Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

July 09, 2005

Judicial choice offers chance to unite the nation

President Bush has a unique choice. He can be loyal to his conservative base by choosing a conservative judge or he can place the unity of the United States above the desires of his conservative base by choosing a more moderate person ("For Bush, court pick could make history," July 6).

Many Republicans believe that the Democrats lost the election and should get over it; that those who lost are not entitled to anything, even though the country was split almost in half.

But the abortion issue might be a pivotal element in this nomination. And those who believe in abortion rights are in the majority and live in both red and blue states.

Can the Republican party risk alienating those who believe in abortion rights by nominating a conservative just to satisfy the conservatives?

When Mr. Bush became president I looked for him to fulfill his promise to unite us, especially after the fractious way he became president.

He has in fact become a uniter - by uniting those in opposition to him.

Now the president will have the opportunity to demonstrate whether he places the unity of his country above that of his party.

Jim Dow

Baltimore

Schools must act to stop truancy

While recent articles about the 13-year-old Baltimore boy charged with murder refer to a wide range of disturbing problems permeating this child's life, we are particularly troubled by the remarks of Pimlico Middle School Assistant Principal Raymond English.

Mr. English noted that the boy did not cause "havoc" at school because "he just didn't come to school" ("Boy tops rap sheet with charge of murder," June 29).

But what was the response of the school administrators, teachers, staff - anyone - when this child did not attend school?

Our guess is that Pimlico Middle School, like other under-funded and resource-poor schools in Baltimore, did very little, if anything. Yet we know that truancy is a sure-fire marker for juvenile crime and violent behavior.

Lack of commitment to school is a risk factor for substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy and dropping out of school.

Research data indicate that students who become truant and eventually drop out of school put themselves at a long-term disadvantage. High school dropouts are more than twice as likely, for instance, to be on welfare than high school graduates.

Decades of research have also identified links between truancy and later problems such as violence, marital problems, employment issues and adult criminality and incarceration.

Our schools must be equipped to provide the interventions necessary when a child misses school. They must talk to the child, and have the resources to visit his home and to work with his parents or caregiver to address the root causes of the child's truancy.

It is of utmost importance that school personnel are able to do this early and often.

If the school system had been able to intervene effectively and to provide critical services in those first few days when this 13-year-old boy missed school, Jerrod Hamlett might still be alive today.

And the accused child might be enjoying his summer vacation, instead of facing the possibility of a trial in the adult criminal justice system.

Barbara A. Babb

Gloria Danzinger

Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, the director and a senior fellow at the University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for Families, Children and the Courts.

Get past stereotypes to see Park Heights

Good neighbors in Park Heights should make the news, and I am privileged to know many of them.

In the same neighborhood in which The Sun reports that a 13-year-old child fatally shot a man ("13-year-old boy charged in fatal shooting," June 28), I know youth who rank in the top five academically at Northwestern High School.

I know a young person who left this week for Israel as a member of the prestigious Elijah Cummings Youth Program for future leaders.

And I know other youths and parents who have taught me to prize the generous spirit and hospitality of Park Heights' neighbors.

But I have been frustrated and saddened by The Sun's reporting on Park Heights. For instance, we have learned recently from reporters Ryan Davis ("Boy tops rap sheet with charge of murder," June 29) and Gus Sentementes that there are drugs in Park Heights ("Killing draws attention to kids on street," June 30), few married people and, worst of all, that everyone they interview apparently smokes cigarettes.

But rather than feed stereotypes, let us feed action.

Can we have some debate about the responsibilities of Pimlico Middle School, where the boy accused in the shooting "just didn't come to school"? Can we learn more about the city master plan for Park Heights?

And can we hear more about good neighbors, because, in fact, we are all neighbors of the Park Heights community.

Adam Donaldson

Baltimore

Commandments uplift our spirits

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