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Beaufort High tows cars of students without parking passes

Beaufort High School towed the cars of six students without parking passes Monday morning, likely because they had not completed a driver safety course all students must take to obtain a parking permit.

The six cars were towed Monday after repeated warnings that students without a permit were at risk of their cars being removed from school lots, Beaufort High principal Corey Murphy said.

Students at Beaufort High have three requirements to obtain a parking pass. In addition to having a valid driver's license and paying a $15 fee, students must complete a driver safety awareness course called "Alive at 25" that is sponsored by South Carolina Chapter of the National Safety Council and taught by local law enforcement.

One parent said the course was not given often, leading some students to not have taken it yet.

The driver safety course was added as a requirement in 2012, soon after two Beaufort High students were killed in a crash on St. Helena Island, Murphy said. In Beaufort County, only Hilton Head High School -- which has had several students die in car crashes -- also requires the course, he said.

Murphy said the school first sent out warnings in summer that parking passes were a requirement to park on school grounds and began issuing daily warnings two weeks ago that cars without passes would be towed. The school also gave students who had not completed the course a three-week grace period at the start of the school year before issuing warnings.

Murphy said students weren't asked to move their cars Monday before they were towed, because they would miss school and it would be dangerous for them to be driving since they haven't taken the course.

"Parking without a pass is directly against school policy," he said. "We don't know what to do other than enforcing (the policy)."

Murphy said students only need to take the course once in their four years at Beaufort High. Having a license is not a requirement for the course, so a student could take the class as a freshman, he said.

But one parent, who declined to provide his name, said that the 4.5-hour driver safety course is offered infrequently enough that there needed to be more leeway from the school. The parent, who was able to move his son's car before it was towed, said his son was traveling to Bluffton on Saturday to take the course, which won't be offered again locally until Nov. 4.

"Why isn't the $350 I paid for driver's education and the state telling us he can drive not enough for him to get a permit?" he said.

But Murphy said the course is necessary to teach young drivers more than just basic skills, such as the risks of distracted driving.

"We have the largest congregation of novice drivers in Beaufort County here," Murphy said. "This course is a no-brainer."

Since towing the cars, Murphy said, the school has heard from some parents and students, but has had the same answer for them.

"Driving to school is a privilege," he said. "To have that privilege, you have to meet these requirements."

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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