Saturday, October 28, 2006

Enter The Knife: Legislative Buffoonery In Florida

In Florida, they've decriminalized the possession of knives in that state's public schools. After a year of this, lawmakers are finally admitting their mistake:
Several legislators on Friday admitted they got it wrong a year ago when they decriminalized possession of knives on school grounds.

With backing from Orange County's law-enforcement and school officials, state representatives and a senator pledged to amend the law following last week's deadly stabbing at University High School.

Sheriff Kevin Beary, who displayed confiscated knives at a news conference, also called for greater cooperation and involvement from parents and relatives of students.

"We need to be smart enough to say if we make a mistake, let's take a step back and make a common-sense approach because we . . . want our campuses to be as safe as possible," said state Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne. He was joined by state Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and state Rep. John Quinones, R-Orlando, as well as Orange County School Board Vice Chairman Jim Martin.

Displaying pocketknives, switchblades, penknives, plastic hair combs with sharp picks in them and even a letter opener on a nearby table, Beary said he wanted his deputies to arrest students caught with any weapon.

Under current law, officers cannot do that. School officials, meanwhile, can suspend a student found with weapons up to 10 days while they consider whether he or she deserves expulsion.

"This is what's irritating to me," Beary said, pointing to a table holding the knives and pictures of the murder weapon used against slain University High student Michael Nieves. "You can go to any flea market and get these."

Kelvin De La Cruz, 17, was arrested on a first-degree murder charge shortly after a fight broke out Oct. 19. De La Cruz was among four students -- including an 11-year-old -- suspected of bringing weapons to Orange and Seminole schools that week.

During the 2005-06 school year, the Sheriff's Office seized four guns, 95 knives and 70 other types of weapons at schools. So far this school year, deputies have collected two guns, 13 knives and eight other weapons.

Haridopolos said he and Cannon have discussed creating a task force to address student violence and attacks on school employees. The group will include legislators, school-district officials, teachers and school-resource officers. "We don't pretend to have all the answers," he said.

Michael Ganio, senior manager of security services for Orange County Public Schools, said metal detectors are an option for alternative-education schools but there are no plans to use them districtwide. Ganio said authorities rely on students to report peers with weapons.
Just out of curiosity, I wonder what percentage of the Sunshine State's lawmakers send their own offspring to private schools?
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.