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Honest DebateI was extremely pleased to read...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Honest Debate

I was extremely pleased to read Michael Burns' column July 17 about Baltimore County School Superintendent Stuart Berger. While I totally disagree with his diatribe, and I was shocked that Mr. Burns would put Dr. Berger's daughter into the fray, I was very pleased by the article.

My pleasure stems from the fact that Mr. Burns is incredibly honest. The debate about the Baltimore County school system is not one about communications, style or implementation, but rather about fundamental educational policy.

Mr. Burns raises a number of issues worthy of debate. Certainly, people are entitled to differing opinions about inclusion, the school breakfast program, the demotion of certain administrators, and the school calendar.

What is appalling, however, is for those people to disguise legitimate substantive disagreement as a matter of style.

The reason that this subterfuge has been taking place is that most people refuse to admit that they want the school system to remain status quo.

Unlike Mr. Burns, those individuals do not attack the placement of all-day kindergarten and the breakfast program in only some schools. Nor will they take the position that no one should be demoted under any circumstances.

There are many interest groups within the Baltimore County school system who, for various reasons, cling to the status quo.

Those groups have done a wonderful job of convincing the public that the only problem is that Stuart Berger is a poor communicator and a poor implementer. Actually, the opposite is the problem -- Stuart Berger has communicated his programs quite clearly and has implemented them effectively. His opposition understands all too well.

Implore everyone on all sides of the educational issue in Baltimore County to be as honest as Michael Burns.

If you disagree with the changes that are being proposed and implemented in Baltimore County, or if you agree with the changes, state your case and support it with reason and logic. Personal attacks just won't make it.

Jane Gordon

Glen Arm

Tax Liens

Your excellent article June 30 regarding the 779 non-taxpaying high-income earners should be augmented by information on the uncollected billions of dollars due the federal and state governments by the countless numbers of people who have enormous tax liens which have not and probably will not ever be collected.

A concerted effort by the government entities to successfully collect these obligations may not eliminate the deficit but certainly would result in a substantial reduction of this huge millstone.

Norton B. Schwartz

Pikesville

Keep Giving

Laura Lippman's article on panhandling (July 8) referred to Downtown Partnership of Baltimore as "encouraging people to stop giving . . ." That's not the case.

Before our intent is misunderstood, we'd like to set the record straight. In fact, our message is: Keep giving. Give more. Just give differently. Give your dollars to service providers who can make a positive difference in people's lives.

No one's interests are served by perpetuating people living on the streets.

Giving directly to a person on the street may actually be hurting, not helping. It may be feeding an addiction or prolonging problems better attended by professionals.

Additional services are desperately needed to help people break the cycle of homelessness. The act of giving is to be encouraged, but give to where it can do the greatest good.

Laurie B. Schwartz

Baltimore

The writer is president, Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc.

Sour Lemons

Your readers should not be taken in by Public Citizen's so-called "study" of nuclear power plant safety ("Peach Bottom among GE's nuclear safety 'lemons,' group says," July 9).

Obviously, by definition any ranking of 100 nuclear power plants will have a top 50 and a bottom 50 -- but that doesn't mean that the plants are unsafe. Public Citizen deliberately uses a "slice and dice" approach to its report to try to create that false impression.

Objective studies of U.S. nuclear power plant safety show that:

By every indication, these plants have continually improved their performance over a 12-year period beginning in 1980, and more than half of the world's 25 most efficient nuclear power plants and 40 percent of the top 25 nuclear electric generators are U.S. units.

It's too bad that this group of anti-nuclear activists won't tell the public the whole story about nuclear power plant safety and performance -- available from the public record -- but picks only the bits and pieces that suit Public Citizen's agenda.

Phillip Bayne

Washington

The writer is president, U.S. Council for Energy Awareness.

Sexual Harassment is Pervasive in Schools

The American Association of University Women takes issue with Everett Carll Ladd's June 24 column, "Figures Don't Lie, But Liars Figure." The arguments in the column are as tortuous as the title.

As painful as it is to dignify his broad swipe at AAUW and all others who dare to commission polls, we believe it is essential to set the record straight because the stakes are too high to ignore it.

Ladd suggests the survey is flawed and expresses shock that such acts as unwanted sexual comments, jokes, gestures or looks could constitute sexual harassment.

He concludes then that since the Harris survey for the AAUW's Educational Foundation "lump(s) minor events such as being exposed to an unwanted sexual remark from another student, with major violations such as being coerced to have sexual intercourse," the findings are "wildly out of step with the findings of other surveys." He mentions one survey which asks teen-age girls to supply their own definition of sexual harassment.

"Hostile Hallways; The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in America's Schools" is the first scientific survey of student sexual harassment. After careful scrutiny by the New York Times survey and demographic department, the AAUW survey passed with flying colors. One must wonder if Ladd even saw the questionnaire, let alone the poll results.

Last year the AAUW Educational Foundation released "The AAUW Report: How Schools Shortchanged Girls," a landmark study on gender bias in the schools.

While collecting data for the 1992 AAUW report, researchers discovered that reports of sexual harassment were increasing. To our surprise, no comprehensive attempt had been made to quantify school-based incidents nationwide.

AAUW then commissioned Louis Harris & Associates to conduct the first nationally valid survey on sexual harassment in the schools to verify anecdotal reports and provide a scientific baseline for solutions.

In conjunction with academic experts on sexual harassment and polling experts, sexual harassment was defined as unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior that interferes in one's life.

In order not to capture mutually desirous behavior, the definition made clear that sexual harassment is not behavior that you like or want, such as wanted kissing, touching or flirting.

Using the above definition, the survey asked students about their experiences and identified 14 types of physical and non-physical behavior ranging from unwanted sexual comments and gestures to having one's clothes pulled off to being forced to do something sexual.

The survey results in the report are startling. To our genuine surprise, the survey's findings revealed pervasive sexual harassment. Four out of five students surveyed said they had been sexually harassed. In fact, 85 percent of all girls and 76 percent of all boys experienced some form of sexual harassment.

Even more shocking, two-thirds of all boys and half of all girls admit to sexually harassing a peer. Sadly, for many students sexual harassment is a big deal and has deleterious effects on them.

Although sexual harassment takes its toll on all students, girls are harassed more frequently and suffer greater educational, emotional and behavioral effects than boys. One-third of girls who have been harassed are afraid, don't want to speak up in class and don't even want to go to school.

Contrary to what Ladd argues, sexual harassment in the schools is a serious problem. It is hoped that rather than ignoring sexual harassment, the Harris survey for AAUW's Educational Foundation will serve as an impetus to schools and the community to investigate and institute appropriate education and action.

Marsha Howes

Cockeysville

The writer is president, AAUW Towson Branch.

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