Readers write for Sunday, Aug. 30

  • Updated: August 29, 2009 - 4:11 PM

WHY WEREN'T THEY FIRED?

Anoka district doesn't value some students

D.J. Tice, in his Aug. 23 effort to understand and explain how the two Anoka-Hennepin teachers avoided being fired for their egregious behaviors, appears to have missed an important point. Every institution such as Anoka-Hennepin must weigh competing responsibilities and risks. In this case assuring student safety was flat up against managing money. And they went with money. At least that's their story.

I think the school district's explanation is a red herring. If the focus of the teachers' hate had been the victim's race, gender or religion, would they still be employed or their behavior seemingly overlooked?

The real problem here is that the district doesn't value some students, doesn't feel that it has the same responsibility to protect some students. So it tolerates abuse toward those students.

PAULA M. CHILDERS, BLOOMINGTON

•••

While D.J. Tice notes that arbitrators' decisions "discourage administrators from trying to dismiss teachers," those decisions do nothing to prevent administrators from building a record or working with staff to address issues before they warrant dismissal.

Let us be clear: This should never happen in a school, but let us also be clear about who let this happen.

RICHARD ROSIVACH, SPRING LAKE PARK

•••

D.J. Tice's column made a number of assertions about arbitration of Minnesota public sector employee dismissal cases that are not supported by the evidence. We have been engaged in an empirical study of the more than 2,000 Minnesota decisions issued by arbitrators in employee discipline and discharge decisions between 1982 and 2005. During that period, arbitrators upheld in full the employer's disciplinary decision in over 50 percent of the public sector cases, a higher percentage than in private sector cases.

Specifically in cases of teacher dismissal, arbitrators affirmed the employer's decision in nearly 57 percent of the cases; in only about 20 percent were teachers reinstated without any disciplinary sanction.

Arbitrators write long, reasoned decisions and if one were to read them, as we did in our study, you will see that termination decisions are overturned for reasons such as employers' failure to give employees notice of what conduct is prohibited before firing them for it, or firing employees for the very same conduct that other employees committed without discipline being imposed.

The decisions of arbitrators reflect their understanding that positions such as that of police officer and teacher are positions of public trust.

PROFS. LAURA J. COOPER AND Stephen F. Befort, labor arbitrators, University of Minnesota Law School, Minneapolis

ISABELLE JESSICH'S STORY

It has another side, which paper didn't tell

Your Aug. 23 front-page headline, " 'I feel like I'm in jail,' " a quote from Isabelle Jessich, under guardianship, was sensational and biased.

The newspaper and its readers should remember that: There are always two sides to the issue of care for elderly or incompetent, and there are people who are incapable of caring for themselves, personally and financially. Family members often are mistrusted, abused, disinherited because of paranoia, and targeted because elderly, incompetent parents are angry about aging and losing control. The Star Tribune should feel obligated to present both sides.

CHERYL COULTER, BLOOMINGTON

HEALTH CARE DEBATE

Leftists are trying to get a word in edgewise

Katherine Kersten's Aug. 23 column is based on a false premise, revealed at the beginning in the subheadline. How do the following qualify as "speaking truth to power"?

• Free health care for illegal immigrants.

• Single payer makes all doctors government employees.

• All health care to be run by the government.

• Government death panels.

• Your health care will be rationed!

• The health choices commissioner will choose your benefits for you.

• Government will have real-time access to individual's finances.

• National ID health care cards will be issued.

Repeating these canards and referring to them as "speaking truth to power" (emphasis mine) is about as serious a breach of journalistic ethics as one can imagine.

The Star Tribune could encourage its columnists and reporters to do something quite different: They could dismiss the punditry and the "analysis" and the polls and the freak show and dedicate Minnesota's premier newspaper to explaining the facts about health care.

Explaining the facts means more than calling a lie a lie -- although that is hugely important. It also means explaining to people how the health care system works, what the proposed reforms are and what the likely effects would be.

Leftists are not "protesting too much." They are trying to get a word -- the truth -- in edgewise.

DAN MARTIN, NEW MUNICH, MINN.

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