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Letters to the Editors

Law school at FAMU will be racially diverse

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2003

Re: Jim Crow is given a new outfit, by Bill Maxwell, Feb. 2.

The misuse of facts in Bill Maxwell's column was a slap in the face to Florida A&M University students, faculty and staff.

When Maxwell stated that FAMU College of Law "graduated only 57 students... " between 1951 and 1968, he failed to mention that in 1950 there were only 15 African-American lawyers in Florida (1950 U.S. Census). In 17 years, FAMU College of Law helped to increase the number of African-American lawyers in Florida by 300 percent. He fails to mention the outstanding graduates such as state legislator and former president of the National Bar Association Arthenia L. Joyner, former Florida Secretary of State Jesse J. McCrary Jr., and U.S. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings.

FAMU College of Law was wrongfully closed in 1968 by the Board of Regents (then Board of Control) so that a state law school could be established at Florida State University. Without the closing of FAMU's College of Law, there was no justification for another state law school in Tallahassee because white students could attend FAMU. In North Carolina, Texas and Louisiana, historically black law schools were permitted to admit white students and continued after integration. FAMU alumni, administrators and supporters introduced bills in the Legislature and proposals to the Board of Regents to restore the College of Law for the last 30 years.

In describing the newly established FAMU College of Law, Maxwell stated, "... -- a second-tier institution -- will become a virtual ghetto, while UF's law school will become whiter." Instead of contacting the College of Law to determine its racial makeup, he quotes an unidentified source in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education to the effect "... that blacks would take up most of the spaces of the new law school."

First, in no way is FAMU a second-tier educational institution. FAMU College of Law is designed as an additional option for all prospective students in Central Florida who cannot afford to leave the region to attend a state law school and/or must work full-time while attending law school on a part-time basis.

FAMU College of Law must comply with American Bar Association standards for accreditation just like the University of Florida. The entering law school class of FAMU is quite diverse. The 2002 entering class includes 56 full-time day program students and 33 part-time evening program students. Over 55 percent of these students are African-American and Hispanic. Forty-two percent of these students are white. Jim Crow educational segregation is not being re-established. On Sept. 2, 2002, The St. Petersburg Times reported that the "[a]dministrators at the state's eight other law schools... said the number of minority students this fall did not drop significantly as some predicted" (Minority enrollees flock to law schools).

Having graduated from Harvard Law School and taught at Duke Law School, I can assure you that the law taught at FAMU College of Law is the same as the law taught at Harvard and Duke.

Bill Maxwell can speculate all he wants about historically black law schools being "second-tier institutions," but our students, faculty and administration are proud of our institution and its history. We invite Maxwell to visit FAMU College of Law, meet our faculty and students, and review the plans for our new building. Construction will begin this summer.
-- Percy R. Luney Jr., dean, Florida A&M University, College of Law, Orlando

Highlighting plight of the mentally ill

Your newspaper deserves special commendation for your continuing series by various staff describing the special people in our community and their needs and lack of sufficient support. The Feb. 27 article "What went Wrong?", written by Lane DeGregory and researched by Caryn Baird, provided an excellent report on the challenges faced in the community by persons with mental illness. It followed other similar stories by your reporters over the past several weeks. You highlighted two important deficits in the system: Crisis Intervention Training for our police officers and lack of community support for families. The Crisis Intervention Training program is expanding to all parts of our area, but having access to a trained officer is difficult at the present time. We have some excellent agencies in the Tampa area that are designed to provide the needed support, but the level of public funding and high staff turnover have limited the availability of this service.

Advocacy organizations, local chapters of National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, operate in most areas of Florida, especially the Tampa Bay area. In Pasco County, our chapter operates as a support and advocacy group with membership made up mainly of parents or other caregivers who meet twice monthly and devise plans to improve the support of individuals with mental illness living in the community and the agencies who serve them.

Thank you, on behalf of persons with mental illness and staff and families involved in supporting them. As the newly elected president of the Pasco chapter of National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, I have worked with persons with disabilities at the federal, state and local level and I have a real appreciation for the need for public understanding and support.
-- Claude W. Whitehead, New Port Richey

Help is available

Re: "What went wrong?"

I read the article in the Feb. 27 Floridian, regarding the mentally ill patient Peter Nadir. Millions of people are affected by mental illness. Some get help but others roam endlessly without help. This is nothing new, yet today there is so much opportunity for help. You just have to search for it. This illness can be managed through medication, finding the right psychiatrist, supportive family, and a therapist or therapy groups. All it takes is a willingness to stay well.

