The sheriff's deputy arriving at Oak Crest Middle School
On September 22, just as Oak Crest Middle School on Balour Drive in Encinitas was letting out for the day, an officer from the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station reportedly arrived and threatened some 30 parents with parking tickets.
The parents were briefly stopped at the school’s designated pick-up area on Oak Crest Park Drive while waiting for the 2:15 p.m. school bell to ring. The short road only accesses the school and the Encinitas Community Center. Once the bell rings, the line of cars waiting begins to move rather quickly.
As students were leaving the campus, the deputy reportedly went up and down the road twice, announcing on his loudspeaker that he was going to write a ticket to anyone not moving. Parents were confused because they have parked there for years.
There is no other place on nearby streets to wait for their kids, yet some took the officer’s advice, moved, and picked up their kids on busy Balour Drive, while others moved into the community center parking lot, hoping their kids would find them.
Principal Ryan Yee, who saw the deputy cruise through, said, “No one from our school called [the sheriff's office].” In fact, many parents say the school staff does a great job daily, moving the hundreds of cars through the drop-off/pick-up area. Yee is found every morning, at the drop-off area, greeting arriving students and helping the parents move along.
Jan Caldwell, spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, said the officer in question “had every right to be there. It’s a red zone.” But she also recognizes the traffic impact made by the five schools within a one-mile radius, which might cause frustration among neighbors and motorists alike. She said deputies will do this type of patrol around schools every now and then.
Caldwell believes neighbors around the school have complained about the congestion. The neighborhood’s traffic — students biking, skating, or walking, and parents’ vehicles — usually comes and goes in less than a half hour.
Of the incident, “It was chaos,” said one upset parent. “We all had to start moving even though we could see our kids coming towards our cars. He [the deputy] comes through like a stormtrooper, threatening to ticket us. We try to teach our kids respect for law enforcement, and then kids see something like this.” She angrily added, “He was just a bully with a badge, yelling at all of us.”
A dad who just picked up his son before hearing the officer’s announcement said he’s been picking up one of his three kids in the same place for the past eight years. “Where would the cop suggest we wait for our kids?” he said.
Prior to filing this story, neither Caldwell, nor the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station, could identify the officer in question, nor who may have ordered him to take such an action. I left a request with the officer’s superior, traffic sergeant Joe Tomaiko, questioning the officer’s reported behavior.