A few days ago, I was reminded how vulnerable high school seniors are when a young girl heading to prom night stepped off a "party bus" practically comatose and wound up spending prom night in a local hospital.
As graduation night approaches, your job as a parent is critical. Graduation is a time in a young person's life when they are inclined to cut loose and even the best of kids are susceptible to lapses in judgment. Begin graduation celebrations with Lecture 101 one more time. It goes like this: Tell them how much you love them and that you will not sleep until they get home and you will be waiting for their call if they need you. Tell them you intend to worry about them and you have earned that privilege. Instill guilt if possible — if they have a conscience, it will work. Forget the psychologists — a little guilt can go a long way.
Know where they are going and insist on an itinerary. Changes in itinerary should require at a minimum a quick text. Network with their friends' parents. Parents should engage in shameful collusions to keep children safe. Let them know you are available to pick them up if they need assistance. If they happen to be in a party bus or a limo, give the driver your cell phone number and tell them you are holding them personally accountable.
If you are holding a graduation party, get plenty of adults to help and don't allow underage kids open access to alcohol. Great joy and great tragedy are often separated by a fleeting moment.
Every year in communities across this nation young people full of hopes and dreams die or are injured around one of the most precious and memorable events of their life. They're not fully formed adults, and your job as moms and dads is not over. Call me old-fashioned.
The writer is deputy superintendent of Pasco County Schools.
Three hailed for heroism in shooting | May 9
Try metal detectors
Another school shooting takes place in Colorado with loss of a bright life. In Florida, our Legislature's bill to allow teachers to carry firearms as a possible means of deterrent/protection, is signed by our governor. In addition, we are now paying for armed protection with additional officers — although I am not sure how much help one or two SROs would be on today's large campuses of 1,000 students or more.
May I offer another solution? Why are we not placing metal detectors at the entrances to all school buildings? They are used in our courthouses and airports. Are not our students and faculty/staff lives worth the little bit of inconvenience of passing through them as well as having book bags and purses scanned?
Jane Swan, Parrish
Public schools are not harmed by vouchers | Column, May 5
Public schools' role
Reading former Gov. Jeb Bush's column, one might get the impression that school vouchers are a godsend to low-income children. The governor says they are getting a better education at these private institutions. It would be interesting to see the figures proving this because the private institutions do not have to meet the standards of accountability that the state Legislature has imposed on public schools. Having visited a number of these schools I can testify that they spend a considerable amount of time screening students, keeping only the best to showcase how well they do. What happens to the others? As you might guess they end up in public schools, which by law are required to take all comers.
Maybe we need to discuss why public schools were created in the first place. They were created in the 19th century to provide a common system of values for a society and an equal opportunity for every citizen and their family to grow and advance. The dual system of education now being created only serves to divide us. The resources of the society are being split, and the public sector is being slowly drained of its ability to provide quality education for all. Bush can crow like a rooster all he wants, but he and the Republican Legislature are only planting the seeds for an even greater disparity of opportunity and the sharing of common values. This can only serve to diminish us as a people.
Rene Tamargo, Tampa
For these big 10, wait till next year | May 8
If you limit abortion
I hope that as legislators draft bills in the future that limit abortion, they include provisions which address consequences of their bill becoming law. First, both parties to the pregnancy should be held accountable; second, proper maternity care should be offered; third, that a safe hospital birth is made available; and fourth, that the child's physical, mental and social development is covered. These are all dimensions that the pregnant woman considered on the path to her decision. The legislators are equally responsible for considering them.
Gerald Kaszer, St. Petersburg
Defying the will of the voters | Editorial, May 10
Let ex-offenders vote
The continued criminalization of released felons is abhorrent. If prison is meant to be a reformative process, then those who have completed their time should be re-integrated into their communities, with all the rights citizens can expect to have.
They should not be made to stand apart from the process of governance, never again able to provide their point of view on political subjects. Nor should they be required to pay outrageous sums of money solely to prevent them from re-earning this basic right.
The people of Florida overwhelmingly voted in favor of 100 percent re-enfranchisement, not re-enfranchisement for the few able to afford it, or re-enfranchisement over the course of years of legal legwork. Florida is one of only a handful of states in this great nation to deny basic rights to its citizens. We should be better.
Nicholas Ierna, Lutz