There is a group called Recovery Inc. It is a self-help training program that gives all walks of life and the mentally ill recovery tools to be able to handle everyday life. Please inform the community that groups like this are key factors in surviving.

Awareness, education and taking responsibility to manage the illness are the keys to survival. There is no hopeless case.

In regard to closing institutions, it has left many people on the streets or in the jails. Hopefully, more places like Boley or supportive families can provide refuge for the mentally ill.

I hope for the future that not only police officers will be educated but also patients will choose survival tools to overcome and manage their illness. Hope is a phone call away. For information check out Recovery online or call Recovery at (727) 525-1749.
-- Jennifer Engelhardt, Largo

PACE is a good investment for Florida

I am the president of the board of directors for the PACE Center for Girls Inc. in Hillsborough County. Over the past few weeks, the St. Petersburg Times has written a number of articles regarding Gov. Bush's proposed budget and its impact on PACE. I just wanted to thank the Times and your writer, Michael Sandler, for your continued coverage of PACE.

PACE is a statewide program that provides remedial academic services, crisis intervention and therapeutic counseling to almost 5,000 girls throughout the state of Florida. These 5,000 girls have suffered from, among other things, excessive truancy, sexual and physical abuse, drug addiction and poor school performance. Through its program, which has been recognized by the American Bar Association as a model program for addressing girls' issues in the juvenile justice system, PACE provides these girls with a sense of confidence and hope, and builds strong, confident and productive community participants.

The average annual cost for treating a PACE girl is $8,150. The average annual cost for housing a girl in a residential/incarceration facility, the only alternative for most of these girls, is $43,000. Simple math demonstrates that PACE is a good investment.

Unfortunately, the governor's current budget eliminates all local prevention, day treatment and intervention services, including PACE. Unless funding is restored to PACE:

PACE's 19 centers and three outreach programs will close July 1.

Almost 5,000 high-risk girls and their families will no longer receive services.

Almost 19,000 annual volunteer hours by PACE girls will disappear.

PACE's 335 staff members will become unemployed.

Florida will lose a national model for a gender-responsive girls' program.

PACE is vital to public safety and families in our community and throughout the state. Florida is suffering from an epidemic of girls entering the juvenile justice system. We cannot shut the doors of PACE.
-- John A. Schifino, Tampa

Someone to ease the grief

Re: A gown for Lindsay Rose, Feb. 28.

I cried for a long time after reading Thomas French's very moving article about the Spittka family and the painful loss of their baby girl. It is comforting to know that people like nurse Lois B., who lovingly sews her tiny white gowns, are there to alleviate some of the overwhelming grief that accompanies such an unspeakable event. We all need to be reminded of those who quietly go about helping others in their time of need.
-- Tricia Seigne, Lutz

Heart-warming work

Re: A gown for Lindsay Rose, by Thomas French, Feb. 28.

The work Lois Bineshtarigh and the staff at East Pasco Medical Center do is heart-warming. The time she takes in sewing the "little angel" clothing and her care in preparing these babies for the "farewell visit" with the parents is thoughtful and loving.

I wish Lois B. had been there for me: It was a different time (Sept. 19-21, 1967) and a different place (St. Joseph's Hospital in Lorain, Ohio) but pain, sadness and heartbreak were the same. I would have loved to have had the chance to hold "my little angel" and say goodbye. He was a beautiful little boy (6 pounds, 141/2 ounces, 21 inches long) and looked perfectly healthy. I will never get over the loss and sadness, or ever forgive and forget the hospital and staff. I feel the emptiness.

But Lois B. is helping other parents overcome their loss at the worst possible time of their lives.

Thanks to Thomas French for writing a lovely article, as sad as it may be.
-- Gayle Evans, St. Petersburg

Thinking of others

Re: A gown for Lindsey Rose.

I was so touched by the wonderful article by Thomas French. He must be a very caring person to write such a touching story of Lois Bineshtarigh. It is such a pleasure to read of someone in our troubled world who thinks of others rather than themselves. What a wonderful woman she must be. We need more of this type of reporting. Thanks, Thomas.
-- Lucille Brim, Largo

The tears flowed

Re: A gown for Lindsay Rose.

After reading this article, I'm still crying. When God placed nurse Lois Bineshtarigh and the employees of East Pasco Medical Center on earth, he was just showing off. To writer Thomas French, an uncut diamond, no doubt readers will be standing in line to nominate his writing for a Pulitzer Prize. And the Kleenex company owes him for the tissues that were sold because of this story.

St. Petersburg Times, you have never stood so tall. God bless you.
-- Ed Kelley, St. Petersburg

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