School Climate & Safety

Election Day Security Runs Smoothly Overall in Schools

By Rhea R. Borja — November 09, 2004 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

School administrators across the country expressed relief last week after Election Day voting at school polling sites went relatively smoothly despite record-high turnouts.

However, there were some isolated problems.

Bomb threats called in to the 700-student Longview Elementary School in Phoenix briefly disrupted voting, and prompted the school’s evacuation.

Students were sent by bus to another school, and election officials moved the polling site to a nearby Baptist church.

But for the most part, parking and traffic—not security problems—proved the biggest challenges for schools in the first presidential election since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Some officials and parents have been worried about potential security risks to school-based voting sites. (“School Polling Sites Raise Safety Concerns,” Oct. 13, 2004.)

Of the country’s roughly 200,000 polling stations, 45 percent to 60 percent are on K-12 campuses, according to Douglas Lewis, the executive director of the Houston-based Election Center, a non- partisan group of government employees who work in elections.

In Florida’s 377,000-student Miami-Dade County district, for example, more than 100 schools served as polling sites. Members of the 213-officer Miami-Dade district police force met with parent-teacher groups and community organizations before Election Day to inform them of increased traffic and possible parking woes in their neighborhoods.

“That was our biggest concern,” said Edward Torrens, the police information officer of the Miami-Dade School Police Department. “But it went well because we did a lot of planning beforehand. We also had several police officers per site to enhance the calm.”

In the 38,000-student Minneapolis school system, administrators took extra safety precautions in the 29 school polling sites by restricting voter access to school restrooms and phones in the buildings, said Jane E. Ellis, the principal of the 625-student Marcey Open School. Schools were in session that day.

“There are definitely more precautions on access since 2000,” Ms. Ellis said. “But the biggest challenge was the numbers [of voters]. About 79 percent of voters in Minneapolis turned out. That’s a lot of people.”

‘Better to Be Safe’

At the 500-student Douglas MacArthur Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., parents dropped off their children as voters drove or walked up to the suburban Washington school, passing many “Bush-Cheney” and “Kerry-Edwards” signs. At 7:30 a.m., the line outside the polling center in the school gymnasium stood more than 80 people deep.

Inside the gym, two double doors leading into the heart of the school were cordoned off with yellow caution tape and carried a “No Exit” sign. Through the doors’ glass panes, one could see students walking in the hallways.

A police presence at MacArthur Elementary was not obvious, though eight or nine plainclothes police officers were patrolling school grounds, said PreeAnn Johnson, MacArthur’s assistant principal. She stood on the school’s front steps, directing voters to the polling site around the corner, while welcoming students.

The biggest challenge on Election Day was parking, Ms. Johnson said. With only 10 spots saved for voters in the staff parking lot, teachers vied with voters for parking on nearby streets.

Still, in addition to the extra police presence, school administrators took other safety precautions. They canceled after-school activities, locked all outside doors, and stationed staff members at key entrance and exit points.

MacArthur Elementary is perhaps more security-minded than most schools. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, which included the assault on the Pentagon some five miles away, the school installed a security camera and a communications system at the front door. A visitor must ring a bell and talk on an intercom before being buzzed into the building.

“Better to be safe than sorry,” Ms. Johnson said.

School Voting

Emulating their parents, students in some districts also cast ballots for president. About 7,000 students in Minneapolis, for example, participated in a mock election organized by an affiliate of Kids Voting USA, a Tempe, Ariz.-based nonpartisan citizenship program. The Minneapolis students who voted favored Sen. John Kerry over President Bush by a 5-to-1 ratio.

In the 62,200-student Columbus, Ohio, public schools, the 7,357 student voters favored Mr. Kerry over Mr. Bush almost 4-to-1.

Some schools better predicted the winner. Of 120 votes cast at the 900-student Big Walnut High School in Sunbury, Ohio, 68 percent went to Mr. Bush, compared with 29 percent for Mr. Kerry.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Uvalde Shooting Victims' Families Sue State Police, Settle With City for $2M
The families say they also agreed a $2 million settlement with the city, which will be used on better training for local police.
3 min read
Crosses are surrounded by flowers and other items at a memorial on June 9, 2022, for the victims of a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The families of 19 people who were killed or injured in the shooting and their attorneys are set to make an announcement, Wednesday, May 22, 2024.
Crosses are surrounded by flowers and other items at a memorial on June 9, 2022, for the victims of a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The families of 19 people who were killed or injured in the shooting and their attorneys are set to make an announcement, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Friday will mark the two-year anniversary of the shooting where a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers.
Eric Gay/AP
School Climate & Safety Opinion How Do Restorative Practices Work?
Traditional punitive measures tend to reap more misbehavior.
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School Climate & Safety What Helped These K-12 Leaders After School Shootings
School shootings leave deep and lasting impact on the community, including those charged with leading students and staff in the aftermath.
5 min read
School staff cheer as students returned to in-person classes at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, following a shooting on Oct. 24, 2022, that killed a student and a teacher. Kacy Shahid, then the school's principal, faced the challenge of guiding the school community through recovery as she struggled herself to process the events.
School staff cheer as students returned to in-person classes at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, following a shooting on Oct. 24, 2022, that killed a student and a teacher. Kacy Shahid, then the school's principal, faced the challenge of guiding the school community through recovery as she struggled herself to process the events.
Jim Salter/AP
School Climate & Safety Another State Will Let Teachers Carry Guns. What We Know About the Strategy
Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill allowing teachers to carry guns with administrators' permission a year after the Covenant School shooting.
5 min read
People protest outside the House chamber after legislation passed that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
People protest outside the House chamber after legislation passed that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee could join more than 30 other states in allowing certain teachers to carry guns on campus. There's virtually no research on the strategy's effectiveness, and it remains uncommon despite the proliferation of state laws allowing it.
George Walker IV/AP