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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Students vie to get bill on state docket
By LETITIA STEIN, Times Staff Writer
Published January 12, 2008
TAMPA - If Hillsborough students got to write the law, several School Board members soon could be looking for new jobs. Erin Jones, a senior at Gaither High, thinks they should face term limits.
Hillsborough's lawmakers are listening.
In today's fourth annual Ought to Be a Law Competition," high school students make their pitch to a panel of Hillsborough legislators. The winning idea advances to Tallahassee as a bill that Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Lutz, and Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, will champion during the spring session.
Don't discount students just because they lack experience. Last year, a Hillsborough High teen brainstormed House Bill 1161, the High School to Business Career Enhancement Program. Now in law, it allows students to gain internship experience with local businesses.
"We do have the power to make others aware," said Cynthia Gomez, an 18-year-old senior at Riverview High. "Students nowadays don't realize that they have power in what goes on in our country. Giving them this opportunity just opens up so many doors."
She's tackling a controversial issue in a proposed law granting drivers' licenses to undocumented immigrants. Win or lose, she hopes to raise awareness to struggles like those of her parents, now legal residents, when they came to the country years ago.
"Just by shedding light on the issue, I'm getting something done," she said.
This year's competition features widely ranging proposals. Plant High's nomination - an act to require defibrillators in businesses - cites the applicable section of Florida statute. Leto High's submission, a heartfelt essay entitled "FCAT ... A Fair Chance for Everyone" would let some students learning English take the standardized test in their first language.
Gaither High's call for School Board term limits targets the adults setting the rules that students have to live with.
"It's a wonderful thing that members want to be a part of the school system for so long," the proposal said, "but seniority does not always mean that they know what's best for today's students and teachers."
"We're not trying to insult the School Board," said Erin Jones, the soon-to-be 18-year-old student who came up with the idea. "There's many different political parties that have term limits, so why shouldn't they?"
As in past years, safety and driving are themes in several proposals. Hillsborough High students want to see more testing and requirements for drivers. Chamberlain High would make drivers' education mandatory.
"You may grow up and never have to do algebra or calculus ever again," the Chamberlain proposed law said, "but you will drive for the rest of our life."
Letitia Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 226-3400. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.
If you go
Ought to be a law
The competition runs from 9 a.m. to noon today at the School Board offices at 901 E. Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa.