Put discipline in parents' hands
Florida is one of just 19 states that permit corporal punishment in public school. The Florida Department of Education defines corporal punishment as "the moderate use of physical force or physical contact by a teacher or principal to maintain discipline or to enforce school rules."
According to the U.S. Education Department, in the 2005-06 school year, 7,185 students were hit in Florida; in the 2006-07 school year, 29 school districts in Florida used corporal punishment.
Banning corporal punishment could improve the mental health and academic achievement of Florida's youth. States that have banned corporal punishment have higher test scores and graduation rates. Based on findings from the Center for Effective Discipline, a ban on corporal punishment could decrease the number of fatal school shootings in the state, decrease violence against teachers, and could lower adult incarceration rates. A ban could also decrease aggression, antisocial behavior, and poor mental health outcomes among students.
Corporal punishment teaches children that violence is a way to solve problems. In Florida, instead of the parent, schools have the power to determine how a child is disciplined. It is time to ban this ineffective method of discipline and put the rights back in the hands of parents.
Jennifer Bleck, MPH, Tampa
Clout behind medical pot | March 18
We live in a small mountain town in Colorado for four months each summer. Medical marijuana has been available there for several years. There have been absolutely no negative impacts that we have seen.
Every day the newspaper prints a police blotter report from the day before. There is the usual for a small town — noise complaints, traffic violations, the occasional petty theft, and bears in backyards during the fall. On weekends there are frequently arrests for public intoxication and DUI. We have never seen a mention of marijuana problems.
There are two clinics in town and they are carefully regulated. The products are locally grown and must meet certain standards. If a patient doesn't want to smoke (a wise decision), the product is available in various edible forms. Marijuana has been around a very long time and would seem to have few side effects if used carefully. The managers of the clinics report that they have been able to wean patients off much more dangerous drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin. This seems like a good thing.
Supervised use of medical marijuana makes a lot of sense to me.
Faith Alford, St. Pete Beach
Detainee hunger strike spreads at Gitmo March 26
We're still fighting a war
As a family member of one our troops who was deployed and dealt personally with these prisoners more than once, I don't care if the prisoners eat or not. Why should I feel sorry for people who want to kill and destroy the United States? Why are we spending tax dollars to force-feed these prisoners? Do you think that if the shoe were on the other foot that they would try to save an American's life by hospitalization? I can assure you, they wouldn't be bothered.
I am, however, sorry that it is taking so long to decide these prisoners' fates. But I am certain they are not being detained without justifiable reason.
Don't forget: Our military is still fighting this war. In case you are not aware of this fact, pick up the paper every week and read the dead and wounded list. It isn't getting any shorter.
Wendy Wilson, Brandon
Get to bottom of bail bond abuses March 23, editorial
Bail contract basics
As a bail insurance underwriter, I would like to offer a clarification to this editorial.
First, I agree the state should crack down on agents who wrongly seek to avoid paying forfeiture when a defendant fails to appear in court. But it's not always that easy.
There are instances where a defendant is hospitalized, rearrested or otherwise in custody and is not able to appear. In these examples, any rational person would agree that the forfeiture does not need to be paid.
It is important to understand that a bail bond is an appearance bond, not a performance bond requiring the bail agent to make sure, for example, that the defendant shows up for work or avoids inappropriate behavior. To require the agent to babysit the defendant 24/7 is not only a physical impossibility, it would amount to kidnapping.
The fear is that some courts are now holding that a bail agent would be responsible for paying the forfeiture even when the defendant is already in the custody of the state. The supposed logic is that the agent should have prevented the defendant from committing another crime (or getting ill?). That is not what the bail contract says, and the only practical way to prevent someone from committing another crime is to incarcerate that defendant. Yet it was a court decision to allow the defendant to go free in the first place.
Let's be careful in painting with too broad a brush that every time a defendant "skips town," a forfeiture must be paid.
Deborah Jallad, president, Accredited Surety and Casualty Co. Inc., Orlando
Eroding the rights of 'Roe' March 23, editorial
'Roe' a conservative ruling
The political far right has long misjudged the historic Roe vs. Wade decision, which strengthened fundamental values enshrined by thoughtful conservatives. The 1973 decision limited the role of big government. It expanded both the freedom and responsibilities of individuals. It enhanced the position of women and their unique relationship during pregnancy with informed medical care. In doing so, it also enhanced basic rights of privacy.
So too did the court, after hearing much testimony from different viewpoints, strike a reasonable balance between the sometimes colliding — and often complex mixture of — roles of government protecting society and the rights of a free people living within that society.
Nor are the extremists right in misinterpreting the decision as a permit for murder. Indeed, the decision protects the fetus that is viable and capable of life outside the mother — while also protecting the life of the mother during pregnancy.
Conservatives rightly want to stay vigilant against overweening government power that intrudes into the daily lives of free men and women. Roe vs. Wade, which in no way forces any woman to have an abortion, did and continues to empower impressive time-tested conservative principles.
Laurence J. Paul, Nobleton