Why do schools need ID badges?

September 15, 1999

I was reminded of the Mexican hoodlums' classic line from "Blazing Saddles'' last week - Batches? We don' need no steenkeen' batches! - when the Washington County School board voted to issue photo ID badges to its employees.

Students at South Hagerstown High School will also get photo IDs, in a move that serves the dual purpose of allowing students to keep track of who belongs in the classrooms and will also allow them to buy beer.

I suppose there's no real harm in the school board's "Know Your Criminal" program, but at the same time I can't see where it's going to do a whole lot of good, in that the school shootings all seem to be performed by an individual who "belongs" in the classroom and not some unknown outsider.

Unless these photo badges are two-by-three feet in size and made of Kevler, how are they going to help?


School Board student rep Sarah McDonald was dubious, saying that with IDs, fences, locks and security guards, the schools are only one orange jumpsuit away from the whole prison experience. Although the orange jumpsuits would solve the school uniform debate, not that I'm suggesting anything.

Unfortunately, student representative, McDonald acts in an advisory capacity and has no vote. They might think about reworking the charter so it's the student who votes and the other board members advise her.

Joe Robeson, a tough, retired veteran of the educational wars, told the board the same thing. He suggested that instead of frittering away its time and money on a pointless ID badge program, school personnel might want to do something totally nuts - like get to know the kids personally and hear their concerns.

Of course nothing is in stone, and as one board member said, "if it doesn't work we can reassess it."

It sort of gives one shivers to think of what must transpire to determine that it doesn't work. Like a friend who was helping me move a glass curio cabinet once. He tied it to his truck and said "There, that ought to hold it. And if it doesn't - well, next time we'll know."

So if there's a shooting, Washington County will try something else. Teaching some values comes to mind, but then we are awfully early in the process for something that radical.

In Hancock the police department is taking stronger steps, having just received a $76,000 federal grant to, among other things, tell kids just why joining the Ku Klux Klan might not be such a good career move. Apparently Klan brochures have found their way into the schools, and police and educators are concerned that kids might be attracted to the wrong ideas.

Especially when joining is so cheap. Klan pooh-bahs were passing out information in Frederick a few weeks ago, where they told a newspaper there that membership fees were $20 - some of the lowest dues in the mid-Atlantic region.


I certainly hope the Frederick and Washington County EDCs are clued into this in their efforts to attract new business. "Why, yes Mr. Gates, we have low cost of living, a high quality of life, a complete complement of interstate and rail transportation, full fiber optic capability and our Ku Klux Klan rates are half what you would pay in the big city."

And, get this, for senior citizens and kids under the age of 18 the price goes down to just $15 a year. I can understand the low rates for older folks (come join the KAARP), but encouraging teens to join? Has the Klan really thought about this? Are they ready for Tommy Hilfiger robes worn six inches below the waistline so their underwear is showing? Maybe that's what they mean by K Swiss.

And of course with a hood, what good is a photo ID?

Tim Rowland is a Herlad-Mail columnist

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