Fixes better than fines to boost school safety
An inspection has found safety violations at nine public schools.
Inspections of nine Hawaii public schools and two administrative offices that turned up 55 safety violations indicate the Department of Education needs to toughen its checks of equipment and facilities and more quickly correct deficiencies. However, imposing fines on schools for violations and depositing them into the state's general treasury makes little sense.
The state's Occupational Safety and Health Division found the violations in unannounced inspections through the year. Thirty-five violations were classified as serious, meaning the conditions could have caused critical injuries or death. Most were in shop classes and involved such problems as damaged electrical wires, tools without safety guards and uncovered holes in floors.
Fire inspections have been routinely conducted in public schools, but checks for other hazards apparently have not been done for about 10 years. With so many aging buildings and facility repairs lagging, regular surveys should be made to assure acute problems get necessary attention.
In issuing its report to the Board of Education, the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division's representative declined to identify the schools where the violations were found, apparently because the agency did not want to single them out. But parents of children at those schools, and the public as well, should be notified.
Disrepair has long been a constant at public schools, and while funding for fixes has increased, it never seems to be enough. In a bean-counting bureaucracy, levying fines as punishment for violations might seem reasonable, but taking money from school operations to be deposited in the state's bank account for other uses defies logic. Instead, schools should be required to use the money to fix the problems.
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