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Letters to the editor: Later school start times, better results

Kashif Haynes, 14, sleeps on the 881 Pinellas County school bus during his two hour bus ride from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs High. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

He wakes up at 4:10 a.m. to go to high school | March 4

Later start times, better results

All the administrators involved in the decision that resulted in 14-year-old Kashif Haynes having to get up at 4:10 a.m. to get to Tarpon Springs High for the 7:05 a.m. start time should be required to read the new book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink. In the first chapter, he details how young people in high school and college are not biologically programmed to be alert and to learn at these early hours. They are experiencing major changes in their biological clocks: "They fall asleep later in the evening and, left to their own biological imperatives, wake up later in the morning."

But, like Pinellas County, most high schools or school districts around the country do not take this fact into consideration when designing school schedules. As a result, those sleep-deprived adolescents can experience more problems: obesity, weakened immune systems, depression, suicide, substance abuse and car crashes. Most importantly, however, those early school start times correlate strongly with worse grades and lower test scores, according to the research Pink reviewed. The Academy of Pediatrics has also weighed in on the issue with a 2014 policy paper calling for middle and high school start times no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

As a footnote, Kashif Haynes and his mother Toni Booker are to be congratulated on their diligence and fortitude in getting Kashif to the bus and subsequently to school on time most days. He sounds like an amazing young man, maintaining a 3.0 GPA, getting tutored and playing football. We should do all in our power to see that he succeeds in his dream to become a veterinarian.

Ann Queen, St. Petersburg

Teacher removed due to podcast | March 6

Facts must come first

I was disturbed that Rebecca Kaskeski, manager of the Hillsborough County school districtís Office of Professional Standards, said a teacher "shouldnít try to talk a student out of belief that climate change is a hoax or that the Holocaust didnít happen." While it is never a good idea to argue with a student, it is imperative that educators teach and continually reinforce the difference between fact and opinion.

Students may express opinions on gun control, abortion or other political issues, and debates in class are important in allowing students to form those opinions and to understand how facts can aid them in coming to a determination. However, it is a fact that climate change is real; the Holocaust did happen; and slavery is a part of American history. These facts are not debatable regardless of what a student learns at home. By not presenting this information as fact, teachers are doing students a disservice.

Anita Jimenez, Tampa

American democracy is failing | March 6, letter

Extremists on both sides

The letter writer says "the checks and balances that once kept our representative democracy from being overrun by the power elite and the extreme political factions they target and manipulate are failing." I agree. However, isnít it funny that the only examples given are those that are shared by those with more conservative views.

For example, President Barack Obama created a program for the "Dreamers" by executive order, even though he admitted earlier that it was not legal. When President Donald Trump tried to reverse that order by executive order (which is perfectly legal), judges with liberal leanings stopped it based on their own views instead of the law.

What about those cities and states that pick and choose the federal laws that they want to enforce? Many are asking for more regulations on guns. Instead of concentrating on guns, why not make our schools like business and government offices where you have only a few ways to get in and you have to have a good reason for being there and have identification?

The election of Trump was due mainly to people who felt the same way as the letter writer. The key is to find those in both parties who share views of those in the center instead of catering to those on the extremes. Unfortunately today, those candidates stand little chance of winning a primary or an election. There are plenty of millionaires and billionaires on both sides who spend billions to advance their own agenda in all avenues of government.

Tom Craig, Riverview

Posttraumatic stress

Help for first responders

Late in his 30-year career as Tampa firefighter/ paramedic, our son Stevie LaDue suffered from the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of accumulative stress overload. He was given time off for healing and restoration, but his workerís compensation benefits were soon denied because current law requires that there must also be a physical injury. Without receiving the counseling and emotional help that he so desperately needed, he had to return to work and pay back time missed. Sadly, this past September our family lost Stevie to suicide.

This week the Florida Senate and House of Representatives thankfully voted to change the law. With the encouragement of Stevieís extended family and the families of other first responders from across the state who have lost their loved ones to PTSD and suicide, both chambers of our legislature voted unanimously to approve a bill declaring first responders entitled to benefits for mental or nervous injuries, whether or not such injuries are accompanied by physical injuries.

We give thanks to Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Matt Willhite who introduced and steered the bills through the Legislature. It was a joy to witness bipartisan politics at work for the betterment of our communities and for the well-being of all first responders.

Linda and Ed Benoway, Lutz