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Problems with troubled youth transcend race

Re: No more excuses for misbehaving children, March 5.

Normally, I am "moved" by Bill Maxwell's columns to the point of not reading them, but this headline caught my eye.

I don't know if one can "hit the bull's-eye and miss the target," but Bill did. The tragedy of the loss of these children has nothing to do with being black. It has to do with a lowering of standards, being tolerant of mediocrity and not accepting responsibility for one's actions. These three demons do not know race, color, creed or national origin.

Can't we leave the race card and move on with grace and dignity?

C.M. Hasbach, Spring Hill

It's not a matter of black culture

Re: No more excuses for misbehaving children.

Columnist Bill Maxwell wrote an emotional article regarding the unfortunate deaths of three children. Sadly, I am troubled by the visceral generalizations directed toward the black community by him. For example, he wrote, "But something is profoundly wrong in black culture because, for too many black adults, my questions are naive."

Recently, a good friend of mine named Jemale Wells, who happened to be black, stopped two white boys from fighting and sent them home. One returned with his mother who proceeded to call her boyfriend, a white dentist, who arrived with a gun that was used to kill Jemale. Jemale's widow is now raising their two beautiful daughters alone. Somehow this event was not seen as a reflection of white culture, but the careless stupidity of a car theft by unsupervised black teens is considered a reflection of black culture. I'm angry that negative images of African-Americans are continually highlighted as part of "our culture."

Let me highlight the African-American culture that I know. My grandfather was named Arthur Green, he owned his own business in Gadsden, Ala., and was married to the same woman, my grandmother, Mildred Green, for more than 50 years before they passed away. My mother and father will be married 50 years this April. They had two sons, including myself, who attended public schools, and my brother and I both finished college with advanced degrees.

Mr. Maxwell, there are serious problems in all communities that will not be solved as long as people incorrectly assume that nihilistic behavior is a cultural trait.

Keith Berry, Tampa

Police should not be blamed

Re: No more excuses for misbehaving children.

I was so relieved to read this column, following the report in the Times regarding the death of three teens in a stolen car early in the morning on March 3. The Times reported that the parents (at least two) were immediately questioning police procedure, in an apparent effort to place blame.

Thankfully, Bill Maxwell was reasonable enough to instead ask: What in the world are three underage teenagers doing out at such an hour of the morning in a stolen car? Whatever the reason(s) may be, it assuredly has nothing to do with police procedure and everything to do with parental supervision.

Terry West Cobb, St. Petersburg

Civility and values are declining for all

Re: No more excuses for misbehaving children.

Bill Maxwell has, at long last, seen the light. However, this problem is not exclusively a black one _ not by a long shot. Those of us who have been around for six or seven decades have witnessed a persistent increase in permissiveness, resulting in deplorable declines in civility and cultural values in almost every segment of society.

Maxwell's column brings to mind Bill Bennett's excellent book, The Death of Outrage. Perhaps this is one area where both sides of the political fence can work together. The first step has already been accomplished _ recognizing the problem, and it is indeed a crucial one. What happens when all those misbehaving children become adults?

Stanley J. Dumovich, Spring Hill

A tale of wayward youth

Re: No more excuses for misbehaving children.

I'm writing this on 22nd Street S where my son was running the streets with other youth all night and gone several days at a time. He had found something he was looking for when out with these other youth by stealing, lying, robbing and selling drugs. He said it was a lifestyle that he was accepted into, but I will not accept that.

For six months the St. Petersburg police and practically all the District 1 officers were there to help every night. I can only heap the highest praise on our police force for the commitment and diligence they showed every time they were called on my son's runaway status.

On his 15th birthday he was arrested and later placed in an environment with the strictest discipline and a goal to change his criminal thinking. The Polk County Boot Camp has already extended his release date for his noncompliance on this and other issues.

With a heavy heart and a tears in my eyes, I read about other youths whose choices have led them to their deaths and realize that could have been my son. (His felony convictions were for grand-theft auto.) I will take the article of the deaths of our youth and Bill Maxwell's column to the parent recruit meeting and ask if these can be shared and, of course, pray that the boys incarcerated will understand that they where given a second chance unlike Dortez, Rashad and Candice.

