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Letters to the Editor Archive

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 Letters Published in March 28, 2007 Issue

 

 

 March 28, 2007 - Letter submitted by Peg Mayhill, Knightstown

Knightstown has lost a devoted and valuable citizen, the late Marilyn Manning, who was employed by the town as secretary for Glen Cove Cemetery.

During her tenure, Marilyn brought all the cemetery records up to date and filed them in an order way, thus making her knowledge of all grave sites and their histories available to everyone. She was pleasant, efficient and always available to offer her help and to answer questions. She took her responsibilities seriously and did her utmost to ensure that Glen Cove would always be a well-documented cemetery.

I will miss Marilyn, the cemetery board will miss Marilyn, and Knightstown will miss her dedication to Glen Cove Cemetery.

We have another worthy citizen - fortunately, one who is still with us - one who deserves our appreciation for all the time and effort he so tirelessly gave during the early days of the Hoosier Gym.

Jim Zinkan spent many hours (and days) encouraging and working on the restoration of the gym, which, early on, was sadly in need of more than tender, loving care.

So whenever you see Jim Zinkan, be sure to thank him for his tremendous effort to preserve and maintain our town treasure, the Hoosier Gym.

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 March 28, 2007 - Letter submitted by Bill and Mary Gatewood, Carthage

We would like to thank the Carthage EMTs for their fast and efficient service in treating Mary and getting her to the hospital. We are very thankful to have this fine group of EMTs in Carthage.

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 March 28, 2007 - Letter submitted by John Hunt, D.V.M., president, Pure Fun Life Conferences, Inc.

The mission of Pure Fun is to create lasting impressions and influence moral choices through comedy and straight talk.  We believe that happened last Tuesday at the school assemblies and evening program.

Pure Fun came to Knightstown last Tuesday because there is a group called the Knightstown Pure Fun Team that planned and worked hard for a year to make it happen.  The objective of Pure Fun Life Conferences, Inc. is to empower schools and communities by bringing together people who have a desire to make good things happen - something we are doing in seven communities this spring.

There are three things that always go together in life - desire becomes reality if there is opportunity.  The members of the Pure Fun Team didn't need to be convinced to care about our kids because they already had the desire to do something positive for them - they only needed the opportunity.  And desire became reality last Tuesday when Ken Johnson and Ben Utecht of the Indianapolis Colts spent the entire day in Knightstown talking on several levels to teens and parents about making right moral choices.  The day was not only a lot of fun but also very effective in communicating the importance of every moral choice.

Ken Johnson was impressed by the energy and vitality he witnessed in the school assemblies and at the evening program and this from a man who has spoken to more than a million teens in schools all over the country.  Super Bowl Champion Colts tight end Ben Utecht thoroughly enjoyed his time in the community and gladly stayed after the program to sign autographs and have pictures taken.  Ben stayed long after the evening program to sign autographs because he appreciated the reception he received.

The Pure Fun Team has already begun to plan for Pure Fun 2008  with the desire to make it even better than this year.  Team members are: Mark Haase, Jarrett Hagy, Ryan McCarty, Bob Prescott, Vickie Rhodes, Randy Riggs, Don Scheumann, Dan Titus and Kristi Williamson.

My sincerest thanks to all the members of the Pure Fun Team for doing an awesome job their first year and to everyone who contributed in any way to the Pure Fun event.  I especially appreciate the friendship and support of The Banner in providing extensive front page publicity for the organization and event.

Let's do it again, and make it a big deal that this community cares about the choices our kids are making, because those choices will determine their destiny.

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 March 28, 2007 - Letter submitted by John Krull, IPCSPJ president and director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism

Two months ago, a sophomore student journalist at Woodlan Jr.-Sr. High School just outside Fort Wayne advanced a disturbing message in an opinion piece in the Tomahawk, the student newspaper.

She said it was a good idea to be nice to people, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Stunned, the East Allen County Schools administrators reacted.

Shortly after the piece appeared, they sent the newspaper's adviser, Amy Sorrell, a warning letter.  When the students on the newspaper staff wanted to meet with the principal, the superintendent and the school board, the school system's leaders, refused to talk with the students.

Then the school system adopted a new student newspaper policy that gave the principal the right to censor anything with which he might disagree and denied students, teachers and parents the right to contact a lawyer if they disagreed with him.

That wasn't enough, though.

The school system demanded that the principal review the next issue of The Tomahawk and that the newspaper print the new policy.  When the principal sent the newspaper back, he had gutted so much of it that the students voted not to publish what was left.

Then, on March 19, the school system suspended the newspaper adviser by putting her on paid leave and started the process of firing her.  When the principal visited the newspaper classroom to tell the students that the newspaper was to reflect his thoughts exactly, at least three students quit in protest.

The next night at a school board meeting, the board refused to let students, parents and teachers even talk about the situation.  When a parent asked under what part of Indiana law the board could refuse to let citizens talk about a public policy at an open public meeting, the board president said the question was out of order.

