Too Much Security?

When I brought my 8-year-old daughter to her Arlington public elementary school Nov. 1, I found the school on "high alert." A police car with an officer in it was parked up front, and a security officer was sitting at the entrance, where I had to sign her in but was not allowed to enter.

Somewhat disturbed by this intimidating spectacle one day before the elections, I decided to find out whether it was justified. Sure enough, the principal's newsletter stated that "schools have been asked to be on high alert due to Election Day. On Monday and Tuesday the front doors will be locked." But why on earth was this necessary? Hadn't Tom Ridge, the nation's top homeland security official, recently assured Americans that there was no risk: "It's important to know . . . there is no specific intelligence that targets Election Day, polling places and the like." Could the real intention have been to make voters wonder whether it was worth the risk (aka "voter suppression") or to shift undecided voters toward the Republican side?

The experience left me unconvinced that there was a real danger and unsure why authorities acted in this way.

Playing out as it did in an educational environment, where children, including mine, form early impressions of civic life, I sincerely hope these precautions were taken in good faith. Otherwise, we will turn our children into anxious, submissive adults, which is very un-American.

Beatrice O'Reilly

Arlington

Keep Saturday Hearings

The Arlington County Board has organized a "working group" to determine whether to eliminate the Saturday public hearings, which have been not only tradition for several decades but are the best way for the public to take part in government and share its perspectives with the board.

However, the proposal would be of even greater concern if the board actually listened to the public and acted in the public's interest. The board has demonstrated time and again, however, that the "Arlington Way" is to let people speak but ignore them.

For example, the board recently passed a loan application from a church in Clarendon, despite the opposition of several hundred residents and a clear warning from the nation's leading protector of the separation of church and state that the proposal was illegal and in violation of the Constitution ["Arlington Board Approves Controversial Church Plan," Extra, Oct. 28].

While the elimination of Saturday hearings would be upsetting if we had a board that truly acted in the public's interest instead of following its own personal-political agendas, what we need are new elected officials and a new direction on the board.

Steven R. Kaufman

Arlington

Plea for School Stability

I would like to protest the fact that the Arlington School Board is considering boundary changes for several North Arlington schools to reduce crowding at some of them.

At McKinley Elementary, we do not feel overcrowded. Yes, we have two trailers, but the fifth-graders love them! Many classes have 20 children or fewer in them. Additionally, some scenarios the School Board is considering involve moving some neighborhoods out of the McKinley district while putting others in. It's difficult to understand how this addresses crowding.

Of course, we are emotional and not objective about this. How can we be objective when our families have made strong emotional commitments to McKinley? We have also made a strong financial commitment to McKinley through fundraising and contributions, fully expecting our younger children to complete their elementary school experience in the same school their older siblings have attended.

We have chosen not to live in the outer suburbs, where tremendous growth results in a lot of school redistricting. We live in old, stable neighborhoods and expect stable schooling. To ask our children to be resilient and to change schools at the beginning or in the middle of their elementary school years just to even out the population distribution in North Arlington schools seems downright mean.

There are other options to reduce crowding that will not break up the communities that have bonded together for years and have produced such outstanding schools as McKinley Elementary.

Vicki Lyons

Arlington