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Letters to the Editors

Teacher involved parents in choice of novel

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 27, 2001


I read with mixed feelings the report in the St. Petersburg Times (Sept. 19) on an eighth-grade language arts teacher's use in her class of the award-winning adolescent novel The Chocolate War. The parents of one of the students judged the book to be inappropriate. While I do not fault a parent's right to object to a part of the school curriculum he or she finds offensive, I am concerned that we may be missing an important aspect of this issue.

I read with mixed feelings the report in the St. Petersburg Times (Sept. 19) on an eighth-grade language arts teacher's use in her class of the award-winning adolescent novel The Chocolate War. The parents of one of the students judged the book to be inappropriate. While I do not fault a parent's right to object to a part of the school curriculum he or she finds offensive, I am concerned that we may be missing an important aspect of this issue.

In advance of introducing the book to her students, the teacher made a deliberate effort to inform parents. It's obvious to me that the teacher is intelligent enough to recognize the book's potential to create the kind of controversy in which she now finds herself embroiled; nonetheless, she apparently was committed to the value of the book. So she did the prudent and responsible thing. She sent a note home with her students, asking the parents to give their child permission to read the book. How often do we, as mature adults, recall one of our teachers inviting our parents to participate in the process of judging and selecting curriculum content? Furthermore, the teacher "encouraged (her students) to discuss information with their parents and encouraged their parents to read (the book)."

We can argue First Amendment rights and Supreme Court cases until the proverbial cows come home, but let's not fail to recognize the efforts of a teacher to democratize the education process, to include the voices of parents in making informed decisions about ideas which some may find objectionable. Isn't this what the phrase "freedom comes with responsibility" is all about?
-- Herb Karl, Clearwater

Domestic abuse victims need protection

It was reported recently that Christopher Vietri, the biological father of "Baby Sam" Johnson, has been accused of abuse a second time by a second partner, a woman who felt so much fear that she left her 4-year-old son, Nicholas, with Vietri, her alleged abuser. It was later reported that Mrs. Vietri had united with the Johnsons against Vietri's gaining custody of Sam.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this particular case, it brings up many important issues for people to consider. In the United States, 20 percent of adult women have experienced abuse at least once by a male partner, and an additional 3.3-million children will witness domestic violence between adults in their home. Further, nearly half the men who abuse their female partners will also abuse their children.

We know that children are emotionally damaged by just living in a home where domestic violence occurs. That damage is often made worse by a separation from either one or both parents. In a case in which a mother flees in fear, a young child would miss her and be confused about where she is and why she left. Young children cannot understand that their mother might be too afraid to stay with their father and literally unable to take them with her when she leaves.

Here in Pinellas County, the undersigned organizations and many others are working more closely together than ever before to protect the safety and sense of security of all victims of family violence, and hold the perpetrators accountable. As part of that effort, we are also working to improve our response to children who are not physically abused themselves but who are witnesses to violence. But we can't do it alone -- we need the community's help.

If you know of people being hurt or scared by their partners, give them the number to CASA (727) 898-3671 or the Haven (727) 442-4128 and let them call safely from your phone.

If you suspect a child is neglected or abused, call toll free 1-800-96ABUSE (1-800-962-2873) to report it and let the experts figure out what to do to help that child. Those who are experiencing what Mrs. Vietri is reporting should not have to choose between their own safety and being with their children. And children should not have to witness one of their parents hurting or scaring anyone, especially their other parent.

We're continuing to seek ways to prevent these situations and to help the people already in them -- and we strongly urge more people in our community to get involved in these efforts.
-- Linda Amidei, the Haven of RCS, Clearwater; Patsy Buker, Help A Child Inc., Pinellas Park; Wendy Loomas, Pinellas County Health Department Violence Prevention Program, St. Petersburg; Linda Osmundson, Center Against Spouse Abuse (CASA), St. Petersburg; Frieda Widera, Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force

Salvation Army offers aid in disaster

Re: Salvation Army disaster relief.

As a member of the Upper Pinellas County Advisory Organizations, I have observed the services provided by this international organization at the point of need and at the time of need.

I was not surprised to learn that within one hour of the devastating attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Salvation Army had mobilized its emergency disaster teams and was present at the disaster site, available and ready to serve. In addition, the Salvation Army response teams were called to service at the Pentagon and at the site of the tragedy in Pennsylvania.

Working around the clock in New York City, 15 mobile canteens (feeding units) are currently serving the needs of emergency workers, as well as family members of the disaster victims. More than 100,000 meals per day have been served. The Salvation Army is providing grief counselors to assist bereaved families, and emotional and spiritual counseling is being provided at strategic locations adjacent to the sites. A nationwide telephone network is now in operation to offer emotional and spiritual support to persons affected by this horrific event.

We appreciate the support that President George W. Bush has given to the various charitable organizations that are working in this present emergency situation. The Salvation Army needs our prayers, our moral support and monetary gifts. Monetary donations to the Salvation Army may be made locally at: the Salvation Army, 1625 N Belcher Road, Clearwater, FL 33765, or by calling (800) SAL-ARMY (725-2769).
-- Carol E. Lowrey, chairwoman, Salvation Army Advisory Board of Clearwater

Couple offer part of next IRS refund

Both my wife and I are senior citizens. She is a caregiver, and I am on Social Security disability; therefore, do not have much we can offer our country in this time of great tragedy. But we have just posted a letter to the Internal Revenue Service in the hope that it will aid our country and nation. A portion of this letter is as follows:

"It is our desire that you (IRS) allocate 25 percent of our tax refund for the year 2001 for any financial need you may deem necessary to assist our nation during this terrible time. Our country has helped us in the past; now it's time we helped it."

God bless America.
-- Jim and Jan Leahy, Clearwater

Resident laments loss of American flag

Since Sept. 11 the entire nation has been displaying the American flag and other patriotic bunting to show our colors. This is being done with pride and to announce our solidarity with the leadership of the United States.

But we in the Kylemont development within Lansbrook in East Lake have had our American flag and some bunting stolen. These items were put up with pride and care. They have been stolen by some individual, identity unknown.

So when your child comes home with an American flag, ask that child where they purchased it and/or who gave it to them. Then, sadly, I ask you to verify that in fact that is the way your child acquired that American flag.

It's bad enough that there will be those who will burn that emblem of our country, and it is even worse when there are those who will steal the American flag so they can display their patriotism to others. Strange world we live in.
-- H. Patrick Wheeler, East Lake

Memories of washdays past

Re: Laundry days once were filled with flapping sheets, sweet smells, letter, Sept. 18.

I enjoyed the letter regarding memories of laundry drying outdoors on clotheslines. The writer asks, "Do any of you remember?" Yes, I do!

I remember the sheets and towels freezing stiff. I remember a frozen bedspread slamming into me once, nearly knocking me down. I remember my father's long johns freezing, and standing them up in the furnace room to thaw. I remember the "curtain stretchers" and the pins pricking my fingers. I remember my three sons' diapers on the line -- no disposables!

This was a nice walk down Memory Lane.
-- Dorothy E. Karkheck, Palm Harbor

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