Thumbs up to the expansion of the diversity and equity office in the St. Peter school system.

The office recently hired two additional liaisons to work with Spanish-speaking families and Somali families connecting them to school programs from early childhood education to high school and special education programs.

Many of the families the liaisons will work with are immigrants and the office will help them understand the U.S. education system and their responsibilities. It also will help students with everything from enrolling in class to signing up for extracurricular activities.

Office of Education Equity Director Affey Sigat said the aim is to ensure “every student can develop to their fullest potential” and help district leaders examine barriers to student success and eliminate those barriers.

The funding for the two new liaisons beyond the existing two-person staff comes from a special state fund set up for assist districts that have a higher level of diversity enrollment.

These kind of programs not only get students and their families on track for success in their schooling but also prepare them to be productive citizens.

In the safer zone

Thumbs up to the city of Mankato changing up its school zone parameters to put speed restrictions in play whenever children are present versus only during designated hours.

The time-limited enforcement is outdated. It doesn’t work with the fluctuations of children’s schedules that comes with before and after-school activities, late-start school days and other schedule changes such as during the pandemic.

Requiring motorists to slow to 20 mph whenever children are outside playing in the school zones instead of just an hour in the morning, during lunchtime recess and at normal dismissal times makes sense for protecting children all day every day. Kids often take to the playgrounds on or near school grounds whether school is in session or not. North Mankato already uses the speed zone restriction of “when children are present.”

The Mankato City Council’s adjustment is a clear-cut way to get drivers to be alert to the likelihood that children are in certain areas often and that they need to slow down and be ready for that possibility of a child chasing a ball into the street or sliding down the snowhill and slipping off the curb into the road.

Big oil changes

Thumbs up to activists who are forcing big oil companies to make changes that lead to more green investments.

Activist shareholders were successful in replacing three ExxonMobil board members with green-minded directors. And activists won a lawsuit against Royal Dutch Shell that will force the company to take much more dramatic steps toward cutting its carbon intensity.

Society will need oil for some time to come, but as the country and the world race to transition to clean energy everyone must do what they can to make the switch to green energy happen as soon as possible. That includes big oil.

Less driving, less safety

Thumbs down to the escalating fatality rate on American roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported Thursday that traffic fatalities rose 7% in 2020 — this despite even through miles traveled fell 13%, largely because of pandemic shutdowns.

The figures confirmed what had been known for much of the year: Americans drove more recklessly and at higher speeds than in the past.

Perhaps the relative lack of traffic in 2020 prompted drivers to step on it. But the NTSA also cited more impaired drivers and more vehicle occupants going without seat belts and harnesses.

The agency estimates that 38,680 people died on U.S. roads in 2020. That’s a fraction of the deaths attributed to the coronavirus, but it’s still too many.

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