The Valley Stream Central High School District Board of Education is considering changing its controversial parking policy, which prohibits students from leaving campus in their cars during the school day.
A change is definitely needed.
Three years ago, in an effort to prevent a tragedy similar to those that have occurred in other communities — in 2008, two teens in West Hempstead were killed in a lunchtime accident — the board implemented a policy forbidding students from taking their cars out of the student parking lots for lunch. Unfortunately, the most notable results of this policy were several half-empty parking lots. Students started parking on adjacent streets, where the high schools have no jurisdiction, so they could drive to lunch.
Board members said they felt that when students used their cars to go out to lunch, it led to riskier driving, with only 42 minutes to grab a meal and return.
But the policy has, at least in some cases, had the opposite of the desired effect. With students parking farther from the schools, many are in even more of a rush to get back to school on time after lunch for their next class. And the policy has irritated the high schools’ neighbors, who now find their streets lined with cars on school days.
At the urging of several board members, the policy is now up for review, and could be revised as early as the March business meeting. We believe it should be amended, but in a way that keeps the laudable, original intent — safety — in mind.
Teenagers are not going to change anytime soon. They are wired to seek independence. Most get their driver’s licenses in high school, and many get their own cars, or at least the use of a car. That combination of factors, by its very nature, gives the policy little chance of being successful.
Rather than trying to stop students from driving, we should focus on making them better, more responsible drivers. The purpose of a school district is to educate, so let’s do that.
Allow students to leave school grounds in their cars, but require that anyone who wants to park on campus attend a driver-safety seminar. School officials can use that as an opportunity to tell students about the tragedies that have occurred in other communities, so they can understand the consequences of risky driving. Let’s give them the chance to be responsible, and provide them with the necessary tools to make good decisions.
We don’t want to see a tragedy happen in Valley Stream. However, we believe that the best prevention is education, not a policy that is easy for students to bypass. We hope the high school Board of Education will consider changing the student parking policy while still keeping the focus on safety.