Legislators need to think before they act

Published 9:01 am Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Earlier this year at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Bogalusa local attorney Brad Lewis spoke about the common practice of legislators in this state of proposing and passing legislation they do not fully understand or just outright have not read.

He cited the fact that in an average session between 4,000 and 6,000 pieces of legislation are introduced. Given the wordiness of most bills, reading such a huge number is practically an impossibility.

During his talk, Lewis specifically cited a 2014 bill by Rep. John Schroder. The measure was aimed at protecting the identities of students from would-be predators but in reality had the effect of making it illegal for public schools to release the names of its students for any reason, including graduation, athletic rosters and the like.

Realizing his mistake, Schroder promised to fix the problem with a new bill that would modify the existing bill, but according to a release from the Louisiana Press Association this week, the intended effect was not achieved, and it still currently remains illegal for schools to release honor rolls, football rosters and other similar documents.

The newest legislation, known as HB 718 states “Nothing in this Section shall prohibit a person employed in a public school or other person authorized by the superintendent of the public school or school system from being provided or having access to a student’s records in accordance with a policy adopted by the local public school board for such purpose.”

According to Schroder, this fixed the problem by allowing local school boards to set whatever policy they pleased, but a national group has concluded that no information can be released.

“That information was distributed by the Louisiana School Board Association to Louisiana schools,” stated the LPA release.

This all began as a knee-jerk reaction to the concerns of some parents in St. Tammany Parish, was apparently hastily thrown together and, according to the author himself, was extremely over-reaching.

In all likelihood, the matter will be resolved, and schools will no longer be restricted from releasing good news about its students, but the legislation should never have been drafted, much less passed, in the first place.

Making laws that govern people’s lives is serious business and should be taken seriously — not just done on the spur of the moment to satisfy small but vocal groups. And if those who hold office cannot treat the creation of laws with the respect it deserves, they should be replaced by people who can.