Single point of entry is one of the latest stupid ideas in school security. After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting happened next door to our community, the clamor for school security grew louder. The same Broward officials whose incompetence failed to prevent the shooting have been elevated by the media as experts.
Broward Schools superintendent Robert Runcie is touted in the Miami Herald with his plan: “The goal of the new measures is to create a single point of entry at schools.” Runcie is the “leader” whose “Promise” program kept Nikolas Cruz from being criminally prosecuted before the shooting. Criminal prosecution, even just with probation, might have prevented Cruz from getting and keeping guns.
Anyone who understands guns and game plans a school shooting can see the idiocy of single point of entry. Consider the photo below:
Imagine this area filled with 2000 students trying to get into the building and then picture how this looks to a psychopath with a rifle 100 yards away. It’s that stupid.
We had the joy of experiencing other stupid safety measures Thursday at the West Boca High football game against Palm Beach Lakes. Game time for all county high school football games was moved from 7 pm to 6 pm. Other than making it difficult for working parents to see their kids at the games, this accomplishes nothing. We also experienced the “clear bag only” policy which meant no camera bag for this journalist. I offered to let them search the bag, but they declined and I had to put it in my car. Yes that’s only a minor annoyance for me, but it’s also a minor annoyance for thousands of others.
$300K wunderkind Donald Fennoy heads the Palm Beach Schools. He admitted that these moves do nothing to address the shooting outside Palm Beach Central: “The measures announced Sunday would likely not have changed the outcome, Fennoy conceded.”
I’m not the first person to write about the stupidity of the school security mania. Lenore Skenazy, the free range children advocate, aptly described it as Security Theater for Schools. For those unfamiliar with the term: “Security theater is the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to achieve it.”
Skenazy put it this way: “Schools are piling on the procedures as if the fact that someone, somewhere experienced a terrible tragedy once means that everyone, everywhere is at risk of terrible tragedies all the time.”
Fear makes folks irrational, which explains why any of these measures morphed into bona fide rules. But now that we’ve had a little time to think, it’s time to re-examine them with the kind of clearheadedness an 11-year-old recently showed.
“They want everyone to go in and out of the same door,” her mother explained. Whereupon the daughter wondered, “Won’t that just make it easier for someone who wanted to shoot or bomb people, because everyone will be in the same place?”
Whenever someone criticizes security measures, we hear the inevitable cry: “We have to do something!”. First of all, no we don’t. And second, we don’t have to do something stupid.
All these security measures cost money, which means less money to spend on things that might actually help, like good teachers. But don’t worry folks. Whatever we do, no administrator will be left behind.
The Palm Beach County School District plans to cut only teachers – and only teachers- if the school property tax increase is voted down. No administrators would lose their jobs and vendors who supply the district will continue reaping millions.
The district has been “informing” the public about the upcoming vote. Most recently this was manifested in an e-mail sent this afternoon. One of the most prominent claims in the e-mail is that the measure will “continue funding for 650 teachers in Art, Music, PE, Choice and Career [sic].” We calculate that if 650 teachers cost the district on average approximately $76,000 a year (including salary, benefits and expenses), that adds up to the full $50 million the district says it will have to cut from the budget.
The “650 teachers” number is used frequently in district communications.
It’s not the first time the 650 reference has been made. It is a central part of the message the district has been pushing on the ballot question. It appears in a pdf document that indicates it was created in late August, and on other similar documents on the district’s page about the referendum.
Again and again they mention the 650 teachers:
The use of this language strongly suggests that if the measure does not pass, 650 teachers in those areas will be laid off. We personally have heard school district employees say exactly that. Of course there’s no indication in any of the district’s “information” regarding the potential loss of any administrator jobs. This fits with longstanding local, state and federal education policies that we refer to as “No Administrator Left Behind.” Teachers get no raises. The air conditioning doesn’t work. But don’t worry folks – we’ve got plenty of well paid administrators. See for example Andrew Marra’s recent Palm Beach Post article: The number of PBC school execs making $140K has nearly tripled in 2 years.
We decided to ask the school board members from West Boca and district officials to explain where the 650 number comes from. So far we have not gotten a straightforward answer.
School board member Karen Brill responded quickly and more thoroughly than anyone else so far. We thank her for that. She opened with the following:
It’s interesting that you are asking this because in our Board discussion regarding the Referendum, I asked our CFO what the contingency plan is if the Referendum fails. I was told there is no contingency plan. That does concern me.
