Brawls disrupt middle school | March 2, story
Troublemakers need to be removed
It is outrageous, and completely unacceptable, to allow the current environment at John Hopkins Middle School in Pinellas County. To expect teachers and students to show up knowing there is a likelihood of violence on a daily basis is ridiculous.
There are few — except police officers or emergency personnel — who would show up for work daily knowing the work environment may become dangerous at any time. Most of us go to work daily without ever facing the degrading and insulting behavior that many of these teachers have had to tolerate.
Teachers do not receive "hazard" pay. I don't know any teachers who would have entered this noble and challenging profession believing they would be expected to try to teach in such an environment.
I would not have allowed my sons to attend a school where learning isn't a priority. If it were, this behavior wouldn't be allowed.
Any parent who has a child acting so inappropriately needs to receive a wake-up call and must accept some responsibility for this horrific behavior. If a child acts this way to an adult in school, I wonder about his/her behavior at home.
Students, and I use the term loosely, who physically and verbally threatened teachers, administrators and other students have no business being allowed back to school.
This school, and all public schools, need a "zero tolerance" policy that applies to behavior, not just weapons. If we need more "alternative schools," then build them. The majority of students who attend school to learn should not have to be bullied or have their learning experience sullied by the aggressive and violent few.
Anne Conklin, Largo
Tough talk on school brawls | March 3, story
Safety must be a priority
It is appalling that it took an article in the St. Petersburg Times to get the Pinellas County School Board and superintendent Julie Janssen involved in the very serious issues at John Hopkins Middle and other schools in the district.
The No. 1 responsibility of the board and the superintendent is to provide a learning environment that is safe and fear-free. If they were unaware of the issue then they should all be fired and run out of office for incompetence. If they were aware, but were forced to act only because of the Times' article, then perhaps legal action is in order for failing to take action to protect innocent children.
This School Board is an embarrassment. It is a shame that the political climate in this country has reached the point where competent individuals are unwilling to expose themselves to the glare of the process. In this case, our children are at risk and not receiving the education they deserve.
Jeffrey Hausman, Tarpon Springs
For unruly students, stern steps | March 3, editorial
If my child attended John Hopkins Middle School, here are a few questions that I would ask:
Do the principal and staff make it clear to students that their education is not "free," but rather a contract with taxpayers who expect these students to consider school their mission? It's a hard sell, I admit, but an idea that's absolutely necessary to make clear to middle schoolers who create mayhem because they don't want to do any work.
Has the administration appointed its best qualified staff member to rigorously supervise the "time out" or suspension classroom so that students who are sent there have to do their work?
Does the school have a clear policy with consequences for students who don't do their homework or don't bring to school and use their taxpayer-supported textbooks?
Does the middle school model include having students take midterm and final exams (apart from FCAT) that can tell parents and guardians what their students can or cannot demonstrate as learning?
Has the school been successful in attracting and supporting mentors for those students identified as troubled?
Finally, has the school scheduled meetings and other family outreach efforts in venues like neighborhood churches or the Enoch Davis Center where overextended or burdened parents and guardians might work cooperatively with school personnel?
Many people predicted some of the consequences of population change effected by the new neighborhood schools policy. It is more than time for the School Board to step in to support teachers' efforts in this school.
Antonia Lewandowski, Largo
You can't halt violence by ousting everyone March 3, Ernest Hooper column
A parental responsibility
The article by Ernest Hooper about the problems at John Hopkins Middle School is seriously flawed on so many levels.
To begin with, his statement about "ousting everyone" is laughable. The problem is not "everyone," or doesn't Hooper understand that? The problem is certain thugs who are disrupting the school for their fun and pleasure. You know, the ones who get into fights and get arrested numerous times and then get released and get back into trouble as soon as they return. They are the ones who need ousting.
Then Hooper says that "officials" at the schools must change the mentality of disruptive students and that a daylong assembly should be conducted with experts campaigning for nonviolence. Here Hooper takes the typical and simplistic road: Let government and school officials fix the problem. But this clearly is a problem for and responsibility of the parents of these thugs. It's not the responsibility of school officials to change violent offenders into good citizens; it is their job to teach.
It is sad that violence exists in schools at any level of education, but it will only stop when parents stop using schools as babysitters and stop expecting other people to raise their children. That is the answer.
Anthony J. DeDomenico, St Petersburg
Brawls disrupt middle school | March 2, story
Teach anger management
After reading the article about all the violence occurring in the schools, in particular John Hopkins Middle School, and seeing the girl student's "excuse" for acting out, it occurs to me that anger management should be a mandatory one-hour daily class for each and every student from fourth grade on up!
Polly Stamp, St. Petersburg
Thanks to those who helped
In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti Jan. 12, the people of the Tampa Bay area stepped up to help survivors. Many refugees arriving in the United States had only the clothes on their backs. Even finding someone who spoke their language was a challenge. Among the survivors were injured and ill Haitians flown to the area for medical care, along with their families. Emergency flights brought 60 people into Tampa.
Seven area hospitals provided these patients the best in care: Tampa General Hospital, All Children's Hospital (St. Petersburg), St. Joseph's Hospital (Tampa), Town and Country Hospital (Tampa), Bayfront Medical Center (St. Petersburg), Brandon Regional Hospital and University Community Hospital (Tampa). These hospitals deserve recognition. Whether they took in one patient or many, they and their staffs made a difference for these refugees.
Thanks also go to the Florida Department of Children and Families and to volunteers and staff of Catholic Charities and Lutheran Services Florida for their tireless efforts to meet the needs of patients and families alike.
Samuel M. Sipes, President and CEO, Lutheran Services Florida, Tampa