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Editorial: Thumbs

Published 3:41pm Saturday, April 26, 2014

Editorial: Thumbs

thumbupTo college student Alexis Johnson.

The second-year student at Riverland Community College hit the nail on the head when, in a guest column Friday in the Tribune, she said the policy for weapons at United South Central High School makes victims of the very students it aims to protect. Alyssa Drescher, a USC junior, was expelled Thursday for the remainder of the school year for mistakenly bringing a pocket knife to school.

It’s a tough situation. What do officials do when their mission to educate children conflicts their mission to keep them safe? Harm a child’s education? That’s what they do, unfortunately. People who work in schools care greatly about children and their future, so it seems at odds to witness them boot one out for what appears to be a youthful error. Kids make mistakes.

The fact is, the world happens on a case-by-case basis despite laws. In many other aspects of the law, the justice system is intended to have that flexibility, even when people are guilty. Police sometimes give warnings instead of citations. Prosecutors sometimes don’t prosecute. Judges sometimes suspend sentences instead of sending people to jail or prison. People who are guilty sometimes fight the charges and juries declare them not guilty anyway. Real life does not fit neatly into a box.

We commend the USC school board for opting to expel for six weeks instead of 12 months. It shows rational room for flexibility. Rigid enforcement of any set policy is not always the best policy. However, we hope the USC community begins a vital discussion about revising its policy to have degrees of seriousness.

 

thumbupTo the Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic.

Albert Lea is appreciative of having a clinic for veterans in the region. This clinic could have landed in a number of cities near the Iowa border, and the Louisville, Ky.-based company Valor and the Department of Veterans Affairs selected Albert Lea. Drawing veterans from northern Iowa seeking faster response times was a factor. Looking at a road map, it’s not hard to see how connected Albert Lea is to its southern neighbors than most cities along the border. There is Interstate 35 straight south, which probably is enough right there, but U.S. Highways 65 and 69 run diagonally into the southwest and southeast directions, shortening travel times to and from Iowa.

Our community has been a key crossroads in the region for all of its history, even before the pioneers arrived. That factor once again has benefited the city economy. One more thing for veterans: Our community gladly welcomes you to local establishments. Enjoy Albert Lea.

 

thumbdownTo the U.S. Supreme Court.

It seems the Sixth Amendment is becoming less and less relevant. The amendment guarantees that the accused has the right to know the accuser in criminal cases. Meanwhile, anonymous tips for years have assisted law enforcement in investigations. And rightfully so, but generally they have had reasonable limitations in court because the callers were less credible than named tipsters. A 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court on Tuesday said anonymous 911 calls are enough of a probable cause to pull over a motorist, even with limited information from the caller.

In the dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia called the ruling a “freedom-destroying cocktail” and argued that these days all motorists on the road would be at risk. Where is the line between freedom and intrusion anymore? We agree and further lament the continued acceptance by government authorities — from police officers to social service officials to animal control agents — to encourage anonymity.

The Sixth Amendment shows that the Founding Fathers wanted the government to err on the side of identity and pragmatism before interfering in the lives of its citizenry. Anonymity has its place, but it is a two-sided sword and can serve as a means to send government workers on wild goose chases after good people — and thus intimidate and disenfranchise them.