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Vote for June's Letter of the Month

Editor's note: Letters to the editor offer a significant contribution to the discussion of public policy and life in Tampa Bay. To recognize some of that work by our most engaged readers, the Times will select a letter of the month and the writers will be recognized at the end of the year. We will choose the finalists each month based on relevance on topical issues, persuasiveness and writing style. The writer's opinion does not need to match the editorial board's opinion on the issue to be nominated. But clarity of thinking, brevity and a sense of humor certainly helps.

Editor's note: Letters to the editor offer a significant contribution to the discussion of public policy and life in Tampa Bay. To recognize some of that work by our most engaged readers, the Times will select a letter of the month and the writers will be recognized at the end of the year. We will choose the finalists each month based on relevance on topical issues, persuasiveness and writing style. The writer's opinion does not need to match the editorial board's opinion on the issue to be nominated. But clarity of thinking, brevity and a sense of humor certainly helps.

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High court spares killer | May 28

IQ test's limited use

The latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling found fault with Florida's statute defining a specific IQ value of 71 as a standard for executions.

The IQ test was originally constructed for Parisian schools by the psychologist Alfred Binet during the early 1900s. It was designed to predict which children would need special assistance in their classwork, and was considered effective for that purpose.

Using this and later instruments to test "intelligence" has greatly helped educators to identify students with unique needs. It is infinitely more useful than most other assessment methods, but was never considered to be a measure of a child's total capability.

Binet considered the scores on his intelligence test to be limited and temporary, not a predictor of a student's success in life. He considered the test results highly dependent upon the child's environment.

Today, the IQ test is much improved but considered by many psychologists as invalid for many of the uses that have evolved since Binet.

The standard often used to define mental retardation in most cases is an IQ of 70. A person scoring below this level would be expected to be less successful in school than 97.8 percent of the population. This is not a valid determiner of whether a person "knows right from wrong," nor was it designed for this purpose.

Fred Prince, Tampa (June 1)

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Expert: Pot can be harmful | June 6

Legal medicines also carry risks

This is a risk vs. reward debate. It is a fact that prescription and nonprescription drugs pose a risk of harm whether used as directed or misused. These risks are often identified in the drugs' disclaimers. Who can argue that oxycodone and Xanax cannot cause harm? What about the risks of steroid usage, even when taken as prescribed? But of course, FDA-approved drugs have demonstrated benefits as well.

Marijuana also has medical benefits. The fact that there may be risks makes it little different from legal drugs widely in use today, except that the risks associated with marijuana may in fact be less.

The vast risks of using alcohol and tobacco are well known. Why are these products not illegal?

There are zero "use as directed" regulations for either alcohol or tobacco, and they are frequently abused.

I submit that the benefits of medical marijuana are well known and documented, against very limited known and documented risks. Many drugs used legally every day, to include alcohol and tobacco, are joined by products like sugar in posing widespread and lethal risks that our laws do not protect us from.

Why has medical marijuana (and recreational marijuana) been singled out as being so sinister?

Thomas Morton, Sun City Center (June 11)

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FCAT results give few answers | June 15

Trauma too often ignored

As a licensed mental health counselor, I believe that one of the difficulties in finding school improvement answers lies in not asking this question: What is stopping kids from learning? One answer is probably the trauma of adverse childhood experiences.

Demographically, the listed schools struggle with high poverty. Where there is high poverty, there are high levels of adverse childhood experiences and trauma. Criminal activity, violence, substance abuse and mental illness all take a toll on a child's ability to learn.

The human body is programmed to react to emergencies with a flood of cortisol and adrenaline. Emergencies do not allow time for reflection and thoughtful consideration. The thing is, if life is a permanent emergency, that same reaction interferes with higher learning. When schools try to handle difficult behavior with punishment, referrals and expulsion, they inadvertently retrigger the emergency reaction. And things get worse.

Across our country, school districts are recognizing that most challenged schools have to shift from a punishment to a problem-solving approach in handling difficult behavior and poor classroom performance.

And improvement, while slow, is happening. San Francisco's El Dorado Elementary used trauma-informed and restorative practices, and suspensions dropped 89 percent. Wellness centers, calming corners, buddy classrooms and, above all, trauma-informed staff — from the principal to the maintenance team — can transform a child's ability to learn.

Juliana Menke, St. Petersburg (June 19)

Vote for June Letter of the Month

Which letter best conveys its message?

IQ test of limited use

Legal medicines also carry risks

Trauma too often ignored

Vote for June's Letter of the Month 06/30/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 30, 2014 2:28pm]

    

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