If you ask me, Storm Lake got a bum rap in coverage of Iowa schools and their recent citations for failure to meet disability accessible standards.
In publications of the Iowa Watch student journalism program, and a resulting Des Moines Register story, all you would learn is that Storm Lake has 26 violations, one of the worst totals in the state, and it sounds awful - it sounds like a district that doesn't care.
And that is not at all the case.
Certainly, this is not the fault of Iowa Watch, or even the Register. It is fair investigative reporting, a subject with substance, and it sets out to see how many citations on ADA accessibility there are, not necessarily to explain the why.
Understandably, there isn't time or space to check on every citation issued to nearly 50 school districts in the six years covered by the report.
But, if the media could have, as we did, it would have found that the issues in Storm Lake are in many cases not with schools at all, but with an old "Admin" office building seldom used by the general public.
Issues with the schools are mostly due to the fact that the inspection was done in the middle of a construction project at the high school. If your parking lot is torn up, of course you won't have the correct number of designated and signed spaces...
Most of the issues in that "26" statistic were already on the way to being eliminated as construction followed its course.
The only true violations not already addressed in the schools were a small lip in the floor at the entry of one locker room at the high school, and one shower control that does not have a push option for someone who might be unable to turn the knob, according to the superintendent.
Also, this is one strange inspection program the state runs, and civil rights policy dictates. It inspects high schools and whatever site is used for school board meetings - but not middle schools, elementary or preschools.
Are there no disabled people under age 14? Are there no people with mobility issues who would like to see a kindergarten concert?
If we are going to inspect, why aren't we inspecting all the schools?
This is not to say, in any way, shape or form, that ADA policy is bad - it is a wonderful thing, and we are glad the state enforces it.
I don't believe any of our schools would intentionally violate any accessibility rule. Sometimes, though, an outside eye is valuable to help us see an issue that we may not perceive - an inch of lip in a floor might as well be a mountain if there happens to be a student in a wheelchair who needs to get there.
Businesses, government entertainment, public sites of all kinds, need to be aware. That's the beauty of ADA, it has made the world more friendly for us all, it has made us look at our surroundings in a different way.
If you have no physical issues and you are saying right now that none of this applies to you, consider yourself blessed, and realize it could someday be you struggling over an uncut curb or a set of steps without a handrail.
A heavy door or narrow restroom stall, a parking lot that won't acommodate a van with a ramp, are things we are coming to see and evaluate in new ways.
The schools are better for being aware and accommodating, but be aware - there's sometimes more to a story that a statistic will yell you.
Let it not be said that Alta-Aurelia lacks dedication in its patriotism. Earlier this season, I experienced a moment there, the likes of which I have never seen.
For whatever reason, the flag was not in its normal place on the pole in the middle of the baseball/softball complex when a softball game was starting.
The National Anthem was played as normal, with the announcer welcoming the crowd to stand and salute "the flag that should be there."
And they did, every one of them, Hats off, hands on hearts, gazing respectfully at an empty flagpole.
I have seen the flag adored, and I have seen it ignored and sadly abused. But I have never, ever, seen a crowd rise for a flag that wasn't there. Good on you, AA.