Tightening eligibility is a bad ideaWith reference to the...


December 15, 1996

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


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


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.

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