Brill also addressed our specific questions:
Q: If the property tax measure fails, will you vote to cut 650 art, music, pe, choice and career teacher positions?
A: No. Art, Music, PE, Choice and Career Programs are essential components of our District’s offerings. These are the programs that motivate our children, enhance their education and make for higher levels of learning.
Q: Have you considered alternatives such as reducing administrator pay and eliminating administrative positions?
A: Absolutely. It is will be essential that we will have to look at every possible alternative in order to maintain the funding for the teaching positions you outlined above.
Q: What will you do if the vote fails?
A: First, you should know that there will not be an impact in this school year. The first thing we would need to do is convene a Board Workshop to discuss staff’s and the Board’s recommendations of areas where consolidation and cost reductions can be made. Obviously we would have to begin addressing the situation immediately.
Brill closed with the following:
In addition to the above, my comment is that it is regrettable that those at the state level do not believe that funding public education is a priority. We are now 44th in the nation on the amount the state funds to educate our students. That’s deplorable! Recruitment and retention of teachers at the salaries Districts are forced to pay is extremely difficult. In addition, changes in our world have necessitated changes in the physical structure of our schools to enhance school safety. An area of particular need is the hiring of additional mental health professionals. Whatever the outcome of the Referendum vote, we all need to work together for the benefit our children. Although cliché, it truly does take a village.
School board member Frank Barbieri also responded quickly but briefly:
If the tax levy fails, I’ll ask (and I believe the other Board Members will ask) the Superintendent to provide the School Board with all available options so that we can make an informed decision as to how we should proceed.
We’re not terribly thrilled with that answer. The administrators are unlikely to include cutting their own pay and jobs as one of the options.
We also e-mailed Superintendent Fennoy and COO Wanda Paul, with similar questions to the ones Brill answered. We did not get a direct response from Fennoy or Paul, but rather got an anonymous response from the district media staff:
Superintendent Fennoy and COO Paul,
Does the school district have a plan to cut 650 teachers from art, music, pe, careers, and choice programs if the ballot question fails?
Where did the 650 number come from?
Has the district considered other alternatives such as lowering administrator pay or cutting administrator positions? Any other alternatives?
And the anonymous response:
The District has a current .25 mil approved by voters that funds the salaries of 650 arts, career, pe, and health teachers. It is due for renewal this November – the District is asking for a full 1 mill this November.
Should the referendum not pass in November, the District will have to cut $50 million, the amount currently funded by voters, from its budget. This is an extensive amount of money that would have to include deep cuts at the district and school level. Since 70% of the District’s budget is in manpower, there would undoubtedly be cuts of positions at all levels, from support positions, to teachers, to administrators.
This will have a negative impact on our ability to serve students and compensate our employees. Hundreds of jobs will be eliminated and remaining employees may be subject to unpaid furloughs as we work to balance the budget. There will be no prospect of employee raises for teachers or any other employee group in the foreseeable future if the District is forced to make these draconian budget cuts.
It is telling that the response does not in any way explain the 650 number they keep repeating. And it does not limit the potential cuts to the specific ones mentioned in the political messaging we’re all paying for.
“There would undoubtedly be cuts of positions at all levels, from support positions, to teachers, to administrators.”
That is very different. But we think we’ve figured it out. The district’s answer references a $50 million cut. As described above cutting 650 teachers would add up to $50 million. So the district’s numbers indicate they plan to cut only teachers. However, if the response we received today is accurate, the repeated message about funding for 650 teachers is a lie. The district has a history of lying to the public in order to win a tax increase, and the board follows by giving pay raises to the liars despite ongoing failures to fix simple things like air conditioning.
It is also interesting to note the political decision made by the district staff and school board. Facing the expiration of the .25 mill tax, they decided to reach for a full 1 mill, a 400% tax increase. An alternative strategy might have been one measure to renew the existing .25 mill tax along with a second measure to add on another .75 mill tax.
The increase will cost the typical West Boca homeowner roughly $400 per year. The actual increase will depend on the home’s appraised value.
Residents should be reassured by the other e-mail we received from the district today. The important work of our administrators will go forward no matter what:
Perhaps some of our readers thought the purpose of our schools was to educate children. Nope. It’s to help vendors build multi-million dollar companies and keep administrators employed and well paid.
