Security Concerns Raise Questions About Voting At Schools
Polls were open at Licking Heights High School on Tuesday, and Superintendent Phil Wagner says security preparations were made far in advance.
"We're letting people know in advance there is video surveillance," said Wagner. "Making sure we identify people coming in the building, and making sure doors are locked so we have single points of access."
Recent images from Sandy Hook, to the backpack bombs in Boston, have led one national organization to call for a ban on polls at schools.
"We're spending a ton of time and money and energy to reduce the risks every other school day, except one or two days. Many people don't seem to have the political courage to say no. The safety of the kids comes first," said Ken Trump, CEO of the National School Safety and Security Services, headquartered in Cleveland.
There are 116 polling locations in schools in Franklin County, according to the Board of Elections.
At least one district in central Ohio agrees with Trump.
Windy McKenna is a long-time Gahanna Jefferson school board member. That district banned voting at schools in 2004.
But McKenna says looking back, the decision could have been too extreme.
"People were concerned about so many strangers coming into the school to vote," said McKenna. "While it does make sense, I thought we were losing an opportunity to bring the voters into our school buildings."
That's a key reason why Wagner says most schools will continue to host balloting.
"I still think we need to provide a venue for the public," Wagner said.
Wagner did confirm, however, that beginning this fall, Licking Heights schools will have a "professional development day" each election day. Staff, but no students, will be on campus.
Mark White, the current principal at Licking Heights High School, was the principal at Gahanna -Jefferson High School when the voting ban went into effect.
He says there are strong arguments to be made each way.
"We have a number of people saying keep it here for our students to see this process," said White. "I think the local community has to decide what's best for its school and its students.”
As for security at LHHS on election day, White said, "We'll make sure no one is wandering in the building, monitoring this area and making sure our students are safe."
Trump says that's not good enough.
"In today's world, in a post Columbine, post 911, post Boston, post Sandy Hook world why do we let everyone in?" asked Trump.
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