It's a good thing no student at Woodlan has had the audacity to tell anyone to "have a nice day."  The school's administrators probably would have resorted to mass expulsions.

Two months into this disturbing episode, at least two things have become clear.

The first is that this is not just a dispute about student journalists' rights.  When the school board refused to let parents - who are, after all, citizens and taxpayers - discuss a school policy at an open meeting, the school system's leaders made it clear that they like no part of the First Amendment.  They have just as much disdain for the constitutional guarantees of the rights to speak freely and to petition government as they do for freedom of the press.

The second is that these folks haven't thought things through. They have focused on the privileges of being a student newspaper's publisher and not the responsibilities.  By asserting that he is the publisher, Woodlan's principal, Ed Yoder, now has made himself personally responsible for what appears in the newspaper.  This means that, should the paper libel someone on his watch, that person could lay claim to Yoder's house, his retirement funds and any of his other assets.  Similarly, now that he has publicly disavowed the "be nice to people even if they are gay" column, he and the school could bear some liability if a gay student is harassed at Woodlan.

Real newspaper publishers understand those things, which is why they tend to think before they act. Censorship is the lazy person's response to dealing with thorny issues.  Like most lazy responses to challenges, it doesn't work.  The school system's leaders have not suppressed the message; they simply have divided their school system and wasted precious time and resources.

If the leaders of the East Allen County Schools ever want to integrate lessons into their schools about the ways journalists balance rights and responsibilities, the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists would love to help.

Student journalists need to learn about that balancing act.

And so do the administrators in East Allen County Schools.

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 March 28, 2007 - Letter submitted by Karen J. Mathis, President, American Bar Association and Joel Schumm, Chair, Indiana Death Penalty Assessment Team

In the three decades since Indiana restored the death penalty, the state has attempted to ensure a system both fair and accurate. Although some progress has certainly been made, Indiana's system remains riddled with flaws and lacks essential protections against fatal mistakes. It is time to take the time to set the system right.

For two years, a team of Indiana professionals, made up of a former governor, a state senator, a former prosecutor, defense attorneys and a law school professor, has been measuring Indiana's death penalty system against a comprehensive set of protocols developed by the American Bar Association. Of the 93 measurement points provided by those protocols, Indiana fully complies with only 10 and partially satisfies another 36. There may be others with which the state complies, but Indiana's team, which is well versed in the ways of the state's justice system, could not access enough information to determine if Indiana satisfies 24 protocols. It was abundantly clear the state does not comport with 21. The team's report may be accessed at http://www.abanet.org/moratorium/.

Regardless of whether one supports or opposes the death penalty in principle, and neither the ABA nor the team take any position on that fundamental question, we must be committed to achieving the highest possible level of assurance that it is applied correctly. None of us benefits from mistaken executions-not the victims nor their family members, and not the public which is deprived of knowing that the true culprit is punished for crime.

We in the ABA and the members of Indiana's assessment team, agree that if the government is to take a life, it must first provide justice throughout every stage of the proceedings, including the trial, appeals, and clemency proceedings. Justice is not simply swift retribution-it requires accuracy, due process and fairness, and the opportunity to verify that each of those qualities was present at trial.

Among other things, justice means that all DNA and other physical evidence must be preserved for as long as a death row inmate is incarcerated. As science advances, that evidence should be available for confirming testing. Currently, however, Indiana only requires preservation of biological evidence in limited circumstances.

Justice means that competent lawyers must be adequately trained to handle complex capital cases. While Indiana provides poor defendants with counsel, the only training requirement is a 12-hour seminar within two years of their appointment. Little is done to monitor the performance of lawyers in these important cases.

Justice means that similar offenders and similar crimes receive similar punishments. While most agree that the death penalty should be reserved for the "worst of the worst," Indiana does not have the procedures to make sure this happens. Prosecutors seek death sentences in only a few cases each year, and only a few of those result in death sentences. Even fewer of these result in an execution.

Imposition of the death penalty has been referred to as Indiana's "other lottery," and there is often no meaningful difference between those sentenced to life in prison and those sentenced to death.

Justice means a system without bias, whether based on race, income or geography. Yet the Indiana Criminal Law Study Commission found in 2002 that a criminal defendant is more likely to receive the death penalty if the victim is white than if the victim is African-American. The assessment team confirmed that of the 17 men executed in Indiana since 1973, only two had black victims.

Indiana's death penalty system should not tolerate injustice, unfairness and inconsistency. It is time to put a hold on executions in Indiana, while problems are addressed and corrected. Arrests can proceed. Trials can proceed. But executions must wait until justice is assured.

The residents of Indiana deserve a death penalty system they can trust to be fair and impartial. The legislature, the courts, and the executive branch each should do its part to ensure that the system works fairly and accurately.

 

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