Since the Parkland shooting there has been a lot of talk about how to make our schools safer. Instead of getting into standard gun control or gun rights talking points, here are three common sense ideas that would actually make our schools safer and could actually get done if people got behind them. 1. We need a better process for putting dangerous kids on the list for background checks. Almost anyone who looks at the Parkland shooter’s history sees that he should not have been able to legally buy or possess a gun. Broward officials in the school district, DCF, and Sheriff’s office knew enough that they should have done something, but it’s not that easy to get it done.
If a school, county agency, or law enforcement sees a kid who repeatedly demonstrates violent behavior, there should be a way of flagging them so that they show up on a background check. The main background check system, known as NICS, is federal and run by the FBI. So fixing this requires Congress to act, and then requires local and state entities to follow through.
Any such change would need to address due process. The kid and his family should be notified that he is being put on the list, and have the right to a hearing. And there should be reasonable standards – one minor scuffle in third grade shouldn’t be enough put a kid on the list.
There would be some resistance to this idea from the extremes of the gun rights community. I’ve already been yelled at for this. But I’m pretty extreme and I think we should do this. I don’t think the NRA would oppose this and I’m not sure the more radical Gun Owners of America would either.
While I’m on this subject, I suggest that every parent ask their kids if they know of anyone in their school whose history is in any way similar to the Parkland shooter. The odds are that there are one or more like him in most schools. If you find out there is such a kid, do something about it. Talk to other kids and parents. Talk to the school. 2. This one will get a lot of readers angry but take a breath and read the whole thing. You still might like #3. Someone with a concealed carry license can carry a concealed firearm in toy stores, on playgrounds, in malls and restaurants, in concerts and almost everywhere you and your kids go. But in schools they can’t legally protect themselves and those around them.
So let responsible, licensed adults carry concealed in schools. In Florida this would require the state legislature to eliminate exceptions 9 and 10 in Section 790.06(12)(a).
Many readers will not like this. Right now you have several arguments bouncing around in your head. Every single one of them applies equally in the settings mentioned above, where “good guys” are allowed to carry guns. This is just common sense.
People are calling Coach Feis a hero. That’s nice. But if Coach Feis had been carrying a pistol he might have stopped the shooting and saved a lot of lives.
In a typical high school there are roughly 100 adults. If 10% of them carry concealed, that’s an extra 10 people who can stop a shooter. Adding one police officer or security guard doesn’t come close.
Now to be clear, what I’m suggesting would not require any extra training or special approval from anyone, and no one is forced to carry. There are other proposals out there that would require school or sheriff approval and substantial training. I don’t think that’s the best way because it would cost a lot and reduce the number of people ready to protect our kids. A reasonable compromise might be something like an 8-hour course on the special circumstances of carrying in a school.
This idea is unlikely to happen. Gun control leaders will blindly and angrily refuse to consider it because they’re not really interested in common sense steps that would make our kids safer. They just want to ban guns wherever they can. 3. There are longstanding and mostly positive movements in education where kids with special needs are not removed from the general student body, commonly known as “mainstreaming” or “inclusion”. Those two are not identical but the idea is that these kids will do better in life if they spend all or most of their time with regular students. In the past they were more likely to be sent to special schools or special classes within the schools. For most kinds of special needs, mainstreaming and/or inclusion are great.
Violent kids are different. They should not be mainstreamed. They should not be included with the general student body. We had our own personal experience with this a few years ago. Our kid wasn’t hurt but a friend’s kid was. We (four lawyer parents) fought like hell to get the dangerous kid out and we succeeded. It shouldn’t have been that hard.
The Parkland shooter was trouble since elementary school. The district knew. The teachers knew. The county knew. The sheriff knew. He was kept in regular schools and he was bullied. He got in fights, one video of which was widely publicized a couple days ago. That kid should have been in a special school getting special attention for his problems. It would have been better for him and a lot better for everyone else.
This is another area where we have to assure due process. But the pendulum has swung too far. We need to make it easier to remove violent kids from the general school population. Closing Thoughts
For those who are really concerned about saving lives, we could start with our own foreign policy. We have troops in 177 countries and we’re bombing 7 countries. Our government is killing lots of innocent people. Does anyone remember when people opposed our government doing that?
We could also end the drug war. Sure you can say we’ve only tried it for 104 years (since the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914) and it’ll start working soon. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to recognize that prohibitions don’t work and increase crime.
