Dr. Roach Addresses the Sale of Alcohol within School Limits
February 15, 2021
Amid the brewing controversy surrounding the sale of alcohol within the city limits of Olney and the sale of liquor in proximity to Olney ISD property, it is important that our school district weigh in and ensure that our position is clearly articulated to parents and the community.
Olney ISD makes school safety an utmost priority, and we place the health, safety, and well-being of students at the top of the list. In order to highlight this commitment to student safety, we would like to take this opportunity to elaborate on some of the ongoing efforts by Olney ISD to that end. Below is just a sampling of the commitments OISD is making to protect our students.
● In Town Bus Routes. The school district recognizes the presence of State Highway 114 dividing the town in half. We also recognize a large number of students don’t have a ride to school for a variety of reasons. Therefore, OISD runs local bus routes (versus the traditional 2-mile distance requirement) to facilitate safe travel of students to and from home and school.
● Crossing Guard. Several years ago, concerned parents expressed the need for a crosswalk across Highway 114 for safe passage of children walking to school from the North side of town who live closer to the school than to a bus stop. Olney ISD began staffing, and continues to staff, the crosswalk across the highway before and after school. We appreciate the work Martha does to keep our children safe.
● School Resource Officer. In conjunction with the City of Olney and the Olney Police Department, Olney ISD is thankful to have Officer Kelli Cobb serving the district as a fulltime school resource officer (SRO). Officer Cobb shares our commitment to the safety of our students and we trust that families feel safer sending their children to school with a dedicated SRO on campus.
● Student Mental Health. Olney ISD recognizes the importance and urgency of identifying and addressing student mental health to maintain a healthy and safe learning environment. Starting last school year, the district hired a licensed professional social worker to assist in identifying students experiencing trauma, distress, or other emotional problems that undermine learning and social interaction. Mrs. Ickert is an instrumental member of the Olney ISD team, and we are committed to, and thankful for, the emotional support she and our staff work to provide our students.
As previously mentioned, many of our students walk to and from school. These students not only walk during traditional times, but they also travel on foot during times of limited visibility for extracurricular participation and support. Our students walk across Highway 114 late in the evening after sporting events or band practice, just as they cross early in the morning for before-school practices. We encourage participation in these activities but there is an associated risk we must consider when evaluating how to best protect our students.
The stretch of Highway 114 designated as a school zone, where speed must be lowered and cell phone usage prohibited during certain hours of the day, is a particular area of concern for the district. The proximity of this highway to our school, and the concentration of children that daily travel this section of highway on foot, necessitates the need for this school zone from N Ave H to N Ave L. It just does not seem practical, or best practice, to have a liquor store or bar within proximity of school property or within school traffic zones. The potential presence of impaired or distracted drivers, students walking through these establishments’ parking lots, and more convenient access to alcohol are undeniable, and Olney ISD recognizes the risks these realities present.
Given this risk assessment, on December 18, 2020, the Board of Trustees for Olney ISD authorized making a request to the City to consider expansion of the prohibition zone for the sale of alcohol from 300 to 1000 feet. The sole purpose for making this request was the district’s concern for the safety of district students. As such, the Olney ISD made a good faith request to the City Council on December 21, 2020, to extend the area prohibiting liquor sales. Much attention has been paid to the last sentence of Section 38.007 of the Texas Education Code, but the first sentence of this section states that “[t]he board of trustees of a school district shall attempt to provide a safe alcohol-free environment to students coming to or going from school.” The expansion of the alcohol-free zone around Olney ISD to include the school zone on State Highway 114 was a good faith request to comply with this sound mandate from the Texas Education Code.
As a school district, we recognize the precarious position in which the City of Olney finds itself. The Olney ISD Board of Trustees and the Olney City Council clearly share a passion for the safety of our children, but we realize this is in conflict with a law that does not afford our children the same protections it grants students from private schools and large cities. In the end, Olney ISD will certainly be accepting of any final decision of the City on this matter and will definitely continue to work with the City and community members to ensure the health and safety of Olney ISD students and staff.
Dr. Greg Roach