By Tim Hunt
Nose rings, yearbooks and dronesUploaded: Dec 11, 2012
The American Civil Liberties Union has bubbled to the surface in two issues recently.
One concerned the yearbook picture that Amador Valley High senior Kenton Koos submitted. It showed him with tattoos (temporary) on his face and a large nose ring.
School officials initially rejected the picture and Koos took the issue public so the ACLU weighed in on freedom of the student press.
The district and school leadership finally relented and will allow the picture. The challenge for the Amador administration is that there was no written policy governing yearbook pictures. It is rather amazing that the school, which will celebrate its 90th birthday next year, hasn't encountered a similar controversy in all of these years. Needless to say, a policy is now being written.
As for the ACLU, it's entirely appropriate for the school to establish guidelines for photos in a yearbook. Kenton or any of us is free to dress or tattoo ourselves as we will and walk down the streetbut the decision on what to include belongs to the editor and ultimately the publisher (in this case, the school).
When I edited the local paper my decisions were rarely subject to review by the publisher, but that's where the ultimate responsibility laidin that office, not mine. Over the years, I worked for a number of senior editors and publishers and rarely, rarely did news decisions hit the publishers' office.
That said, we all understood where the buck stopped.
The ACLU also reared up at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors' meeting when Sheriff Department's plan to accept a $32,000 grant was short circuited. After whining from the ACLU, the proposal was shifted to go through the board's public safety committee and then, presumably, back to the board itself.
The drone would have been utilized for a variety of functions including search-and-rescue, missing children, wildfires, but also for dealing with disturbances with large crowds, barricaded suspects, investigative and tactical surveillance and intelligence gathering.
ACLU attorney Linda Lye said surveillance and intelligence amounted to spying. That's certainly one viewpointanother is that they are important to quality law enforcement. Officers have worked undercover for years to gain intelligencethis time the department would utilize modern technology to help inform its actions.
Using a drone instead of a manned helicopter to assess crowds or wildlife and potentially cover lots of ground in a search is an excellent use of both state-of-the-art technology and resources.
The supervisors should approve the grant and let the sheriff's department get on with what could be a very helpful tool for the citizens of Alameda County.