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Letters to the Editors

Deal swiftly with school hooligans


© St. Petersburg Times
published May 15, 2002

The May 8 article A school's fear factor should be an eye-opener that all does not bode well in the county school system, and especially at Bay Point Middle School.

Listed as problems at Bay Point are disruptive students in classrooms, a student cut by a steak knife, kids being attacked bringing pizza back to class, an eighth-grader threatening the life of a sixth-grader, a sixth-grader afraid to use the boys' restroom for fear of being attacked, and teachers quitting their jobs because of unruly and disruptive students.

While Bay Point is singled out in this article, I am sure that many of the same problems exist in other Pinellas County schools.

It's a travesty that students can't go to school without fearing for their safety. The learning process suffers immensely when hooligans are allowed to disrupt classes and intimidate other students and teachers.

The principals, the superintendent of schools and the School Board should leave no stone unturned and do whatever it takes to rectify this situation.

Every school should have one or more security officers on duty during school hours. Teachers should be able to communicate with the security personnel immediately through an electronic communication system. Unruly students could immediately be confronted by an authority figure, who could take them out of class to be properly dealt with.

Millions of dollars are spent on the Pinellas school system each year. It makes no sense not to spend an adequate amount for security.

Parents, grandparents and the general public should insist that our schools are made safe for students, and that there will be zero tolerance and swift punishment for those who continue to be disruptive.
-- Richard Preston, St. Petersburg

Overall, Bay Point Middle is great

Re: A school's fear factor, May 8.

My name is Diane. I'm 14 years old and in eighth grade in the magnet program at Bay Point Middle School. I would like to set some things straight. I've been a student a Bay Point for three years, sixth grade through eighth.

When I read your article, I was upset and sad. I was upset because your article spoke the truth. Yes, our school has many, many fights every week. Sometimes really bad ones, too! To tell the truth, when girls fight they fight: hair-pulling, bruises, broken bones, cuts, etc. With guys it's all talk or slow punches.

I see it and get scared, wondering if it will happen to me. But I don't let it rule my life -- fear of another kid my age telling me they want to fight me, whatever.

I know those kids have sad lives and they only know one way to take care of it: fighting. Yet the truth is, I've never been told to fight or been harassed. I've never been hurt in school except from falling on the concrete at P.E. this year, and the time I sprained my ankle trying to open a door! (That's another story.) My friend has been harassed because of the way she is and looks. She has the Gothic attire and blue hair. With other friends, it's because they're smaller.

I was sad because you have no idea how wonderful Bay Point can be! Most of the teachers are extremely friendly or funny and want to get to know you! The staff is wonderful, too. If you're friendly, friends aren't hard to find. Most of the teachers excite you with the information. We're an A school! Go, us!

Your article may discourage new students from our school next year, but the truth is, it's great. The new campus is wonderful, everything is new, and the bad teachers are getting booted, making room for better ones.

Next year, I'll move on to the ninth grade at Gibbs High School, while the sixth-graders are running to their first period, worried about being late. They'll have a new campus and will discover themselves in the process. That's what I did!

After surviving Bay Point for three years, I have a lot of confidence about going on to high school. I know what the fights are like and how to stay out of them. I know what harassment is like from my friends, and from knowing this, I know I'll survive high school!

Bay Point is great, aside from the difficulties in the hallways. Some tips:

1. Make new friends.

2. Go in packs.

3. Learn to hold it (wink, wink).

4. Don't worry.

5. Have fun.

Seventh grade was the best and middle school goes by so fast. If you meet any kids that are going to Bay Point Middle School, tell them to have fun. I did.
-- Diane Tillis, St. Petersburg

Bicycling benefits far outweigh risks

This week, bicyclists celebrate National Bike to Work Week (May 13-17) and Bike to Work Day (May 17).

In December 1997, I recommended commuter bicycling. Here are things I've learned that can help participants:

Despite what some people say, many more Floridians than is commonly thought value bicyclists and wish they were commuting by bicycle. In one instance, a motorist mistreated me and a passing motorist actually took the time to hunt me down and give me the other motorist's tag number. The passing motorist was a man in a big, shiny truck. So much for those stereotypes.

Several safety studies show you have the greatest chance of a crash when you bicycle on the sidewalk and the least chance when you bicycle in a bike lane or the same lane as cars. That's because you're bicycling where the motorists are looking.

Put bicycling into perspective. Everything has risks. Failure Analysis Associates Inc. found per 1,000,000 exposure hours, the fatalities are 128.71 for skydiving, 1.07 for swimming, .47 for motoring and .26 for bicycling.

Each year in Florida, a great number more motor vehicle occupants are killed and injured than bicyclists. More pedestrians are killed and injured than bicyclists. But no one tells motorists and pedestrians "You'll get killed" or says, "I'll never be in a car again" or "I'll never walk again."

In the year 2000, no bicyclists were killed in St. Petersburg.

One health study found that if a person bicycles sufficiently often and at high enough heart rate, the bicyclist has a 41 percent lower chance of dying of heart disease and a 58 percent lower chance of contracting diabetes type II.

Cycling's health benefits far outweigh the risks.

For more information, visit the Florida Highway Patrol at www.fhp.state.fl.us/html/BST.htm.
-- Kimberly Cooper, St. Petersburg

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