While many school districts across Michigan are outright banning small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) or "drones," Saline Area Schools has taken a more measured approach to the controversial subject.
The district consults with the North East Ohio Learning Associates or NEOLA for policy guidelines, which are the framework for the adopted policies that the school system's administrators and elected school board officials put in place to govern staff and students.
NEOLA's policy framework provided either a ban or drone operation by properly trained and licensed school district personnel only.
Not only will drone operators have to be employees of the school district, but they must also be "expressly authorized" by the superintendent of Saline schools, which will only be granted for usage on school property.
The policy addresses the most obvious point of interest for drone operators in the second paragraph of the policy: "sponsored contests (including scrimmages and previews), practices, tournaments, and activities under the auspices of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA)."
The policy states that the district can deny admission or entry to anyone who attempted to use a drone at the event until the event is over. Exceptions for operators who meet the criteria are left to the discretion of the superintendent.
Anyone granted the ability to operate a drone under these narrow circumstances must have a Remote Pilot Certification from the Federal Aviation Administration and the done must be registered with the FAA and have the proper markings as per FAA regulations.
Board of Education Secretary Michael McVey joked that discussing this topic in committees has been "a can of worms," and joked about the virtues of drones that Saline Post Editor Tran Longmoore might have brought up if he was present at the board meeting this week.
"I know if Tran Longmoore were here, he'd be a first to say he could take some really good shots of football games over at the stadium, but the FAA says you can't do that, you can't fly over people so it's basically option 2 ... you can fly it as long as you stick to the rules and the rules are very, very clear for drone pilots," McVey said.
The guidelines are laid out in policy 7440.03, which stipulates the potential for harsh penalties for violators, including "referral to local law enforcement, and/or further disciplinary action, up to and including termination."