For almost 11 years we have been attempting to blow the whistle on psychiatric drug research at the University of Minnesota. As a friend of Mary Weiss, the mother of Dan Markingson, who committed suicide while enrolled in a drug study at the university, we have sought to gain access to truthful information as to how it happened. We were rebuffed, lied to and stonewalled.

Now the legislative auditor’s report finally verifies that the Board of Regents and university officials repeatedly misled the media, the public and the Legislature and that they provided cover to those who were engaged in blatant conflicts of interest and coercive behavior that has caused irreparable harm to study enrollees and the reputation of the university itself.

To date there has not been a single effort to hold these offenders accountable. Instead, they have been put in charge of reforming the corrupt processes they themselves instituted. Once again, it appears the only solution the university ever considers is putting the foxes in charge of chicken coops.

Mike Howard, Cottage Grove

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One of the most disturbing things in the article regarding the University of Minnesota leaders’ failure to recognize ethical lapses was that a relatively low level social worker, a woman, was the only person sanctioned in the whole affair.

Disgusting.

Bill Conway, Vadnais Heights.

JAILS AND MENTAL ILLNESS

In praise of the advocates working on mental health

I was stunned when I read Sen. Barb Goodman’s statement related to the story “Mentally ill fill jails but fix is in dispute” (March 23): “It’s a pretty damn sad statement when you’ve got the police and sheriffs more concerned about people’s mental health than the advocates are.” I have had experience with the Mental Health Legislative Network (MHLN), and they are, without a doubt, a group of passionate, hard-working and committed people who tirelessly advocate for people struggling with mental illness. It does a disservice to accuse any one of them of not being concerned about people’s mental health. The mental health community of Minnesota has one of the most robust advocacy networks in the country. We should be proud and grateful for everything they do to make certain that people who struggle with mental illness get the services they need, the attention they deserve and the respect that is essential to human dignity. Under the leadership of Sue Abderholden, the MHLN has been an outstanding protector of the rights of people with mental illness. They have worked collaboratively with others and they have always been mindful of the fact that funding is limited and the needs are great.

Kitty Westin, Minneapolis

The writer is former advocacy director of the Emily Program Foundation and a member of the Mental Health Legislative Network.

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How can those who advocate for the mentally ill not be in support of Sen. Barb Goodwin’s proposal for jail diversion hubs? Mentally ill inmates should be receiving the same proper care in jail as those who have medical conditions. Emergency departments and jails in Minnesota do not have resources to intervene in a therapeutic manner to prevent increasingly frequent trips to emergency departments and recidivism in jails. Hubs would allow for a concentrated and effective utilization of trained staff rather than having to wait for up to 72 hours for a crisis bed, or having a law enforcement officer taken from their duties to sit with an individual in a mental health crisis in the emergency department.

Dave Carolan, Blaine

 

TEACHER DIVERSITY

State’s red tape is frustrating out-of-state teachers like me

As a graduate of Austin Public Schools, I was proud to see my hometown tackling teacher diversity in the March 23 article “ ‘Grow your own’ teacher of color programs provide a solution.” And as a current public school teacher in a diverse Columbia Heights third-grade classroom, I understand the need for more teachers of color.

I was disappointed, however, with the characterization of efforts at the Capitol to streamline out-of-state licensure. Proposed legislation wouldn’t “relax” standards. Instead, it would ensure that out-of-state teachers face a fair and transparent process that honors their professional experiences.

I was first licensed to teach in Washington, D.C., and began transferring my license to Minnesota this past summer. The process was unclear and confusing, with little explanation of requirements. And my story is not unique. I know many frustrated out-of-state teachers with valuable and diverse classroom experiences who want to teach in Minnesota, but have been met with confusing and unnecessary bureaucracy.

I wanted to move back to Minnesota to teach in diverse classrooms, but the Board of Teaching made that incredibly difficult. Streamlining the process teachers like me face would simply make requirements reasonable and clear, and help bring experienced teachers to Minnesota.

Anthony Hernandez, Minneapolis

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It was both interesting and ironic to read about a lack of teachers of color in Minnesota. Interesting, because this is something that is being addressed by the Star Tribune, but ironic because I am a teacher of color without a job! I have worked as a Title I teacher for the last seven years in one of the largest districts in the state. Every year I lose my job due to not having tenure. If I am not rehired the next year on a contract, I lose my seniority. It is embarrassing and humiliating to be treated like that when I have been teaching for many years and have been a hard worker. My yearly evaluations have been great and I am a good team player. I have worked in many schools in this district, and almost always I am the only teacher of color in the school. The students and the parents are always pleasantly surprised to see a person of color in the staff. Oftentimes, I am the first they have encountered at the school. Unfortunately, I am never able to retain my job and work toward tenure because of this broken system. School districts in Minnesota need to assess and design actionable steps that lead to these root causes of tremendous lack of diversity in our classrooms.

Shehnaz Budhabhoy, Plymouth

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Are male students so unimportant that they are invisible to the Strib writers? Male students make up half of the students in kindergarten, fewer than that by their senior year. They make up the largest percentage of dropouts. Yes, the problem of the lack of teachers of color is important to retaining minority students. But if that paradigm is true, then why isn’t the same true for the lack of men in teaching? Only 25 percent of the teachers in Minnesota are male. What percentage of the teachers are white female? Or is asking that question “politically incorrect”? If diversity is important, then gender is, too.

Robert A. Swart, Mankato