That leaves my favorite issue – roundabouts. Carmel Indiana converted over 100 intersections to roundabouts. Traffic fatalities fell by 80% while they went up in neighboring Indianapolis. We can save lives by making our roads safer. Those lives matter too.
Last week we shared a Facebook video of a fight in South County Regional Park. The video had been posted by Shakeel Munshi and a reader tagged us in a comment.
The video shows his daughter being hit by two or three other girls while several other kids watch. Mr. Munshi’s post claims that she “was getting bullied … because she was Muslim.” In his original post (before he edited it) he also claimed that it happened at West Boca High School, that his daughter was wearing an anti-bullying t-shirt, and that she did not fight back.
Mr. Munshi’s Facebook video now has over 2.7 million views. It went viral because of his lies and that led to a surge of phony outrage from around the world. We received numerous comments, negative reviews, threats, etc. from just about everywhere. The City of Boca Raton and their police department were wrongly targeted by this mob, even though the incident happened outside city lines and had nothing to do with them. The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and the school district were also besieged by the mob.
The father’s lies contributed to all of this. First of all as we learned from numerous sources and now confirmed by the Sheriff’s investigation, this had nothing to do with religion. The Sheriff’s office sent out an update this morning:
PBSO deputy met with West Boca Raton High School officials and confirmed the identity of all the suspects involved. The suspects and their families have been interviewed. All participants agreed the fight was over “a boy” and “a video that was circulated”. All parties AGREED to meet and to fight and a specific location and time. PBSO Deputy is preparing paperwork to charge the suspects involved with Simple Battery. Once complete, the investigation will be submitted to the state attorney’s office. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF A HATE CRIME.
It should be noted that generally the police and schools are required to protect the privacy of minors. We do not expect that they will publicize the kids’ names, the specific charges filed against them, nor the results of any court proceedings or school discipline. It is also unclear whether the “victim” will also be charged since the evidence indicates she agreed to meet and fight and there is video evidence of her fighting.
Among other lies, the father’s claim that she was wearing an anti-bullying t-shirt was obviously false. In the video you can easily see that she’s wearing a Bulls Football t-shirt. The West Boca High football team is known as The Bulls.
He has since edited his post to remove that claim.
He continues to maintain in his post that his daughter did not raise a hand to fight back: “She didn’t picked up a hand because don’t want to fight back.”
This is also a lie as demonstrated in a video showing a different angle of the fight:
If you look at Munshi’s video post again, you can see that the video was edited. It starts after the beginning of the above video so you don’t see her fighting back. And it also leaves out a portion between when his daughter is on the ground and gets back up. We still do not have a full video of this incident so we don’t know what really happened – and neither does the horde of trolls, social justice warriors, etc.
Another lie was the original claim that it happened at West Boca High. Anyone familiar with the school would recognize from the video that it was not on school grounds. We are told this happened in nearby South County Regional Park but we still haven’t gotten a straight answer as to where this was in the park. And his claim that all girls were from West Boca High appears to be inaccurate as at least one of the other girls is reportedly a student at Olympic Heights High School.
Mr. Munshi even misled us about his own location, offering to meet with us at his home in West Boca. But from an NBC Miami report he wasn’t even in the country at the time.
We have published a number of teen fight videos over the past few years. None of them got this much attention, but none of them made phony claims of racism or religious bias.
Some of our sources indicate that Ms. Munshi was bullying one or more of the other girls in the video. At the same time we have another source that tells us one of those other girls has a history of misconduct. Again, we don’t know what the truth is. And neither does the unruly online mob.
One key ingredient to the video’s virality is the depiction of Ms. Munshi as a completely innocent victim. Any suggestion that she was at all responsible for anything that happened, regardless of its truth, was met by a rage from the online mob.
The simple reality of this incident is that it wasn’t much different from the other fight videos we’ve shown. It does not appear that Ms. Munshi was seriously injured. There was no report that she was taken to a hospital or even that she needed to see a doctor. The “simple battery” charge mentioned by the Sheriff means no serious injuries. Had there been serious injuries the charge would have been aggravated battery.
One big difference noted by many is that three girls were hitting Ms. Munshi, rather than it being a one-on-one fight. Everyone agrees that this was wrong. Everyone agrees that the fight itself was wrong. But any questions raised about Mr. Munshi’s lies or the “innocent victim’s” role led to false claims that the questioner supported violence. This is, of course, nonsense. It is a common ploy for political partisans of all stripes to use (or manufacture) an innocent victim in order to support whatever agenda fits their goals.
