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Poverty plays a complex role when teachers abuse students

Errant teachers vex poor schools | Sept. 29, story

Poverty plays a complex role in student abuse I work in child abuse prevention at Help A Child Inc., and there is more to this story. While this article highlights an important aspect of teacher misconduct, it completely overlooks a central dynamic in child sexual abuse.

Children who attend schools identified as high poverty are more likely to come from disadvantaged homes, where poverty, unemployment, substance abuse and neglect are common problems. These stress factors in the life of a child make them highly vulnerable to the interest of a predator.

Sexual predators, male and female, seek children who need, even crave, attention. These children may be willing to endure sexual contact in order to receive any attention. Predators offer many things to attract victims — money, gifts, outings and even the promise of love. Children under stress will often respond to these tempting devices.

While it is clear that high poverty schools may indeed have substandard teachers, children attending these schools are more likely to be susceptible to the advances of a sexual predator. In order to create sexual safety for children, from all economic backgrounds, every pertinent piece of the problem needs to be examined and solved.

Parents, be alert when an adult wants alone time with your child. Be alert if an adult gives your child gifts, money and special attention. Tell your children to come and talk with you if they feel uncomfortable with an adult. Listen and take action if your child discloses that an adult has made a sexual advance toward them.

Predators can be anywhere, not just in high-poverty schools. Parents (and children) need to be alert and stay informed in order to create sexual safety. For more information, go to or

Juliana Menke, M.S., St. Petersburg

Debate reveals an unprepared Palin | Oct. 3, editorial

Palin delivered a solid performance in debate

I watched the vice presidential debate with my wife on Thursday night and then read the Times editorial the following day. I asked my wife, "Did we watch the same debate as the editorial writer?"

Here are some highlights from the editorial describing Sarah Palin's performance: "clearly is not prepared," "absolutely incoherent," "rambling," "inarticulate," simplistic," "fumbling" and "Biden was the clear winner."

Are you kidding? You would think Palin was a drooling idiot due to a recent lightning strike. While Palin's twang was funky at times, her speech from a purely Toastmaster public speech point of view was solid and assertive. Biden's speech was solid as well.

I'm not sure when the St. Petersburg Times editorial staff became the flip side joke of Fox Network's "fair and balanced." I wish non-name calling BBC-style editorials were available in the local rags.

Jeff Hicks, Tampa

Debate reveals an unprepared Palin | Oct. 3, editorial

Responses were evasive

Your editorial analysis on the debate between the two vice presidential candidates was right on the mark! Gov. Sarah Palin was very evasive in giving direct answers to the moderator's questions, speaking in generalities that had no bearing on the subject matter.

Well, she may be a "Joe Sixpack" or a "heck" of a hockey mom, but she also needs a "darn" good hairdresser. With all that was said, she continually demonstrates that she's not the person to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. If so, this country better prepare for "more of the same."

Peter B. Ferrara Sr., Belleair Bluffs

Debate reveals an unprepared Palin | Oct. 3, editorial

Enough of the insiders

Your editorial continues to buy into the premise that only long-term Washington insiders are prepared to serve in the vice presidency.

I remind you that Washington "insiders" were guarding the henhouse when we devolved into the current situation.

I am more than prepared to offer a clear "outsider" an opportunity to "right the ship." The Democratic Party mantra is "no more of the same." Just what do they offer in their standard-bearers? Oh! Two more career "Washington insider" politicians.

F. M. Bennett, Homosassa

Jabs but no KO in debate | Oct. 3, story

Straight talk was missing

Sara Palin is quoted as saying, "I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people."

Exactly who did she think all of the people watching the debates were, the Russians she lives so close to? As a member of the American public, I was waiting for some of this straight talk. I heard nothing.

Julia Haggar, Palmetto

Disappointing coverage

What a surprise Friday morning when I picked up my copy of the Times. There on the front page was the headline: Star power, with a picture of Gov. Sarah Palin to the right.

Then I realized the headline was for the Rays' first win in the American League Division Series.

The happiness was gone as I read Adam Smith's column about the debate. Smith manages to take shots throughout the article about Palin, from "She never had command of the material the way Biden did" to "She made no apologies for avoiding direct answers …"

She did have command of her answers, answers she told moderator Gwen Ifill, Joe Biden and the audience that she was going to answer by "talking straight to the American people." She was right, while Biden at times looked confused.

Smith's shot at Palin for calling Biden "Joe" overlooked that it was done with his approval.

I watched the entire debate and the talking heads discussions that followed. Almost all I heard spoke to the manner Palin handled herself, her assuredness, her down-home forthrightness, her demeanor.

Polls are biased. On right-wing blogs, Sarah wins. On left-wing blogs, Biden wins. Which proves — what?

Salvatore Reale, Seminole

Biden prevailed

I am so glad that the editorial staff was paying attention to the debate, while its political analyst, Adam Smith, must have been watching a different one. Sen. Joe Biden delivered at least two or three KOs to Gov. Sarah Palin: the maverick sound bite challenge, McCain's deregulation stance and "more of the same."

While Biden cited specifics, Palin sounded as though she were competing in a beauty pageant. I don't understand Geraldine Ferrero's gushing about Palin's performance after the debate because she would have been more prepared to be vice president than Palin would ever hope to be.

People, please consider the position to which she is aspiring and consider John McCain's age. It's a scary thought.

