Pridemore's Dangerous Proposal: Get volunteers in schools. To shoot people.

With the election still a couple months away, there's been little talk so far of the absolutely critical race for Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction, a position currently held by Dr. Tony Evers, but every person who cares about education in Wisconsin needs to know what is really at stake here.

Evers, who is running for reelection, is being opposed by Tea Party operative and current State Representative Republican Don Pridemore, a man so supremely unqualified to hold this office that he actually thought it could help his campaign to release this unfathomably reckless statement, which he's also sent around as a letter to the editor:
Dear Editor: School boards should be given the freedom to hire a competent, well trained school official or employee who is experienced with applying force whenever force is required. Police officers, either retired or still on duty, that are trained to respond to school safety situations are the best example of such a qualified person. 
The most cost-effective approach would be to permit local school boards, administrators and parents to be able to ask qualified people from their own communities to volunteer to do this work as a public service as a way of giving to their communities while they are in retirement. The point is that each school district is different as well as each community. The availability of qualified people will be different but the rules and the criteria established for choosing this “safety officer or protection service” should rest in the hands of the local community and not with the Department of Public Instruction or any other level of government. 
DPI can certainly make recommendations on how to proceed but the final decision should be made by the local officials and must be a priority in today’s world. 
— Rep. Don Pridemore. R-Erin, and candidate for state superintendent of public instruction

I'll give you a second to clear your breath of the "wtf?s" and "holy craps" that you are undoubtedly uttering.

[patient pause]

Now. Let's take a moment to process what Pridemore just suggested:
That schools invite volunteers into their buildings.  To shoot people.
A man who thinks he has what it takes to be in charge of all schools in the entire state said that.  And he didn't just "say it," in an interview, or off the cuff, in some kind of "gotcha" moment.  He thought it out.  Drafted it. Presumably (though there's no evidence of this) revised it.  Tried to make it "sound good." Issued a press release. Sent it to the editor for publication.

But here's the thing.  That idea is crazy. Tea Party crazy.  The kind of crazy the rest of us just stare at, open-mouthed.  First of all, districts are already free to establish their own volunteer policies, provided they follow state law and don't discriminate, etc.  This is a non-issue, and one that Pridemore is obviously just trying to create to pretend he has something to list on his campaign agenda next to "make sure my financial contributors get privatization contracts."  School boards do have control over local hiring. That's a non-issue. Wisconsin Statutes 118.001 and 102.13 if anyone cares.  And most districts do require background checks for people who volunteer in schools.  Is that the Trojan-horse "big government" restriction Pridemore opposes here? Because I'd like to think we'd all agree that's a pretty good idea, running background checks on people who might be shooting people for free, or alone in a room helping kids with math, in our kids' schools. 

The liability issues are the real concern, and obviously Pridemore doesn't know or care enough about our schools to even consider them. The legal ramifications of allowing volunteers to "respond to safety situations" are enormous. Volunteers aren't even supposed to HUG kids, much less "apply force whenever force is required." The legal consequences alone make this idea an absolute joke, and that's not even taking into consideration the fact that allowing local-level appointment of "safety officers or protection services" without following established vetting procedures could be a logistical nightmare of unthinkable proportions.

Further, Pridemore's suggestion that this is "the most cost-effective" approach (because it's free) is dangerously scary evidence of how completely disconnected he is from the serious reality that is education administration.  His suggestion that schools could simply be "free" of the rules and regulations established the state, local goverment, and the Department of Public Instruction, on THIS, the most serious of issues, is evidence that Pridemore's agenda as Superintendent would be to completely dismantle the structures that ensure our schools are operated equitably.

Suggesting that this deathly serious work should be done for free is further evidence of how very little respect Pridemore has for the professionalism required to operate and maintain safe schools, and the people who are entrusted to do that work, or the law enforcement professionals who have well-earned their retirement.  But having respect for the people of Wisconsin has never been Pridemore's strong suit, as he's made clear on numerous occasions, most disgustingly when joining Glenn "Kwanzaa is a Hoax" Grothman's bandwagon to suggestion that single mothers are responsible for all of our social problems - most significantly, child abuse.  It's difficult to imagine that someone with a long history of being so openly hateful of single-parent families and minority issues would - or has the desire to - magnanimously address very serious  issues of race and gender inequities in our schools.  The same man who wants laxer rules for things like puppy mills and racist mascots thinks we can solve the problem of gun violence in our schools with a simple editorial solution: by finding people to "apply force" for free. 

This is probably the stupidest idea anyone could possibly come up with to respond to one of the most serious concerns facing our schools. It's the kind of idea that would have been laughed under the table of any teacher lounge and scolded out of the room at any school board meeting. It's the kind of idea that comes from the desk of a man who does not think things through, or perhaps does not think at all.

Don Pridemore has, with the most asinine stroke of a pen imaginable, just proven to all of Wisconsin why he has no business whatsoever running for this office.  I'd rather get together with my community and just see if we can't find some retired person who would do the job, in his or her spare time. It would be much more cost-effective, and the person would, undoubtedly, be well trained and experienced enough to handle any situation that should arise.  Certainly that person would be better qualified than Don Pridemore.

That's one option. And it's a better alternative than Pridemore's for sure.  But I think on April 2 I'll be casting my vote for Tony Evers, with all the other people in Wisconsin who care about quality public education and keeping our schools safe.

Pridemore, who shows contempt for the 14th Amendment by openly calling for "the state of Wisconsin to nullify the Federal Affordable Health Care Act, and for Wisconsin police to arrest Federal authorities attempting to implement the Act," is a dangerous choice for Wisconsin.  Photo: Whitney Steffen/wcmcoop.

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