[ OUR OPINION ]
Thieves make off with
more than equipment
THIEVES who ripped off computers from Maili Elementary School this week made off with more than the $10,000 in electronic equipment and software. They took away records and confidential information teachers need and a way to reward students who do good work. More important, they breached the security and well-being of 100 special-education students and harmed their learning environment.
Five computers and a telephone were taken during a burglary at Maili Elementary School.
Adults who have had something stolen from them are familiar with the sense of violation that comes with such an experience. That feeling is probably heightened when children less seasoned in the miscreant world suffer the loss.
The scoundrels who broke into the school may think that the only victim of this crime is a faceless state government or the Department of Education, but they are wrong. They swindled taxpayers -- their friends, families and neighbors -- who paid for the five computers and cordless phone and who may have to pay for new equipment since the state is self-insured. The DOE doesn't have any spare cash with the state's budget shortage forcing cuts of as much as $20 million this fiscal year.
An education assistant at the school, who has offered a $100 reward of her own money, is asking pawnshops and the community to keep an eye out for the computers. However, the only identification on the equipment are inventory numbers and the words "State of Hawaii" on a narrow, 1 1/2-inch-long metal plate. Although glued on with epoxy, the plate can be scraped off.
As a deterrent, the state could devise a more obvious label or marker that cannot be as easily removed. "Property of Maili Elementary" etched on a laptop cover in big letters may not be attractive, but would certainly draw attention and require more effort to erase than a small strip of metal.
There are high-tech solutions, such as programs that require a certain sequence of keystrokes before a computer will boot up. Sturdy locks and bolts also would discourage theft. Still, no security measures are foolproof; the school's alarm system and security checks did not stop the thieves.
From last August to this June, $234,768 worth of equipment, mostly computers, had been stolen from public schools. The damage is far greater when the effort it will take for teachers to rebuild their records is tallied. Then there is the disappointment of the students, which cannot be measured in dollars. Said principal Linda Victor, "Every single one of them felt very demoralized."
BACK TO TOP
Baby Moses laws can
be too hastily enacted
GOVERNOR Lingle says her first reaction to a bill that would allow parents to abandon their newborn babies at hospitals was "mostly positive," an impression that has resulted in the enactment of such "safe haven" laws in 45 states during the past four years. However, those laws -- called "Baby Moses" laws in a reference to the Bible story -- now are under scrutiny, and Lingle was wise this summer in becoming the nation's first governor to veto such legislation. Hawaii legislators should exercise caution in reconsidering the issue.
Hawaii remains one of the few states that don't provide immunity for parents who abandon their newborn babies at 'safe havens.'
Texas began the rush to provide safe havens for babies in 1999 following 13 abandonments in the Houston area in a 10-month period. Most of the "Baby Moses" laws enacted by states since then provide immunity from prosecution for parents, usually young mothers, who leave their babies at hospitals, or in some states police stations, churches or in the care of a responsible adult, within specified periods of time (within three days of the child's birth in some states, within 30 days in others). Hawaii's bill specified that a baby could be left at a hospital within 72 hours of birth for the parent to receive immunity.
"While questioning the need for such a law, I thought to myself, 'But if it saves one life it will be a good law,'" Lingle recalled in her veto message. After "additional research and lively discussions with people on both sides of the issue," the governor learned "that any good that might be accomplished by this bill is likely to be outweighed by the harm that it would cause."
An extensive study completed in March by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute reached the same conclusion. The study found no evidence that the laws solve the problem of infant abandonment. Instead, the institute concluded, they "actually may encourage women to conceal pregnancies and then abandon infants who otherwise would have been placed for adoption through established legal procedures or been raised by relatives."
The laws also have unintended consequences, such as creating a way for unhappy family members or boyfriends to abandon babies without the mother's consent, depriving biological fathers of their legal rights and preventing children from ever learning their genealogical or medical histories, according to the study. There is no indication of the validity of these laws' main premise -- that fear of prosecution keeps parents from abandoning their babies.