Certainly there's a lesson here. Perhaps one about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, or about the dangers of acting in haste.
Whatever that lesson might be, it would be nice to know Columbia County school officials have learned it.
Four years ago, Georgia's Legislature pass House Bill 1059, a sweeping, election-year crackdown on sex offenders. Its backers readily admitted that their aim was to make the restrictions so Draconian that anyone listed on the state's sex offender registry - no matter how minor their original charge - would be harassed into leaving the state altogether.
Its supporters haven't been as quick to admit that their get-tough act overstepped legal bounds. The courts instead have done that, preventing parts of the law from being enforced. Those actions prompted lawmakers this past year to quietly relax the legislation.
In the meantime, however, there was a loose end waiting to be knitted up. Columbia County school board members took care of it, finally, on Tuesday.
When HB 1059 went into effect in 2006, it was immediately challenged in court. U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper allowed the law to be enforced, with one caveat: A restriction preventing registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a bus stop could not be enforced, he ruled, unless those bus stops were "officially designated" by local school boards.
Within hours of that ruling, then-District Attorney Danny Craig and Sheriff Clay Whittle persuaded Columbia County's school board to unwittingly become guinea pigs for further testing the law in court by "officially designating" the county's school bus stops.
Only two other counties in Georgia were buffaloed into taking similar steps. And wouldn't you know it: Now, an attorney representing Sheriff Whittle has asked Columbia County's school board to revoke its bus-stop "designations" in hopes of having Whittle dropped as a defendant from one of the suits challenging that part of the law.
The board on Tuesday did just that, potentially protecting itself in the process. "I feel like we would be named in a lawsuit if we did not get out of it," said Superintendent Charles Nagle.
They shouldn't have gotten into it in the first place. Board members actually considered revoking their "designations" just a month after passing them, but instead tabled the issue. Until now.
There is no small amount of irony in the fact that school board members acted Tuesday to stave off a lawsuit after having been duped into taking action that was designed specifically to attract one.
Perhaps next time they won't be in such a hurry to make a move without taking more of an effort to find out what they're getting into.
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