Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Opinion: Lawsuit against Pinellas schools is without merit

Opinion: Lawsuit against Pinellas schools is without merit
Lawsuit against Pinellas schools is without merit
Letters to the Editor
Published July 6, 2004


Re: Judge expands school lawsuit, July 2.

This lawsuit is totally without merit or common sense. The lawsuit in essence says, that the Pinellas County School system - teachers and administrators - purposely set out to deprive the black students of an education and set higher standards of classroom decorum for them than for their white counterparts.

My wife is an educator in the Pinellas County School system and I know the teachers go out of their way to provide individual assistance for black and white students who are having learning difficulties.

Judge Case would be better educated to the real problem by reading excerpts from Bill Cosby's speech last week to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. The problem is not with the school system but with the home environment. If the parents do not care, the child will not care and this is true of black and white children. What about the black children who are achieving and overachieving their FCAT goals? This is a slap in their face.

The time has come to set the record straight and place the blame where it belongs, and it is not the school system.

-- Richard Williams, Clearwater,
Community leaders were lacking
Re: Judge expands school lawsuit.

Thanks for Friday's report that Judge James Case has granted class-action status to the lawsuit against Pinellas County Schools for "failing to educate black children." I was disappointed to note that only one "community leader" was named, as I had spent Wednesday morning with about 30 people at one of the regular meetings of the Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students.

Judge Case referred to the "overabundance of statistical evidence indicating that black students are achieving far below white students." Such evidence is not easy to come by (some of us feel that school administrators stonewall) and at least some of it was amassed by hardworking members of the Concerned Organizations, yet they're not acknowledged in your article.

There's some disagreement about whether Omali Yeshitela is in fact a "community leader" except in the mind of the media. Was it not possible to cite any of the other "several community leaders" who announced the suit? (Or was neglecting to indicate the breadth of the community's concern a way of marginalizing the issue?)

-- Eileen O'Sullivan, St. Petersburg
Argument grows tiresome
Re: Judge expands school lawsuit.

Lawyers have argued that Pinellas County Schools have not done enough to close the gap in achievement between minority and white students. All students sit in the same classrooms, study the same subjects, read the same textbooks and take the same tests. What could be more fair? This argument is growing very tiresome.

-- Sam Jordan, St. Petersburg
We need to educate the adults
Re: To help children, first leave no families behind, letter, July 1.

The letter writer offers a perfect reason why so many children are left behind. Before retirement I worked at jobs requiring my visiting homes with financial and family problems. Almost 95 percent of those homes had not a book or a magazine in sight - only a TV blasting away with a "soap opera."

Children need to be exposed to the foundations of learning. How can we stress the need for early exposure to prepare children to be ready to learn in school? This means educating the adults about what is needed for future success of their children.

-- Ruthe Petillo, Spring Hill
Effort should be part of the equation
I hear a lot lately about the "achievement gap" in our public schools. When will a study be released concerning the "effort gap"?

-- Dave Giese, Pinellas Park
Support system's not so smooth
Re: Child support collections one of state's bright spots, July 1.

May I suggest that Howard Troxler continue his research on the child support system? Apparently he bypassed the bookkeeping department. Otherwise he would have uncovered the lack of organization and inadequacies of the Department of Revenue Child Support Division. Unless you are a "victim" of the system, as I have been for many years, you have no concept of how frustrating and irritating it is to deal with. Is it really necessary to employ such rude individuals to handle these cases? Do they not realize that as a taxpayer, I also help pay their salaries?

I certainly understand how the collections of child support have almost tripled. Case in point: I have been paying my obligation on a regular monthly basis for years. But according to the DOR, I am in arrears. Therefore, I am being charged interest and late fees on a past-due balance. I have repeatedly asked for an accurate accounting statement with documentation to justify this past-due amount. If they are wrong, I would like a credit which should be applied toward my monthly child support payment. If their records are correct, I would like to "catch up" and eliminate these ongoing charges. As of this writing, I still have not received the information.

One more thing, Mr. Troxler. What possible logic is there in suspending a person's professional and/or driver's license? Wouldn't that contribute to nonpayment by hindering an individual's ability to work, i.e., pay child support?

-- B. Michel, St. Petersburg
Equal custody is a better idea
Re: Child support collections one of state's bright spots.

