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School approves driver permits for 14 1/2-year-olds

Published: Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 10:32 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 10:33 a.m. CDT

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It started with a letter.

Bill Messerole, Creston High School principal, wrote a letter to interim Superintendent Chuck Scott discussing the possibility of changing the requirement that students must be 15 years old to have a school driving permit in Creston.

Messerole's request was immediately hit with concern about abuse.

"When we first set it at 15 several years ago it was because of the abuses that we were having," explained Creston School Board Member Rich Flynn during Monday's school board meeting. "I'm hoping that maybe that extra six months...would make these drivers a little bit more mature than where they are at, say, 14 1/2."

The Creston High School handbook states "students must be 15, have held a learner's permit for six months with a clean driving record, and have completed driver education before they are eligible to apply for a school permit."

Other guidelines include students must take the most direct route from home to school, they may not stop along the route except for fuel, and they cannot drive to any school-related event unless they are participating and it is on school grounds, with exceptions such as dances or homecoming float building.

"I think a lot of students who got one of these kind of had the idea that, 'Oh, I've got a driver's license. I can head for Des Moines!' with any excuse that's related to school," said Flynn. "There are some very strict guidelines to go along with this permit and I don't think a lot of people understand that. They just think it's a driver's license."

The Iowa DOT requirements state the minimum age "for a minor school license (MSL) is 14 1/2." Other basic requirements include "the student must have completed an Iowa-approved course in driver education," "the student must have held a valid instruction permit during the six-month period immediately preceding application for the MSL," and "the student must live one mile or more from the school of enrollment."

Board member Ron Dunphy said, "I find it interesting—your letter to Mr. Scott—the bottom of it talks about respect, responsibility, and among there is trustworthiness. When do we start developing that? 14, 14 1/2, or 15?"

However, Flynn made the suggestion to only allow high school students of age the opportunity to obtain the school permit. Messerole also made the point that students can only obtain the school permit if recommended to the DOT and if the superintendent, chairperson of the school board, or principal, if authorized by the superintendent, sign a statement. The parents must also provide signed consent.

Once these points were brought up opinions changed and Board Member Galen Zumbach moved to pass the recommendation. It was accepted by all, and Flynn moved to pass the alternated motion that only those of age in high school were allowed the permit. Dunphy seconded, and it was unanimously passed.

In other school board news:

•The agreement with Green Hills AEA to build and lease a parking lot has been delayed till Nov. 26 and 27.

•The music and art curriculum was reviewed.

•The technology update was given, focusing on the possibility of a wireless survey to update the wireless in the different buildings and accomodating more computers per building.

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