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 Letters Published in February 4, 2009 Issue



 February 4, 2009 - Letter submitted by Lindsey, Darlene, Lucas and Tori Steinwachs, Carthage

 Dear Editor,

The family of Justin Ryan Steinwachs would like to thank everyone for the thoughts and prayers through there time of grieving. Thanks to Hinsey-Brown Funeral Service employees that comforted us and made everything so nice. Special thanks to John Henderson and Reverend Jack Hannum. Special thanks to Dana True, Connie, Ruth Richarson, Vada Hildabrand and Jeanie Sorrel for getting the food ready after the service. Very special thanks to George and Vicki Jones for the special gift they give us. And thanks to both sides of our families that helped so much. We appreciated all the donations for Justin’s daughter, Tori. I know I am leaving people out, but we want to say thanks to each and everyone of you!

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 February 4, 2009 - Letter submitted by Rex Bell, Hagerstown

 Dear Editor,

The California Second District Court of Appeal has upheld the decision to award James Stevens $2.4 million because of some sexual harassment that occurred at his work place. Apparently Mr. Stevens was offended by it, and didn’t feel like he should be subjected to such treatment on the job. I’m sure a lot of people would feel that way.

I think he was expecting a little more money, though. The initial award from the jury was $18.4 million. On the other hand, Linda, down at the coffee shop, says if it wasn’t for the sexual harassment, she wouldn’t even bother to show up for work. I suppose we all have different expectations in our lives.

Back at Millville Grade School, my old pal Stinky Wilmont was tickled if he managed to get a C on his report card. In gym. I felt the same way if I managed to pull off a B, but that snooty Bernice Hawkins expected to get A’s in everything.

When I order a cheeseburger, I’d like for the lettuce to be at least some shade of green, and I hope that the bun isn’t. Other than that, I’m not too picky. I do know a person that almost always sends her meal back to the kitchen for a redo at least once when the waitress brings it out. Again, different expectations.

The outcome of our last election was influenced greatly by peoples’ expectations of what their government should do for them. Some people expect a lot. Others, not so much.

Being a Libertarian, I’m one of those that doesn’t expect a lot. Libertarians think government should exist to protect its citizens from force and fraud. We’d like our road use taxes spent on roads, and the taxes we pay for education spent on education. And if you’re not bothering somebody else, we think the government ought to leave you alone. As I said, we don’t expect a lot.

Unfortunately, at least for the limited government crowd, people who don’t expect much have been in the minority for the last several elections. At one time, people were pretty much expected to take care of their own retirement. Then, at some point, people started expecting the government to take care of part of their retirement. We’ve now reached the point where a whole lot of people expect the government to take care of all of their retirement.

People used to expect banks to make loans to people that could afford to pay them back. Now they expect banks to make loans to people that can’t afford to pay them back, and then they expect the government to bail-out the bank and the borrower when the deal falls through.

Not to long ago, people expected businesses to provide a product or service for consumers, and expected them to succeed or fail based on their ability to figure out which product or service the consumers wanted, and how to provide that product or service at a profit. Now they expect the government to spend trillions of dollars on businesses that couldn’t figure out either.

The problem is, expecting government to pay for our every wish costs a lot of money. The national debt doubled in the last eight years, and it’s on course to more than double again in the next eight years. We’re handing a multi-trillion dollar debt down to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I’m just not sure they’re expecting it.


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 February 4, 2009 - Letter submitted by Bill Stanczykiewicz, President & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute

 Dear Editor,

While the election of an African-American President truly is a giant leap for mankind, a recent Indiana report reveals that we still must take many complex steps to reduce disparities between black and white youth.

The report, issued by the Indiana Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services, describes how minority youth – especially African Americans – are overrepresented in the state’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems as well as in school discipline cases.

For example, children of color make up 19 percent of Hoosiers under the age of 18. Yet these youth represent 40 percent of the children in foster care and 42 percent of juveniles who are arrested. In school, African American students are four times more likely than their white classmates to be suspended and twice more likely to be expelled.

While the numbers are clear, explanations are complicated. Are these disparities caused by negative individual behaviors? Or by weakening family structure? Or by diminished community influences? Or by less access to economic opportunity? Or by problems within the public welfare, education and juvenile justice systems?

According to a landmark study conducted by Robert Sampson of the University of Chicago and Janet Lauritsen of the University of Missouri, the answer to these questions is, “Yes. All of the above.” They note that researchers tend to look at “concentration effects” which “are created by the constraints and opportunities that the residents of inner-city neighborhoods face in terms of access to jobs and job networks, involvement in quality schools, availability of marriageable partners and exposure to conventional role models” in family and community.

What about racism? Examining racial disparities through the lens of criminal justice, including juvenile crime, Sampson and Lauritsen found, “Racial discrimination emerges some of the time at some stages of the system at some locations, but there is little evidence that racial disparities reflect systematic, overt bias on the part of criminal justice decision makers.”

The description of public officials and service providers as “decision makers” is instructive. Think of a basketball referee deciding on a close call between a “block” and a “charge,” or a football referee determining if the clutch of an offensive lineman really constitutes “holding.” Similarly, teachers, officials and caseworkers in education, juvenile justice and child welfare often have latitude and several options to choose from when assessing behaviors and then determining levels of service or the severity of a penalty.

The Indiana commission examining the racial disparities in youth services focused heavily on these “decision points” in the various public systems. Appointed by the governor and the General Assembly, the commission included officials from state agencies, members of the legislature, educators, criminal justice officials, service providers, nonprofits and charitable foundations.

After examining research and hearing testimony at town hall meetings across the state, the commission issued specific recommendations for child welfare, education, juvenile justice and mental health along with a broader set of recommendations for all youth-serving public agencies.

For example, the commission recommends that all assessment tools become objective and consistent and culturally sensitive, with cultural competency training available for all individuals who work with children and families of color.

The commission also recommends greater diversity within the professional staffs of child-serving systems. And the commission calls for prevention strategies to limit how far minority youth fall into these systems by developing methods of early intervention and by increasing the communication and collaboration among public systems, community organizations, religious congregations and social service providers.

The unique influence of family and community strategies is highlighted in the “State of Our Black Youth” report published by Indiana Black Expo (IBE). For example, in the area of child welfare, IBE calls for community-based parent training and support programs along with greater use of grandparents and extended family when out-of-home placements are made.

To reduce juvenile crime, IBE’s recommendations include increased support for youth development programs, such as the Boys and Girls Club, and expansion of conflict resolution and anger management programs for children and youth.

The numbers are clear, the reasons are complex and the solutions are many. If we want to reduce racial disparities among youth in education, child welfare and juvenile justice, significant effort will be needed in public systems and from private citizens to produce change we can believe in.



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