Madison School Board hears about towed student vehicles
By CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter
Parents of Madison High School students met with school board members on Monday evening to air their complaints about how high school administrators had enforced parking policies last week.|
The parents were upset after six student vehicles were towed from the north parking lot at Madison High School seven days ago. The vehicles were removed for parking offenses.
Jerry Seitz, one of the parents, told the school board members that he considered the vehicle towings a too-drastic measure for the parking offenses as he understood them. According to Seitz, the vehicles were towed because the student drivers had not parked within the outlined spaces in the parking lot. Seitz said that his daughter had told him in a panicky state last Tuesday that her vehicle was towed.
Seitz said that even retailers with parking lots such as Wal-Mart, Shopko and Sunshine Foods "all have parking issues." However, Seitz did add, "I don't know how they were parked on that day."
The parents addressed the school board members during the public comment portion of Monday's school board meeting.
Seitz also said that school administrators could have handled some parts of the towing situation differently. He disagreed with the description of students' vehicles getting towed out of the school parking lot. Seitz said the towing company had used a car carrier to move the vehicles, meaning that the autos were dragged onto and off of the transport truck. He spoke about concerns whether vehicles were damaged.
"There's no way that they can check whether the parking gear was damaged," he said.
He and about five other parents said that they were billed about $100 for each tow. Some parents said that they weren't certain what the students would learn from the parents paying a towing bill, and the option of student detention instead of towing was suggested.
In response to what the parents said, Bud Postma, the assistant high school principal, told the board members that six student vehicles were removed from the parking lot partly due to at least one complaint about how those vehicles, by parking in a third row, had "blocked in" other student autos. Postma said that one student wasn't able to drive to her assignment for a mentorship program because she couldn't drive out of her parking spot.
Postma said that he also received complaints from personnel responsible for the school buses and food service transport trucks that the parked vehicles were causing problems for the buses and trucks operating that day. According to Postma, the bus and truck drivers were having problems negotiating the parking lot's driving lanes and using the loading dock at the high school due to improperly parked vehicles.
Postma said the student vehicles weren't towed because they were parked on lines. Instead, he said they were "three deep in the first row."
Postma and Sharon Knowlton, the high school principal, told the board members that school officials had spoken at the start of the school year to the students about parking, which had involved changes due to ongoing construction at the high school. Describing the administrators' efforts as cooperative, they said that throughout the school year, they had made public-address announcements telling students to move their vehicles.
The administrators did note that they had made some exceptions to the policies regarding student vehicles.
Knowlton told the board members that Madison High School has an unusual student parking setup in which the students are able to park near the school building. She said the students typically want to park near the building to avoid long walks -- sometimes because the weather is cold.
Both Knowlton and Postma said the high school didn't have someone monitoring the parking lot full-time, and the administrators couldn't spend a large amount of time looking for parking violations.
Board member Paul Weist said that he wanted to know whether the current school policy was adequate. Board member Shawn Miller questioned whether the high school should approve a policy and then make exceptions. Postma pointed out that the student handbook contained an exception giving "discretion of the principal to administer discipline."
"We were in a situation where we had to make an on-the-spot call and we did," Postma said.
The school board members decided to place the issue on the agenda of the March school board meeting so they could decide whether they should take any action on the issue.