A ‘teachable moment’ at Rogers High

“Gossiping publicly about the private lives of well-known people is one of the most popular forms of licensed sadism.” This was the opening sentence in Wallace Shawn’s thoughtful commentary (“The Woody Allen accusations and the nature of knowing,” Feb. 19), but it could just as well have applied to a front-page story that appeared the same day (“Teens’ Web boasts risk felony”). A teachable moment exists at Rogers High School. It offers an opportunity for young people to reflect on their teachers as human beings and to appreciate the time, energy, thought and compassion that teachers expend every day on the job. This teachable moment is the chance to learn empathy, a lesson that can serve a lifetime.

SUE LEAF, Center City, Minn.

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A two-month suspension for a “sexually charged” tweet? Then again, students need to learn to be more careful about what they post on the Internet. As an Eden Prairie High School student and avid Twitter user, I am well aware of the kind of disrespectful tweeting that goes on regularly. There are plenty of demeaning Twitter accounts associated with Eden Prairie and other schools. If the Elk River School District is going to punish the Rogers High student this severely, other school districts need to be prepared to do the same. This problem isn’t limited to specific schools, and a sense of uniformity in retribution would be well-served.

EMMA GARTON, Eden Prairie

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Where is the outrage on behalf of the true injured party, the teacher? I am sure the student whose tweet implied an improper relationship with her is a very nice young man, and he seems well-liked by his peers. Though it was said that the tweet was a joke and that no harm was intended, that is exactly what happened. This teacher’s career is now in danger, not to mention her respectability. Actions, however intended, have consequences.




Housing developments use resources, too

Regarding a Feb. 19 letter about the land and water used for golf courses: In Eagan, we’ve recently had two golf courses turned into residential development — Carriage Hills and Parkview. It would be interesting to compare water usage for hundreds of residential sites year-round over the long term against the seasonal needs of a golf course. My guess is that the new development will take far more water than a golf course. This is just an excuse for greedy developers to gobble up more land.




Don’t believe the corporate spiel

The Feb. 19 commentary on the glories of NAFTA, written by Tim Penny and Mark Kennedy, suggests that the trade agreement was a success and that we should push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Penny and Kennedy represent the corporate point of view, which is at odds with the facts as laid out in a recent piece by Public Citizen, the foremost consumer-protection organization. That analysis, using government data, shows that NAFTA has been a terrible failure for workers and consumers. The data indicate that NAFTA resulted in more than a million jobs lost in the United States and more than a million small farms in Mexico destroyed by cheap American corn, in addition to a huge increase in our trade deficit, downward pressure on American wages and much more.

Go to to see the full report. It is a powerful antidote to corporate propaganda.




The community backs teachers’ contract goals

In the Feb. 17 editorial “St. Paul teachers are asking for too much,” the Star Tribune Editorial Board fails to report that most of what the teachers are asking for are items that parents and students are strongly backing. In fact, teachers canvassed neighborhoods seeking input on issues such as reasonable class sizes and expanded preschool opportunities. The feedback was overwhelmingly in favor of these goals.

I understand that there are budget limitations, but I notice that the district leaders are trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, they assure the public that the school district is meeting goals for class sizes in about 90 percent of the classrooms. On the other hand, they insist that to make the class-size issue a contractual one would be a budgetary catastrophe. If the district is indeed so close to meeting the goals, it is doubtful that making them contractual would be as financially unfeasible as the administration says.




Misunderstanding about the law

As manager for the Hennepin County guardian ad litem program, I feel compelled to respond to a Feb. 16 letter (“The system steers kids back to poor situations.”) There is a federal and state mandate that a guardian ad litem be appointed to every case involving abuse and neglect within the court system. It is the role of the guardian ad litem in each case to make recommendations that are in the best interest of the child. It is also our responsibility to know, understand and have respect for the law in Minnesota that requires reasonable efforts to reunite children with their families. Each case is different, and recommendations will, and should be, unique to each child and each family situation.

Guardians ad litem work closely with social services to ensure that children receive the services they need and will report any concerns about the parents’ compliance with court-ordered case plans. Ultimately, it is the judicial officer, the finder of facts, who makes the determination to return children home.

It is unfortunate that there is a misunderstanding of what the law requires and what the lengthy court process entails. I admire the hundreds of dedicated guardians working in Minnesota, including approximately 350-plus volunteers in Hennepin and Ramsey counties. While it is easy to criticize an imperfect system, it is courageous to work within that sometimes imperfect system to effect meaningful change.

LAURIE KUSEK, Minneapolis