In bestowing great honor there is substantial responsibility [Commentary]

Giving the name of person to a public building, street or structure is a high honor, and one that should not be bestowed without serious thought and consideration.

Naming a building, bridge or athletic facility after a person is neither something that can be done according to a formula, nor based on a particular set of standards; it's pretty much the kind of decision that must be made on a case by case basis.

It appears members of the Harford County Board of Education have begun to accept this reality as they are rescinding a rather odd policy that was devised in the aftermath of a tragic situation. Back in 2004, rather early in the days of the Second Iraq War, Fallston High School graduate Lance Cpl. Patrick Adle was killed in the line of duty while serving with the Marines.

There was some community sentiment that an athletic field at Fallston High be named in Lance Cpl. Adle's honor, as he had been an athlete of some note prior to giving the last full measure of devotion to his country.

For a variety of reasons, some less flimsy than others, the idea was rejected and a perfectly suitable and honorable memorial to Harford County Public School students killed in the line of duty was erected in Bel Air outside the school system headquarters building.

The memorial in Bel Air and the decision not to name the field in Lance Cpl. Adle's honor were reasonable, though certainly not perfect, decisions.

What was unreasonable, however, was a strict policy the school system adopted under which memorials to "deceased students, members of a school staff or others" would not be permitted. Actions taken earlier this week substantially relax that restriction, opening the practice of honorary naming to libraries, sections of schools, athletic facilities as well as entire schools.

The honor wouldn't be restricted to the community of educators, but instead rightly extended to any member of the community at large deemed worthy.

The process of deeming someone worthy, however, is one that requires a bit of structure and vetting. It's worth noting that when the new Bel Air High School was constructed a few years back, the honor of selecting inspirational quotes to be emblazoned on the building was left to the leadership of the school. There's nothing wrong with the quotes, or the degree to which they are inspirational, but might it not have been a good idea to open the selection process to members of the Bel Air community at large, or maybe a panel of distinguished alumni?

Too often it is lost on a bureaucracy, be it in government or in corporate America, that plenty of people outside the bureaucracy have rational, reasonable and often good ideas. When a process is devised for deciding whose names will be appended to what school facilities, the school system should make darn sure there are people both inside and outside the school system participating.

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