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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

A shift of gears on abuse scandal?

I second The Sun's words about Pope Benedict XVI's candor and "gradual but repeated references to the despicable actions of priests who sexually abused the church's most vulnerable members have resonated through the ranks of the American church" ("A visit of substance," editorial, April 22).

The pope's emphasis to the American bishops on "their role in protecting youngsters, a responsibility that some in the past neglected," gives me hope that church leadership here in the United States will lend its support to legislative changes sought in states such as Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Colorado and Ohio that would make it easier for victims of abuse to hold their abusers accountable and will instruct the Catholic Conferences in those states to do the same thing.

The sexual abuse of children is not a problem of the Catholic Church alone by any means. But I hope Pope Benedict's stern words to the bishops may signal a sea change and move the bishops to become more proactive in supporting necessary changes in the civil laws.

I love my church and hopefully await actions from the bishops that indicate they will take seriously Pope Benedict's mandate.

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, New Castle, Del.

The writer is an educator and an advocate for abuse victims.

State needs slots just to compete

Debating the good and evil of slots in Maryland is an exercise in stupidity ("It's Democrat vs. Democrat in latest slots fight," Commentary, April 20).

The undebatable reality is that slots exist and that they are readily available in states around Maryland's borders.

Banning slots in Maryland in an attempt to legislate morality or for some other foolish reason will not and can not keep Maryland citizens away from slots or gambling.

Some of us would not cross a room to play slots. But we all know that large numbers of Maryland residents will gladly cross the whole state to play slots.

In the process, they are spending Maryland dollars in neighboring states for slots, horse bets, food, beverages, lodging, fuel and taxes.

Wake up, Maryland, and keep Maryland dollars in Maryland.

Elliot Deutsch, Bel Air

Slots foes overlook our revenue needs

I don't frequent casinos in neighboring states. I'm not morally opposed to casino gambling; it just doesn't interest me. However, the stance of some slots opponents puzzles me.

Although I respect their moral opposition to slots, their lack of practicality is breathtaking ("Rhetoric heating in slots battle," April 17).

Pennsylvania recently legalized slots. Now all we need is for Virginia to follow suit and we will be surrounded by states that have legalized slots gambling.

Keeping slots illegal in Maryland may be morally upright, but it won't fill the state's coffers - as our neighbors rake in money from our citizens.

I think legalized gambling is an unfortunate way to bring in income. Still, some folks in this state need to wake up.

Ken Leary, Carney

To keep taxes down in Maryland, we need slots.

Many of the states around us have slots, and people from Maryland are going there instead of keeping their money here.

And it is not state Comptroller Peter Franchot's job to tell us what to do with our money.

Gerald A. Yamin, Pikesville

Did coverage cuts cause revenue loss?

I found The Sun's article about the decline in horse race betting interesting ("Wager drop 'troubling' for Jockey Club officials," April 18).

Has anyone considered that one of the reasons for the decline may be The Sun's lack of coverage of racing?

I used to go to the track more often when The Sun printed the daily races and results.

Since The Sun stopped that coverage, I only go on special days when major races are run.

Many horse race bettors are probably older and prefer the paper to online information.

The Sun's lack of coverage is probably a direct reason for some of the lost racetrack revenue.

Alan Rudo, Pikesville

City's schools should be havens

Recent incidents of school violence are deeply disturbing and should be cause for concern to everyone in our community. While violence in our society is not new, our response to the recent incidents should be immediate and comprehensive.

As these events unfolded, I spoke with many prosecutors and reviewed the types of criminal and juvenile assault cases our office receives from the Baltimore public schools.

I learned that the Baltimore state's attorney's office prosecutes very few assault cases in which teachers are victims.

This is, in part, the result of a Maryland law that requires that if a second-degree assault occurs outside a police officer's view, it is up to the victim to file a citizen's complaint or charges against the perpetrator, depending on his or her age, either with a judicial commissioner or with the Department of Juvenile Services.

Most incidents in our schools occur outside the view of school police officers, which means that most school staff members must navigate the juvenile justice or criminal justice system on their own to pursue a complaint.

And most teachers and school staff members who are attacked do not follow up to file charges.

Prosecutors also tell me that some teachers have confided that they are not encouraged to file complaints, fearing retaliation or that filing charges might jeopardize school performance ratings, or fearing the time and energy required to pursue a court case.

Teachers are entrusted with the responsibility of shaping the minds of those in whose hands our future rests. They deserve our respect, admiration and support.

Additionally, many of our children navigate violent and tumultuous streets and neighborhoods on their way to school.

Our schools should be havens of safety and security for students and teachers.

We need to hold students accountable for their misbehavior and criminal wrongdoing and send a strong message that violence in any form in our schools will not be tolerated.

Patricia C. Jessamy, Baltimore

The writer is state's attorney for Baltimore.

Pay people to help keep schools safe

Baltimore schools CEO Andres Alonso's call for 500 volunteers to step forward to serve as mentors, tutors and security aides is a step in the right direction ("City schools seeking helpers," April 15).

However, although volunteers for mentoring and tutoring can be trained in a relatively short time, I believe that those who will help with security need to have a security background.

To that end, I suggest that the system actively recruit retired police officers, correctional guards and military personnel. I further propose that these folks be paid a reasonable hourly salary and be allowed to participate in the school system's health plan at no charge.

Without a safe and secure environment in the schools, little or no learning is taking place.

A small amount spent on additional security would bring huge benefits in learning.

Marc Raim, Baltimore

Gun trace is just routine police tool

The Maryland Association of Firearms Retailers does not in any way condone criminal behavior involving firearms, especially by licensed retailers. Furthermore, we understand and absolutely agree that no firearms dealer is above the law.

That said, it is important for Sun readers to understand that according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, firearms traces are nothing more than a law enforcement tool - one whose use in no way indicates criminal wrongdoing by a firearms retailer ("Closed store is source of guns," April 15).

Thus firearms traces do not themselves make a gun dealer a "rogue dealer."

Carl W. Roy II, Upper Marlboro

The writer is president of the Maryland Association of Firearms Retailers.

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