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School failed to protect rape victim

Protect kids from bullying | May 13, commentary

School failed to keep boy safe

In response to Juliana Menke's article, I want to say that she went right to the heart of the problem: lack of proper supervision. Unlike the Hillsborough school superintendent's response, which did not address the real problem, Menke exposes the fact that for 35 "in-school days" this bullying had been going on, and no one on the staff had noticed anything until a coach finally saw an altercation outside the building.

I retired from teaching in June 2008, from both private and public schools, and most recently from five years in the Florida public schools. It is unimaginable to me that no one in that school saw anything. Keeping our children safe is the first priority of any school, and this child's school failed him miserably. Anyone on a school's staff must be watching the children, and their behavior at all times — yes, the secretaries, janitors, cafeteria workers, substitutes, everyone.

This school and, I would hazard a guess, all others in this district, need to be given some immediate education on how to spot and treat bullying. These incidents should never have happened and with the proper training they would not have happened.

It is not the responsibility of a 13-year-old to "talk about it." It was the responsibility of the school to know about it. I am ashamed to have to write this letter but until our schools treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves and our staffs are better trained, I am afraid this disease will be allowed to continue.

Richard Schmitt Jr., Floral City

Celibacy requirement for priests is outdated May 13, commentary by Myriam Marquez

The celibate life is a beautiful gift to Christ

As a young Catholic woman seeking entry into a convent, I feel compelled to comment on Myriam Marquez's column regarding celibacy for priests.

Far from being an "outdated requirement," as Marquez states, the celibate life is a beautiful reminder of the chaste but abundantly life-giving presence of Jesus Christ. A reminder such as this is very powerful and yes, even relevant, in a society drowning in not-so-subtle messages that sex is the spice of life that no one can possibly live happily without.

The poor example of Father Alberto Cutié and a small number of other priests does not invalidate the beautiful and necessary witness of the celibate life any more than adultery invalidates the sacrament of marriage and the example faithful married couples give to the world.

As an aspiring religious sister, I look forward to taking the vow of chastity so I may conform more closely to Christ and his Virgin Mother and the self-sacrificing lives of service they lived. The vow of celibacy is not a suppression of sexuality or a turning away of God's gifts, as Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade suggests, but a joyful gift of self to Christ and his church.

Instead of calling for an end to the celibate life, let us pray that priests and religious people may remain faithful to their vows so all may see what a thrill it is to belong to Christ.

Elizabeth A. Sheridan, New Port Richey

Celibacy requirement for priests is outdated May 13, commentary by Myriam Marquez

Remember obedience

Father Alberto Cutié may be a cutie, but the column bringing up his vows of chastity should have given equal time to his vows of obedience.

It is pretty obvious from his interviews on TV shows that he has little concern for his vow of obedience. But then maybe he thinks his God-given role of media star is more beneficial than his self-chosen role of priest.

I am a Catholic. I am proud of priests and bishops who are willing to give their all for the church. Perhaps Father Cutié will one day want to return to his duties of the priesthood, and throw himself at the feet of his bishop who can find a role for him more attractive than media star.

Apparently that will require a change of heart on father's part.

Kathy Lambert, Dade City

Vows are binding

Father Alberto Cutié's affair has reignited the debate about priestly celibacy. We need to be careful, however, that when we talk about the celibacy of the priesthood, that is what we are debating.

The church's teaching on chastity — following the teaching of Jesus and his followers — is clear: Unmarried people are not to have sex. Father Cutié's relationship does appear to violate his vow to celibacy, but first it violates God's plan for sexual intimacy to be sacred and protected by the marriage bond.

While I disagree with allowing the majority of priests to marry, I do agree that the question is legitimate. However, if a current priest is struggling with his vow of celibacy, it does not remove the binding nature of the vow.

I wonder if priests who leave the priesthood over the issue of celibacy would not have trouble remaining faithful to marriage vows if they were allowed to marry. Fidelity to vows, whether to celibacy or marriage, are made of the same basic "stuff" — faith and dependence on God's grace.

Antoinette Rispoli, Clearwater

DCF must do better | May 12, editorial

A horrible failure

"Poorly functioning"? Good grief, man, when I stumble on the way to my letter box, that's poorly functioning. When a 7-year-old hangs himself in a foster home, that is an indication of unmitigated, outrageous, horrible disconnection between caregivers and their awareness of their responsibilities.

Nor is this the first indication of the rot that pervades the Department of Children and Families. And it's not only the section that deals with children. Remember the mentally ill patients sent to a jail cell instead of a treatment center?

By all accounts, DCF Secretary George Sheldon is an honorable man. But DCF has gone through years of crisis after crisis, which does not allow him to develop a vision of what he wants to do with the agency.

I have had some personal experience in a similar situation in another place at another time. Two things need immediate attention. The DCF has too many responsibilities. A first step would be to assign the mental health functions to a separate department. This would leave the Department of Children and Families to focus on the clientele indicated by the agency's name. The second would be to upgrade the standards of the agency's staff. There is an obvious lack of professional orientation and service when a "caseworker" "documented" an event that never actually happened.

Much work will have to be done to accomplish this. It will take strong leadership from a governor with the assistance of forward-looking legislators. Floridians will have to support these efforts through public advocacy groups.

Yes, it will be expensive. But it will reduce the likelihood of more patients in jail, and definitely reduce the number of suicides by 7-year-olds.

Mortimer Brown, Lutz

School day deal reached | May 9, story

Good for the students?

Why are teachers in their chosen profession? Hopefully the answer is to teach. Is it in the best interests of our students to release the students an hour early on Wednesdays for the next three years?

Yes, the students will make up the time on the other four days, but is this rational? What will elementary school parents do on those early release days? We all realized abbreviated days were a waste of time and were not even allowed this past year.

Now we want to give teachers an extra hour of planning each Wednesday? Let's be honest: Is it in our students' best interest?

Linda Smith, Clearwater

School failed to protect rape victim 05/14/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2009 7:47pm]
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