My last comment is that I am a single mother with a higher education and a lighter skin tone. This is not a color issue. It's a family problem in all types of homes.

Rebecca Schulz, St. Petersburg

Teachers see the problems

Thanks to Bill Maxwell for his column about the misbehaving children. All he has to do is ask the teachers in the classrooms of today. My daughter is a teacher, and the way children talk to the teachers is horrendous. One would never accept this kind of behavior out of the classrooms.

I also think it has set the race relations back many years. Why these children can't be sent to a boot camp and come out learning to live in society is beyond me.

Marie Kotsch, North Redington Beach

Stress individual responsibility

Re: No more excuses for misbehaving children.

What a thought-provoking, brave picture this column painted of the plight of teenagers being raised in chaotic homes. The truth Bill Maxwell held up to us about some black-American homes is equally true of a great number of white-American homes. It's high time that all of our institutions, school, government, church and most of all homes, stress individual responsibility.

We need to stop blaming others and society for the consequences of our bad choices and indifference. And God knows we need to love our children enough to monitor them, guide them and

protect them from the forces in society which would destroy them.

Jeannette Strunz, Largo

Parents have to fight the media

Thanks to Bill Maxwell for his column on misbehaving children. He has hit the nail squarely on the head regarding whom to blame for the problem. The parent or parents are indeed at fault.

Sadly, their task is so much more difficult in today's environment. The violent movies, music, television programs and video games are also major contributors to the problem. And the nastier they are, the higher their sales or ratings climb.

Jim Lyman, Lutz

Repeal Sunday ban on liquor sales

Re: Liquor on the Lord's day? March 5.

I support the repeal of the archaic Sunday liquor ban being considered by the St. Petersburg City Council. I consider this an imposition of religion that denies privileges to citizens. Let's keep church and state separate.

Why are we denying our citizens, conventioneers, European visitors, and tourists simple pleasures available the world over? Why should we have to drive to Bradenton or Sarasota to enjoy a Sunday brunch with a mimosa? After all, I have wine at communion every Sunday morning! If not a total repeal, at least allow restaurants and bars the same freedom to operate as every other day.

Clark and Barbara Leips, St. Petersburg

Religion is no reason for ban

St. Petersburg's Sunday ban on liquor sales serves one purpose only. It's an attempt to legislate morality and smacks of government-sponsored religion. Jews, Muslims and Seventh-day Adventists worship on days other than Sunday. If the religious belief of some is the only reason for these laws, then they are indefensible and unworthy of a society that preaches equality and freedom of religion. Only complete repeal with all days treated the same or an expansion of the ban to include all faiths equally would meet the test of fairness. This antiquated law hurts business owners, servers, bartenders and tourists, but it keeps very few from drinking.

The locals know to stock up on Saturday night or worse, they drive across the bay and leave their tax dollars in Hillsborough County.

The comment by the Rev. Gustave Victor with regard to easing the ban I found amusing. "It's bad enough that people go to church and praise the Lord and then go start drinking." Is the reverend implying that his parishioners are uncontrollable drinkers and that he fears his pews and the collection plate will go empty if the ban is lifted? I doubt any change in the law will have any effect on church patrons, but it will help add a few jobs, add a few tax dollars to the city coffers and make for happier tourists.

Carlos R. del Sol, St. Petersburg

Metal might have made a difference

I'm a 71-year-old engineer who has worked full-time for aircraft (including the Concorde jet), plastics, machines and electronic companies most of my life.

I was selected to be a technical exchange engineer to China during President Reagan's administration.

Knowing the design criteria of Columbia's environment, there is no doubt in my mind from Day One that I would have made the heat and mechanical stressed skin areas of the craft's body out of a stainless steel alloy instead of aluminum.

As stainless steel is more than twice as strong as aluminum, the skin would only have to be half as thick.

Stainless thermally expands at one-tenth the rate of aluminum, therefore the heat tiles' adhesive would only get a one-tenth stress. Maybe these tiles may never have fallen off, and if any did the stainless bare skin may have not burned through, as stainless is more than twice as heat-resistant as aluminum. Using this better skin design, I believe the overall ship's weight would have only increased by a few hundred pounds. This "elementary" engineering design may have saved some lives.

Murray Guttman, Port Richey

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