Poplar Bluff students, parents upset about required identification badges

Protests, school withdrawals result.
Wednesday, November 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:48 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

POPLAR BLUFF — A new policy at Poplar Bluff High School requiring students to wear identification badges has prompted one parent to withdraw his children and some students to put stickers on their badges protesting the policy.

The badges are identical to the IDs students were previously required to carry and use to check out library books. Students and faculty must now wear the photo IDs on campus from 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. as a safety measure. School officials say the badges allow them to identify people quickly and make sure visitors have checked in.

“We need to be able to identify people without having to walk up to them and ask if they are a student or a teacher,’’ said Sheldon Tyler, an assistant principal at the high school in this town of 16,700 about 150 miles south of St. Louis.

One father, John Durbin, withdrew his two daughters until he can talk to the school board about the policy, which he opposes.

“I believe this country needs security. But if we put ourselves in a cage just to be safe, what kind of life do we have? There is a fine line there, and I wonder if we are beginning to cross it,’’ Durbin said.

Several students are attaching orange “worn under protest’’ stickers to their badges.

“I had some parents come in and object to this,’’ said Superintendent Randy Winston. “They felt like it was too much government interference, too much Big Brother. They asked if I minded if the students wore (the protest stickers), and I said no. I told them it would be a peaceful way of letting authority know they disagree.

“A student doesn’t leave their constitutional rights at the door,’’ Winston said.

But Durbin wouldn’t allow his daughters, Jessica, a freshman, and Heather, a sophomore, to wear the badges. He withdrew his daughters from school after receiving a call Friday because his daughters weren’t adhering to the new policy.

“Both of my daughters would love to continue going to Poplar Bluff High School. But they don’t really see it as I do, the bigger picture of what this represents,’’ he said.

Durbin said the policy change should have been decided by the school board instead of school administrators. He and other parents plan to give the school board a petition at the next meeting on Nov. 18 asking them to eliminate the policy, Durbin said.

He also pointed out that the IDs can be easily reproduced.

Senior Sarah Fielding said students have started making fake badges by scanning photos into computers.

“Within a couple of days, fake IDs were showing up: Santa Claus, Gumby, Tinkerbell,’’ Fielding said.

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