Alternative schools needed to help zoned high schoolsThe...


November 07, 1998

Alternative schools needed to help zoned high schools

The problems at Southern High School, as stated in the article "It's a school, but the aura is of prison" (Oct. 30), are almost certainly not the problems of the hard-working and obviously over-worked staff and administration. The problem lies in the concept of large zoned high schools.

Zoned high schools have students who never attended middle school, never achieved at middle school or were too old or too difficult to remain in middle school. They did not have to achieve anything to be sent to a zoned school.

A typical zoned high school will have more than 200 special-needs students and hundreds of students involved in one way or another with the prison system.

Robert Booker, the city's public schools chief, is quoted as saying that he plans to open an alternative high school for disruptive students, possibly before the end of the school year. In addition, he should make sure that those schools that have plans for an effective Twilight School program get the resources necessary to have the program in place.

Furthermore, he should encourage, or rather insist, that principals drop, or find alternative placements, for students who disrupt the process and deprive our good students (the vast majority, by the way) of the education that they deserve.

Jonathan L. Jacobson


The writer is academy principal at Frederick Douglass High School.

Misbehaving children don't belong in paper

The Sun does not reveal the names of children who appear in Juvenile Court. Why is the coverage of misbehaving schoolchildren different? The stories will be equally interesting or dull with pseudonyms and the subjects less likely to be branded as evil or odd.

Dorothy Siegel


Pollard's punishment excessive for a spy

I am not sure what Alan Stubbs means when he states that Jonathan Pollard has been receiving hero treatment ("Hero treatment is improper for traitor Pollard," Oct. 28, letters to the editor).

Certainly after serving 12 years in prison -- much of that time in solitary -- of an unreasonably harsh life sentence, Jonathan Pollard has been treated more poorly than any spy in recent U.S. history, with the possible exception of those whose spying have led to the deaths of our operatives in foreign lands. Typically spies over the past 20 years have served sentences of two to five years.

Even more striking was the case of Michael Schwartz, an Army sergeant who spied for Saudi Arabia and received a dishonorable discharge with no imprisonment. What was the reason for a sentence for Pollard that exceeded the agreed plea bargain?

Was it the embarrassment of our intelligence services at their ineptitude, which, according to them, allowed Pollard to remove daily one cubic foot of file, equivalent to more than 40 pounds of material? Or is it a pro-Arab, anti-Israel bias in our intelligence and defense services?

Whatever the reason, Pollard has served more than sufficient time for his crime and considering similar breaches of U.S. security, excessive punishment has been imposed.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring

Support helped Dixon overcome hardship

I was struck by Paul McMullen's article ("On scales of heart, Dixon heavyweight" Nov. 3) on University of Maryland basketball redshirt freshman Juan Dixon.

Mr. Dixon has found a way to excel despite a childhood and adolescence marred by tragedy. His mother and father battled heroin addictions and ultimately succumbed to AIDS while their son was in high school at Calvert Hall.

Mr. Dixon has overcome the odds with the support of a wonderful extended family, great coaches and his own passion for success.

As a pediatric resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital, I have found that the hardships of Juan Dixon's childhood are not at all uncommon in Baltimore. The young man's achievements are amazing, and we should applaud him and his family. But we absolutely cannot forget that for every Juan Dixon, there are 10 other children who are not so lucky.

Kip Baggett


Wasted childhoods rare for gymnasts

There has been much media attention on the legal emancipation of 1996 Olympic gymnast, Dominic Moceanu. She feels that her earnings as a professional athlete were being squandered and misused by her parents.

This issue notwithstanding, I have seen a renewed attention over the issue of whether gymnastics may somehow detract from a young gymnast's childhood.

The gymnasts who appear in the Olympics and in professional shows are the exceptions. They are the extreme of ability, talent and dedication that are as evident at an early age as prodigies in any other field. The vast majority of gymnasts who attend classes and practices are in recreational levels of participation.

This is a sport that allows the athlete to experience multiple levels of achievement. Whether she learns a handstand, a cartwheel or qualifies for the state championships, reachable goals are available for every athlete.

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