By Mark Ambrogi
Alicia Benson hadn’t given much thought previously to Forest Dale Elementary, where her two daughters attend, being used as a voting site in Carmel.
“But this election was different,” Benson said. “The rhetoric, the tone, the divisiveness felt tangible and ultimately led my husband and I to discuss what we were comfortable with, knowing that there would be hundreds if not thousands of random citizens coming in and out of our daughters’ school. Our country feels like it has shifted that people are allowed to do and say things that we wouldn’t have said or done in years past. Violence feels real and seems to occur in the most unlikely of places. People feel on edge (and) willing to lash out against things they don’t like, for the news coverage and to ensure that they are seen and heard by the masses.”
Benson, who kept her daughters home on Election Day as several other elementary school parents did, said she appreciated the school’s willingness to add extra police security and more parent volunteers.
“But if someone wanted to make a statement or do something dangerous, it wouldn’t matter,” Benson said. “Our elementary schools house our most vulnerable children, who would be unable to protect themselves, and if someone truly wanted to hurt them, they could do it. Ultimately the risk far outweighed the reward of my girls watching democracy in action. I wanted them to see the voting, I wanted them to feel inspired by our democracy, but times have changed. I needed to know that they were safe.”
Benson said school officials were understanding.
Other Carmel Clay Schools elementary schools used as voting sites were Woodbrook, Cherry Tree and Orchard Park. Carmel Middle School and high school stadium were also used.
“For the parents that expressed concerns by calling or emailing the school, our principals reached out to speak with the parents, listening and fully addressing those concerns,” said Courtney Taylor, CCS community relations liaison.
Taylor said overall attendance at those schools were not significantly impacted on Election Day.
She said CCS continues to be in discussions with key decision-makers and the Hamilton County Election Board regarding the location of polling sites. Throughout this process, Taylor said they worked very closely with the Carmel Police Dept.
Taylor said security measures were put in place to ensure both the educational environment for students and the polling site were uninterrupted.