State of black males
Mentoring program offers help overcoming obstacles
As I reflect on the condition of black men and boys in America, one would be hard pressed to find a more endangered species.
According to the Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2012, Florida's graduation rate for black males was approximately 47 percent. Only six states reported a lower graduation rate. If less than half of the black males eligible to graduate from high school are in fact graduating, what outcome should we expect for the 53 percent who do not graduate?
Although black males represent less than 9 percent of Florida's population, they comprise 47 percent of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and 46 percent of the Department of Corrections incarcerated populations. Criminologists have long recognized the correlation between lower educational attainment levels and the likelihood of incarceration.
At the urging of the Florida Caucus of Black State Legislators, the 2013 Florida Legislature approved and Gov. Rick Scott signed a state budget containing a small down payment toward changing the trajectory of black males in Florida. The funding of the Situational Environment Circumstances mentoring model served notice that Florida's consistently low graduation rates and high incarceration rates for black males are unacceptable and unsustainable. It also recognizes that an effective educational system at the front end could reduce the nearly $3 billion taxpayer-funded budgets of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and Department Corrections.
The University of Florida College of Education has partnered with Florida's historically black colleges and universities to implement the SEC mentoring model and conduct research on effective black male engagement strategies. Select students from these institutions will mentor minority male elementary-age students attending low-performing schools. The mentors and mentees will share similar family, socioeconomic, community and educational backgrounds. This will allow mentors to provide real-life examples of educational achievement and the tools needed to overcome social and educational obstacles.
No single initiative or program will immediately resolve the issues and problems that have negatively impacted black males for generations. However, our collective failure as a community, state and nation to address the systemic threats to the survival of an irreplaceable segment of the human race is and should be unacceptable the greatest nation in the world.
Randy B. Nelson, Crawfordville
Harassment policy infringes free speech June 4, editorial
As a former Education Department lawyer, I agree with the editorial urging the Obama administration to "reconsider its directive" ordering the University of Montana to define "any" unwelcome speech about sex as harassment, even "innocuous references to sexual topics."
In response to criticism from newspapers, the administration is now backtracking, sending emails to free speech advocates saying that it does not intend to require universities to punish the "mere expression of views, words, symbols or thoughts that some person finds offensive." But it has failed to incorporate this recognition of First Amendment rights into its directives to the University of Montana.
It needs to do so, since such speech is protected by the First Amendment under federal court rulings like DeJohn vs. Temple University. That 2008 ruling struck down a college harassment policy that banned speech that offended some listeners but was not "objectively" harmful to the educational process. Even "indecent" college speech is protected by a 1973 Supreme Court decision.
The Education Department continues to insist that "unwelcome sexual" speech be reportable — as opposed to punishable — as "sexual harassment," for purposes of college grievance and complaint processes, even if the speech is not severe enough to violate federal sexual harassment laws, and is protected by the First Amendment. But a prolonged investigation of speech can violate the First Amendment even if it does not lead to formal discipline, under federal court rulings like 2000's White vs. Lee.
Hans Bader, Arlington, Va.
Stuck in a bunker mentality June 6, commentary
It starts at the top
The culture of any organization is directed from the top down. Military people will obey their commanding officer when they know he is serious, but not when they detect a "wink."
President Barack Obama, as commander in chief, could end this debacle overnight by making it very clear that if it is not fixed immediately, five-star generals will be fired.
An 80 percent reduction in 90 days would be an appropriate target before he starts firing admirals and generals.
Leonard C. Silva, St. Petersburg
At 84, she's $278M richer | June 6
Now, just leave them alone
After reading the article about the winner of the big lottery, I am convinced that she and her son are interested in maintaining their privacy. Therefore, to respect that privacy, I will read no more articles about them. I hope that you discontinue writing about them.
That a journalist followed the car from Tallahassee to Jacksonville went way over the line.
Larry Bush, Lutz
Airline pulls 100 teens off flight to Six Flags June 5
In reading about the 100 students removed from a plane, I was appalled at the excuses made by school chaperones. The statement that they weren't behaving that badly speaks volumes about this age of entitlement. These students should not have been behaving badly at all.
The airline was right to hold them accountable to the same rules everyone is required to follow.
Carol Caleca, St. Petersburg
Gay pride ban repealed | June 6
Try a little tolerance
I am astounded by people who shut out the facts because of their personal prejudices.
At a tavern last night I overheard a patron going on about the unfairness imposed on regular people, like him, by the County Commission's repeal of the gay pride ban. He pontificated that the county was now going to spend his tax dollars to promote homosexual agendas.
The action was about "recognizing" gay pride, not about spending money on gay issues or events.Biogtry at all levels can be fraught with ignorance.
Arthur Eggers, Tampa