Civics lesson loses out to safety


For years, voting and learning were allowed to coexist in the same buildings.
But on Tuesday, when local voters showed up to vote, there were no students to be seen.
On election days of the past, schools set aside gyms, cafeterias or libraries and allowed voters to come
in to cast their ballots. Meanwhile, the learning went on uninterrupted in the schools. What a wonderful
way for children to get a glimpse of adults performing their civic duty – an indirect lesson in grown up
But that lesson is no longer deemed worth the risks. School shootings across the country have led many
school districts to either no longer allow voting, or cancel classes on election days.
In Wood County, the only schools where voting takes place – Bowling Green and Perrysburg – both cancel
classes on election days. It’s unfortunate that the fear of violence has led to such decisions.
Schools are quite often ideal locations for polling places since they are accessible, have adequate
parking, and have large rooms. In some areas, the closing of schools for voting has caused hardships
finding other suitable locations.
According to the Associated Press, it’s hard to tell how widespread school voting restrictions have
become, especially since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary.
An AP search of news articles from the past year showed more than three dozen U.S. schools either had
closed to voting or considered it because of Sandy Hook, and election officials repeatedly testified
that it’s a growing problem.
"Schools are less and less inclined to want to make those facilities locations for voting, because
you have access from people coming in off the street," Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted stated in
Husted said most schools are accommodating and some have been motivated to stay open because they rely
financially on taxes that have to be approved by the voters. Some studies have shown that voters are
more likely to support a school funding proposal if they are casting a ballot in a school, according to
the AP.
In some states, schools are required to be available on election days, although there was an effort in
the past year in some states to allow schools to close.
Recently in Wisconsin, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell agreed that election day may cause occasional
frustrations for school administrators, but that a policy change would be an overreaction. In addition
to schools being convenient, easy-to-find and accessible, McDonell thinks schools have the additional
benefit of showing kids how democracy works.
"I think it’s an important educational opportunity for students to be exposed to voting," he
said. "Voting is a fundamental part of our democracy. It’s important that we pass on that right and
But the lesson can no longer be learned in Wood County, where school officials felt the need to choose
between civics and safety – and safety won out.

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