Saturday Mailbox


July 31, 2004

Partnerships can boost kids with disabilities

Parents of children with disabilities and advocates for such children are also concerned about the large number of students with disabilities who did not meet the Maryland School Assessment's standards ("Special-education students struggle to pass state exams," July 22).

The results of these tests reveal the need for partnerships between families, educators, administrators and community members to design special-education programs and support services to improve the academic achievement of students with disabilities.

To this end, the Maryland State Department of Education has proposed regulations to establish Special Education Citizen Advisory Committees in each school system. They would be based on the Special Education State Advisory Committee, which is required by federal law.

In Baltimore, Howard and Carroll counties, such committees have been effective mechanisms for addressing special-education issues, planning improvement measures and improving communication with families. Yet a number of county school superintendents are opposing the proposed regulations.

Why wouldn't a superintendent want to work in partnership with families to improve students' outcomes?

Parents of children with disabilities and other concerned citizens want to be at the table to help implement the reforms necessary to ensure children with disabilities achieve academically and in life.

Without such partnerships, students with disabilities will continue to fail and families and communities will feel the repercussions.

Catriona Johnson


The writer is director of public policy initiatives for the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council.

The right leadership for social services

In the wake of the recent firing of the Howard County Department of Social Services' deputy director ("Howard DSS deputy fired after criticism," July 13), the Maryland chapter of the National Association of Social Workers is more concerned than ever about the commitment of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s administration to ensuring qualified social workers are hired to fill DSS positions around the state.

Our concerns also come on the heels of the recent pronouncement by Judge M. Brooke Murdock that the Ehrlich administration unlawfully appointed Floyd R. Blair as interim director of the Baltimore City Department of Social Services; Mr. Blair is not a social worker ("Ehrlich, mayor in standoff over social services post," July 22).

We strongly encourage the governor to do more to ensure that licensed, trained social work professionals are in the positions where they are needed, particularly when it comes to leading the Baltimore DSS.

It is not enough to say that you care about the most vulnerable children in our state - our government must also have the right leadership to ensure that our children and vulnerable adults receive the services they so badly need.

We are also concerned that not enough is being done to fill vacant positions in social services departments around the state. Child welfare social workers, in particular, are overburdened by excessive caseloads, leading to burnout and a high rate of employee turnover.

Janice Fristad


The writer is executive director of the Maryland chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Cosby's contempt did prompt anger

Thomas Sowell's column "With friends like these" (Opinion Commentary, July 25) practically implies that the only responses to Bill Cosby's ill-considered comments on the black poor were "applause from some in the black audience who heard him" and belittling cheap shots from white "liberals" such as Barbara Ehrenreich. But Mr. Sowell presents an absurdly oversimplified picture.

Some blacks in the audience were discomfited or angered by Mr. Cosby's remarks. Perhaps many in that overwhelmingly middle class audience are (like Ms. Ehrenreich and socially conscious Americans of all colors) quite fed up with the constant mocking of the poor and the powerless.

Many probably felt that Mr. Cosby's comments were simplistic and stereotypical - comments that would readily (and rightly) be recognized as racist if made by a white person. Or maybe they were upset by Mr. Cosby's seemingly elitist contempt for the beleaguered masses of blacks.

Belittling scorn and mockery of ordinary black people has long been a fashionable American pastime. How sad that it's now a favored sport of our privileged Negro elite.

Robert Birt


Blows to marriage harm our children

Gregory Kane is right, as usual.

The issue of homosexual marriage should be shifted to solid ground by putting the relevant facts, not feelings, on the table for debate ("Barring same-sex unions is in the state's best interest," July 21).

One-man, one-woman marriage is the unique indispensable institution that turns children into competent citizens, with religion providing the necessary moral substrate.

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