexible and change the policy. For me, I have to make my decisions based on data and the data shows that we have no comparable policy,”

According to Joynt, national statistics show that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to have a motor vehicle crash. “There is a huge block of data that supports that,” Joynt said. “But, at the same time, the 14-year old drivers are much more restricted in their licensing.”

Citing four options for the board to consider, Joynt noted that Option A, leaving the policy as written and to deny the requests for middle school students, had worked locally for a decade and a half. “But, I can make option D work.”

Option D would call for a change to the policy where the Superintendent would have discretion to approve or deny all, or middle school, permit requests based on a criteria of age, good grades, good grades in drivers’ education, recommendations by the drivers’ education teachers and the good character/ maturity of the student, as well as basis of need described in writing by the student.

“Option D is a blend where we set up the criteria to decide with,” Joynt explained. “It has subjective parts, coming from the drivers’ ed instructors and principals. Also, the student would have to show good sense, be on the A or B Honor Roll, and show the appropriate character and maturity.”

Joynt noted that Option D was not really designed for use at the high school level. “The problem I see is that if you deny a permit and it is appealed to the board, then that says there’s something wrong with the policy.”

“So what is your recommendation?” asked board member Tammy Naig.

Joynt responded with Option C, which would eliminate the portions of the policy that barred middle school students from obtaining school licenses.

Option B would leave the board policy as written and approve the current requests.

“I was in favor of Option D,” noted board member Rick Brennan. “It would put students under certain criteria and can show the maturity of the youth. I think there is a lot of merit in the idea.”

Board member Scott Kibbe took an opposing view. “I’d support Option A or Cbut I feel we’re opening up a can of worms if we start using criteria. Either grant all of them or none of them.”

Board President B.J. Schany agreed with Kibbie. “I think option D would be an administrative nightmare.”

“We could make the criteria very objective,” noted Naig, “remove the drivers’ ed instructors from the process. Perhaps if the student is not maintaining a C average, they probably shouldn’t be driving.”

“I could go either way,” Naig said after a moment. “I’m a proponent of Option C. I just don’t feel it’s our job to parent.”

Joynt was asked if he, as Superintendent, had the authority to revoke a school permit. “I don’t believe so,” he replied. “We can revoke parking privileges, but only the state can actually revoke a school permit.”

Naig again asked Joynt if his recommendation was Option C, and he replied that it was, based on data available to him.

“I’d move to accept the recommendation of Mr. Joynt to adopt Option C,” Naig said. Rick Brennan offered a second.

In the vote, board members Naig, Brennan and Kathy Roethler cast aye votes, while Schany and Kibbie voted nay. Schany declared the motion passed on a 3-2 vote.

“We appreciate the Board checking this out and looking into this issue for us,” noted Craig Kassel as the discussion ended.