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Tightening eligibility is a bad ideaWith reference...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Tightening eligibility is a bad idea

With reference to the recently implemented Howard County Board of Education policy, I would like to express my opposition to minimum academic standards for participation in extra-curricular activities in schools for the following reasons:

1) If the extra-curricular activity is an integral part of a child's education, how can a school justify using that part of the educational experience as a prod toward better achievement in another area? Would you deny a child math class because he/she was doing poorly in history?

2) If the extra-curricular activity is not an important part of a child's education, why should taxpayers be asked to bear the burden of this enormous expense? Why not relegate the activities to neighborhood recreation groups and ask the users to bear the expense? Most school budgets are in dire need of additional funds.

3) Denying extra-curricular activities because of poor grades sends a message to a child that math or science class is not supposed to be enjoyable. The message is that these areas of learning are intrinsically unpleasant to the extent that society needs to coerce students to participate. Most pre-school children love all types of learning. It is not until they join the public school system that kids develop a dislike for learning. This type of policy sends a horrible message, as does bribing kids to get good grades. The system is telling kids that these subjects are supposed to be unpleasant experiences and that message gets absorbed until hopefully as adults, they rediscover the intrinsic joy of learning.

4) When a child is removed from an extra-curricular activity because of poor grades, it not only punished that child but also the innocent members of the group to which that child belongs. He/she may be an integral part of a team, theater production or other group which may not have an adequate replacement.

5) It is impossible to uniformly apply the policy to all activities. Those activities which occur in the fall, for example, are completed before the first grades are released. They are effectively exempt from the policy. Other activities such as basketball will span two grading periods, making those athletes, simply by their choice of activity, far more susceptible to the policy than others.

The point is, if an educational activity is expendable under any circumstances, why are taxpayers being asked to support it at all?

Paul H. Belz

Lutherville

Trial changes significantly impact victims

This letter is in response to the publicity generated by your paper surrounding what has come to be known as the "Howard County Library rape."

As victim advocates, our role is to support the victim through the trauma resulting from and following sexual assault, and help the victim navigate the system, which is in no way "victim-friendly." While we unconditionally uphold the Constitution's guaranteed right of the accused to a fair trial, we ask for equal consideration of the victim.

Whenever a major change suddenly occurs in a trial, such as a change of venue and postponement of the trial date, the effects can be devastating. The emotional resources the victim has summoned to prepare for the trial are significant, and in some cases, are lost as a result of postponement.

Sexual crimes are unique in the continual revictimization of the victim. Placement of blame, stigmatization and shame are burdens victims frequently carry. High-profile cases increase the emotional trauma to the victim and their family. We must address the public's right to be informed with sensitivity, heightened by the youthful age of the victim.

The costs to society, the victim, the county and even the accused are emotionally inestimable and financially burdensome. It is incumbent upon us all to recognize our shared social responsibility in matters such as this.

Deborah Barnett

Columbia

The writer is president of the Board of Directors of the Howard County Sexual Assault Center, Inc.

Ho, ho, ho, it's Santa Glendening

"Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas!" I cannot decide whether Gov. Parris Glendening's stint as Santa Claus is merely a belated Halloween celebration or an early Christmas act. Nevertheless, am not impressed with his recent proposal to cut the Maryland state income tax by 10 percent.

It seems that after two years of opposing every attempt to provide tax relief to working families in Maryland, Mr. Glendening has had a change of heart. As a supporter of tax relief, I should be excited like a small child anxiously awaiting the chance to open gifts on Christmas morning. But I am neither excited nor anxious.

In 1994, Mr. Glendening opposed Ellen Sauerbrey's proposal to allow Maryland families to take home more of what they earn. Over the past two years, he has made taxpayer-financial stadiums and his own campaign fund-raising a priority, rather than the pressing problems facing Maryland. As a result, he was ranked as the nation's most unpopular governor.

Parris Glendening is not serious about giving tax relief to Maryland families. He is only serious about getting re-elected. Marylanders are not fooled by Mr. Glendening. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. Mr. Glendening is a tax-and-spend politician, no matter what costume he wears.

Marylanders have a gift for him, too. Her name is Ellen Sauerbrey. Mr. Glendening will be "home for the holidays" in 1998.

Brian Meshkin

Glenwood

Never surprised by the arrogance

I have to admit that even though I made a determination to never allow myself to be surprised by the arrogance of our legislators in Annapolis, I am totally surprised and disgusted with the present state of affairs.

State Sen. Michael J. Collins apparently has forgotten that a supposed "business meeting" that justifies a lobbyist contribution is not a "family affair" that should allow the participation of the representative's spouse.

I, for one, demand equal time from "my" representative that the lobbyist supplies to his employer. When our "representatives" openly flaunt their disrespect for the feelings of the voters of this state, it is time the voters remove every one of them from office.

The ethics committee should be advised a representative should not accept any gift from any source that the poorest of his constituents could not supply for the same purposes. It is past the time that moneyed lobbyists should be stopped from abnormal influence in our "representative" government.

Sewell R. Marsh

Columbia

No gangs in Howard? True, but

According to Howard County Police Chief James Robey, there are currently no gangs like the Los Angeles Crips or Bloods in Howard County. This is not to say, however, that there is no juvenile crime problem in Howard.

In 1994, 69 juveniles (ages 10-17) were arrested for violent crimes and 1,588 juveniles were arrested for non-violent crimes. (Some of the 1,657 youths arrested did not live in Howard County.)

That same year, there were more than 56,000 people under the age of 20 who lived in Howard County. As a community, We cannot afford to ignore this problem, but at the same time we must do more than just acknowledge that the problem exists. Instead of raising the fear levels, we need to develop programs involving the total community -- senior citizens, parents, the faith community, public libraries and schools, to name a few.

We must spend our time, energy and resources to make sure the talents of our youths are not wasted. Sponsor more drug and alcohol prevention programs in middle and high schools.

Open high schools after school and during summer. Allow student access to the library, gym and computer rooms.

Consider starting school later in the day. This will reduce the time between school and parents arriving home from work. Statistics show that the afternoon hours between 3 and 6 p.m. is when juvenile crime is the highest.

Solicit volunteers and senior citizens to teach our youth games HTC and activities that don't employ violence.

Sponsor book and movie reviews in the public libraries after school.

Consider building putt-putt courses in Columbia and go-cart courses somewhere in Howard County.

Encourage parents and adults to be involved in public safety sponsored dances and activities.

These are just a few suggestions that could be considered to slow the advancement of juvenile crime. Most of these proposed solutions may require a small realignment of the budgets of the Columbia Association and the county. A partnership with the business community must be a part of the solution. Parents, volunteers and seniors will have to participate to bring about a reversal of juvenile crime and to minimize cost. With a real commitment by all involved, we can set a national trend that could be adopted by other communities.

Frank S. Turner

Columbia

The writer is a delegate representing Legislative District 13A.

Pub Date: 12/15/96

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