Douglas High School students protest parking changes | RecordCourier.com
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Douglas High School students protest parking changes

by Merrie Leininger

A few Douglas High School students who resent the new parking policy contend that the way the school implemented it is against the law. But they say no one will listen to their pleas.

Seniors Daniel Dimick and Richard Ridley and junior Matt Rokoskie said they have been trying every means they can think of to draw attention to their plight -legitimate and not so legitimate.

Daniel said the administration decided to change the student parking policy in the weeks before the end of school, without going through the proper channels.

Nevada Revised Statute 393.051 states “the board of trustees of a school district by resolution may make, modify or abolish such rules prohibiting, restricting or regulating the operation and parking of motor vehicles upon property controlled by the district as the board considers convenient or necessary for the policing of such property.” The rules shall become effective when appropriate signs giving notice thereof are erected upon such property.

The students interpret this to mean the school board, and only the school board, can change the parking policies, and say because the administration did not get school board approval, the policy should not be enforced. Daniel said he purposely parked in teacher parking, even after getting warnings, to prove a point. All he got was his car towed.

Some of the students, as a part of what they called a “senior prank,” photocopied teacher parking permits and used, Matt said.

The students also tried to discuss the issue with Principal Bev Jeans, who Daniel quoted as saying, “that’s the rules, we have to follow them and she didn’t care.”

Following their rejection there, they spoke with Superintendent Pendery Clark and the Douglas County District Attorney’s office. They said they were told no crime has been committed.

District Attorney Scott Doyle said he did not speak to the student, but that the student was told to work with the school district because the district attorney’s office doesn’t deal with school legal issues and they knew nothing about the issue.

“The school board has the right to make those decisions and they have the right to direct the schools to do certain things, but we don’t do the lawyering for the school district and I have no way of knowing if any of these things have occurred there,” Doyle said.

Daniel said he also tried, to no avail, to report his car was illegally towed.

“They just look at it as ‘Hey, it’s just a bunch of kids, we don’t care,'” Matt said. “You come in after first period and you can’t find parking. As soon as you park in teacher’s parking, you’re done. They put a sticker on your window, and it’s a paper sticker so you have to scrape it off. Then you have to pay $25. How can they force us to pay this?”

“They don’t really have the right to start fining us if they don’t use due process,” Daniel said. “If you go against it, they threaten to hold back grades, your diploma. Just because we park at school, it doesn’t make our vehicles their property. It’s public property and we’re consumers.”

The students say they understand there is a serious parking problem, especially at the end of the year when sophomores turn 16 and begin to drive to school.

However, the students say there are 20-30 empty spaces in teacher parking every day that could be used by students. They say by the end of the school year, students were parking on County Road and at the church across the street.

They also say, while the new policy has been posted inside the school, no signs clearly marking “no parking” areas have been erected in the lot.

“It so confusing. They don’t adequately sign it. According to the law, it’s not effective until that’s done,” Daniel said. “The main point is the root issue, which is the school district is not held accountable to the law. Nobody wants to step up to change things.”

Vice Principal Tom Morgan said the students have been given plenty of notice of the law and almost all have complied.

“We announced it and put up posters in every room that discuss the policy and consequences. They know the whole purpose is for student safety and making sure the area is open for emergency vehicles,” Morgan said.

He said the school towed two vehicles and fined six drivers since the policy was implemented about a month ago.

The policy states students must register their cars and get a parking pass. Any student found to have parked in an area not designated for students – teachers parking, visitor parking or emergency zones – will be given a warning. On the second offense, they will be fined $25. On a third offense, the car will be towed at the student’s expense.

He denied the school board has to approve the policy.

“This is a site-related issue and one that doesn’t need to go to the school board. The principal is given the responsibility to support or not support new policies,” Morgan said.

He admitted there were about 20 more teacher spaces than required. However, he said that is a “comfortable number” considering the amount of spaces needed for visitors to the school.

Morgan said the administration is trying to do the best it can with a limited amount of space.

“The lot is not big enough. There is nothing we can do. So students are parking out by the pool,”he said. He said signs have been ordered and will be installed next fall.

Morgan said a student proposal, formulated by next year’s student body president Mike Davis, was presented to next year’s principal, Charlie Condron.

“That’s still on the drawing board. It is not a plan that has developed backing of the student body. It calls for better parking places costing more money. That wasn’t accepted, so that is being reconsidered,” Morgan said.

School board attorney Tom Susich said the school officials have the right to make policies that protect student safety.

“Clearly the policy is a result of safety-related issues that had to be addressed. Clearly, the school district has the authority to regulate traffic on its campus and principals have the authority through trustees to provide for the safety of students. The board has clearly in the past given that authority. That policy is consistent with state law that does not allow people to park in safety zones,” Susich said.