Howard Troxler's column would be funny if it were not so sad. He forgot to mention the most recent decision by the Florida Cabinet to approve a $27.6-million consulting contract with Deloitte Consulting to collect additional child support payments (Contract signed to boost child support collections, Oct. 15, 2003).

He also failed to mention that child support guidelines are set ridiculously high and have no bearing on the actual costs of raising children. They're merely a percentage of the parents' income.

A much easier solution is to declare, by default, that child custody be "equal custody" unless there is a very good reason why not. And in no way should custody decisions be the judge's idea of what's in "the best interests of the child." Equal custody would basically eliminate the profit end of child custody. The problem is that it would eliminate the profit for the state governments and all the bureaucracies lurking on the sidelines!

-- Don Delaney, St. Petersburg
Where's pharmaceutical free market?
Recent articles about stores that are obtaining prescription drugs from Canada got me to thinking:

An automobile company can move its factories to Mexico and claim it's a free market. A toy company can outsource to a Chinese subcontractor and claim it's a free market. A major bank can incorporate in Bermuda to avoid taxes and claim it's a free market. We can buy HP Printers made in Mexico. We can buy shirts made in Bangladesh. We can purchase almost anything we want from 20 different countries.

But, heaven help the elderly who dare to buy their prescription drugs from a Canadian pharmacy. That's called un-American!

And you think the pharmaceutical companies don't have a powerful lobby? Think again.

-- Ray Heddleson, Spring Hill
Speedway's end offers dubious gains
Re: Racetrack enters final turn, July 2.

I've gone to Sunshine Speedway many times over the years, either as a participant or fan. I've seen many people, young and old, have a great time inexpensively while staying out of trouble on a Saturday night. Pinellas County is crowded and its residents are constantly complaining about young people out of control, especially on the weekends.

One of the biggest complaints is traffic, especially young people in their cars. With recent movies such as The Fast and The Furious, street racing has become a problem. Sunshine Speedway gave young people the ability to safely compete in their cars at the drag strip without endangering others.

The oval track gave families a place to go on Saturday nights and many young people have safely fueled their passion for fast cars at the track.

The motocross track gave families somewhere to watch their children compete on motorcycles without having to travel hours to another area to ride.

Sale of the speedway land "opens up a lot of opportunities for transportation and probably economic development," said Keith Wicks, assistant county administrator. "We're not exactly sure what might come knocking on the door."

Economic development? Terrific, more condos starting in the $300,000s with more people and more cars so the roads will just get more crowded. I can't wait.

-- Rich Bahret, Seminole
Dogs find homes in our hearts
Re: In our hearts, Max was top dog, June 29.

Every human who has ever been loved by a canine could relate to Bess Coleman's heartfelt story of her beloved Max. During my two sons' teenage years and into their early 20s, we had the good fortune to live with a standard poodle named Fannie, a gentle giant with a sense of humor and rare intelligence.

Like Max, she often found ways to "escape the compound," as my son Stephen used to describe her getaways from our fenced two acres. She would trot around the perimeters of the yard, looking for a loose board. When she found it (and it seemed there usually was one), she would pull it off and disappear. Hours later, she would return, looking like a Colorado sheep with her cream-colored face and legs black with swamp mud.

After one of these forays, I had to spend $50 to bail her out of the pound. She jumped willingly into the hatchback of my Datsun but on the way home, she turned her head away from me, seemingly humiliated over her appearance. She smelled so bad after a night of incarceration that I had to lower all the windows. Like all mothers, I was caught between joy at finding my child safe and anger over her actions.

When my father lay dying in his bed at Bay Pines hospital, he told me he was "sure glad I won't be around when Fannie dies," as he didn't think any of us could cope. Sadly, just a year after his death, we lost Fannie to a rare blood disease at the young age of 7. But I console myself, knowing my father is now playing on a heavenly golf course, with Fannie prancing happily along beside him.

-- Christine Vaughan, Belleair Bluffs
Kitty's plight isn't pretty
Re: Under lock and kitty, June 30.

While I understand that the photo of the cat's paw on the lock of the cage may cause a chuckle, I think that it makes light of the life-and-death situation that these animals face in shelters. Who knows if that paw's owner will be alive a few days from now?

I would urge your newspaper not to undermine the seriousness and tragedy of the ever-burgeoning population of unwanted and abandoned animals, not only in Florida, but nationwide, and remind your readers that when an animal is thrown away by its human owner/companion, the most likely result is in the animal's death. And that is not a pretty picture.


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