Dee Nicholas, Tarpon Springs

Disaster was avoided

I was relieved that the Biden-Palin debate was not a train wreck for either candidate, and that both parties ably articulated their ticket's views.

Joe Biden did a fine job in articulating the Obama policies on the economy and foreign policy, and he stayed on point in a poised and knowledgeable manner when presenting his points and when he rebutted his opponent's comments. I thought he was effective in portraying the McCain ticket as four more years of the same failed policies of the current presidential administration.

Sarah Palin turned in an effective performance and played the consummate true-blue supporting role for the McCain campaign. At about the one-hour mark of the debate, Palin seemed to run out of material, and returned multiple times to her energy policy statements. Her discussions of economic and foreign policy were polished, but seemed to emanate from thorough preparation rather than from experience. She persistently cited her mayoral and gubernatorial experience in Alaska, a state somewhat atypical when compared with other states.

For me, the debate reflected that she is not sufficiently knowledgeable or seasoned to effectively assume the office of vice president.

Gerard Meyn, Dunnellon

The past offers lessons

During the vice presidential debate, Gov. Sarah lin of Alaska asked again and again: Why do you keep bringing up the past? John McCain and I are about the future. As she was telling us how she would use her experience with bipartisanship in Alaska to change Washington for the better, I remembered that philosopher George Santayana wrote: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

During the 2000 presidential campaign another Republican candidate, Gov. George Bush of Texas, told us that he would use his experience in working across the aisle in Texas to end the gridlock in Washington. How did that work out?

Palmer O. Hanson, Jr., Largo

Hillsborough County supervisor of elections

Slick offerings

I called last week for an absentee ballot. When I received an envelope from the Hillsborough Country supervisor of elections I mentally congratulated them for such prompt service.

But the contents turned out to be three really slick and expensive sheets of paper. They contained instructions on voting properly and exhibited a picture of Supervisor Buddy Johnson suitable for framing; a Florida voter registration application; and a peppy piece regarding school age voters-to-be on one side and on the other a picture of six voters, which was politically correct in almost every way.

That last piece was on paper so heavy, I shall use it as a bookmark. At my age it should last me the rest of my life. I had no idea how well funded the Supervisor of Elections Office is.

I would still like to have my ballot, though.

Nan Sawyer, Sun City Center

An effort to confuse?

My husband and I are registered voters and the other day both of us received voter registration applications in the mail from the office of Buddy Johnson, Hillsborough's supervisor of elections.

Johnson's office told me that they were sent to all registered voters. Why would the supervisor of elections send registration applications to someone who is already registered to vote? Is he trying to confuse the voters and make them question whether they are properly registered? Is he trying to get people to reregister and change their party affiliation? I'm sure this was done with taxpayer dollars, and I am very upset about it.

Susan Whitaker, Lutz

Safe haven laws

Consider an expanded law

Recently, Nebraska passed a version of the safe haven law that does not limit the age of the child being dropped off. As some feared, some teens have been dropped off at hospitals by their overwhelmed parents. The latest incident involved a widowed father of 10 who is unemployed and completely at a loss as to how to now care for his family. Nebraska's lawmakers are considering rewording the law to limit the definition of child to mean only infants, more similar to how our safe haven law is.

However, it seems every day there's a story about a neglected kid that breaks the hearts and minds of the public to the point that, I fear, we're numb to it now. Reading about what's happening with Nebraska's law, I wonder, would a more open safe haven law here be such a bad thing? If there's even the slightest chance it would reduce the number of neglected kids in our state, I think our lawmakers should at least look at it.

Kellee Quinn, Ruskin

Community should care

Shame on us as a community! Whether you live in Omaha or Clearwater, as Americans we should feel embarrassed and ashamed for letting a family of 10 children let nine of them slip through the cracks of a community that should have cared for them. This was a family going through a tragedy, a wife who died shortly after the birth of their 10th child, a couple that was married for more than 17 years with a mom who took care of the children and a dad who worked to provide for his family.

I do not personally know this family, but we should all know our neighbors, children in our schools, co-workers and extended family well enough that when we see a need we can act promptly to help, especially in a crisis like Gary Staton's. He had reached such a low point that he "fell apart" and "hoped their futures would be better without him around them."

Where are our values? I do not know of any men or women I think could "handle" the death of a spouse and the instant single-parenthood of so many children, without needing a lot of help from others. Maybe we will feel that blessing on America, the one we are always asking for in God Bless America, when we reach out to our neighbors, children in our schools, co-workers, and extended family and offer to bless them with caring hearts.

Susan Brown, Tarpon Springs

Making a big splash | Sept. 27, Homes story

Not right for hard times

The Clements family, whose spectacular home you featured in the Homes section, probably is a wonderful family. Nevertheless, your newspaper did the Clementses a great disservice by boldly "splashing" their ultra fabulous home and its accoutrements in the faces of those in the Tampa Bay area who are suffering and drowning in the wake of personal and business crises.

This was the worst possible time to feature the Clements' home — when a nearly trillion dollar bailout is being debated in Congress. My first reaction was close to tears, then came bitterness and finally, resignation. Please be more cognizant of the fragile financial situation in which Tampa Bay citizens find themselves.

Rose Vaile, Spring Hill

Poverty plays a complex role when teachers abuse students 10/03/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 5, 2008 9:40am]
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