What’s particularly disturbing to us is how this incident has painted West Boca High kids as racist or prejudiced. We know a lot of kids in West Boca including the area high schools and younger kids. It is our general experience that they are almost entirely unbiased when it comes to race, religion, LGBTQ issues, etc., and certainly less biased than many adults in the community, in the country, and around the world.
The biggest social issue they confront is the stark contrast between rich and poor that one sees in Boca Raton, with some kids living in multi-million dollar mansions in gated communities while others live in trailer parks. The kids seem to handle that well too. There’s also the gifted vs. non-gifted classification in the elementary and middle schools, which translates into Honors and AP classes for the gifted kids and regular classes for the non-gifted. Again in our experience the kids handle this pretty well.
It should be noted that some in the online mob asserted that West Boca News was biased in some way, in particular biased in favor of the Sheriff or the school district. Anyone who actually follows us knows that we have had significant disagreements with both over the past several years.
Our two most popular videos on the West Boca News YouTube channel are of confrontations with PBSO:
A few days ago the Palm Beach County School District issued a misleading press release. The release falsely suggested that recent state legislation could negatively affect the district’s credit.
It led with this big headline:
HB 7069 Could Result in Credit Downgrade
This headline was followed by this opening sentence:
Stable credit ratings for the School District of Palm Beach County and other large school districts could be at risk …
Referring to a recent statement by Moody’s, a credit rating agency, Superintendent Avossa was quoted in the press release:
“This independent analysis by Moody’s highlights one of our real concerns with this new law – the financial effect that it will have on our District, and on school districts throughout Florida,” said Dr. Robert Avossa, Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent.
These scary statements are objectively false when it comes to our school district. Even if the claims are true that the district would lose $230 million to charter schools over the next 10 years, that number is dwarfed by the $1.3 billion the district claims will be raised by the so-called Penny Tax that was approved by voters in November.
Moody’s most recent rating of the district was in September of 2016, meaning any reevaluation of the district’s credit would take into account a net gain of over $1 billion.
It is true that Moody’s suggested the charter funding law could affect credit ratings for some districts. But that statement did not take the Penny Tax into account. Avossa and the district staff all know about that tax increase and that there is no credit rating risk for our district.
We contacted the district to give them a chance to explain and defend this. The response from Leanne Evans, Treasurer is below. We do not find this satisfactory but readers can form their own conclusions.
HB 7069 requires the District to share the capital outlay tax revenue on a per student basis. The calculation takes the full amount of the capital tax revenue then deducts the amount the District needs for debt service (principal, interest and fees) based on debt outstanding on 3/1/17. The District’s capital plan assumes the taxable values will increase annually at an average of 4.5%, so the base amount to be shared will increase annually. At the same time, the District is paying off debt so the amount of debt service will decline. With those two variables, the amount we expect to provide to charters will range from $10.6 million in FY18 up to $32.7 million in FY27. The expected loss of $230 million over ten years assumes the percentage of students attending charters in Palm Beach County remains constant. If that percentage changes, the amount transferred to charters will also change.
The sales tax is dedicated to specific projects over the next ten years. Most of the sales tax money will be used for deferred maintenance and school buses. It will allow us to catch up on work that was postponed during the financial downturn and when the legislature reduced the District’s taxing authority by 25%. There is other work in the District’s capital plan that was to be funded with other funds, mainly local property taxes. This includes ongoing maintenance work so the sales tax would not be needed at the end of 10 years. The loss of $230 million is significant and will jeopardize that plan. The District is working to revise the capital plan and clearly identify the reductions that will be needed due to HB 7069.
Moody’s Investor Service issued the comment to advise investors of the challenges that all Florida School Districts will face due to HB 7069. The revenue stream used to make debt service payments is now less predictable. Additionally, they are concerned about the ability to provide the ongoing maintenance, technology and transportation for students. As revenues are reduced, they consider this to be “credit negative” just as an individual’s credit score may be reduced if they experience a pay cut. The School District of Palm Beach County is fortunate to have the support of the community, as demonstrated by the approval of the sales tax. We expect Moody’s and the other rating agencies will take that into account when they review our credit rating later this year but also expect they will question our ability to properly maintain our buildings when the sales tax expires in 2026.
We also reached out to West Boca’s school board representative, Frank Barbieri. We were told he was unavailable for comment.