Students must learn how to act in the world



I applaud St. Paul teacher Aaron Benner, who had the courage to speak before his school board in an effort to educate these supposed leaders of the educational system that it is not the responsibility of teachers, administrators and board members to lower the suspension rate of black students ("Teacher frustrated with debate over suspensions," Feb. 18).

It is, however, the responsibility of these individuals to determine what will be considered appropriate behavior, to communicate those expectations to all students and then to enforce those expectations.

Excusing unacceptable behavior by couching it in terms of racial misunderstanding is the worst form of discrimination, allowing students to see what they are doing as acceptable. The superintendent was quoted as saying most suspensions occur in the "subjective areas of defiance, disrespect and disruption."

These behaviors aren't subjective; they are unacceptable in a classroom and in the world in which these kids will one day earn a living. I know of no employer who has conduct expectations that are culturally based.

A code of conduct must be colorblind. A teacher should never have to ask if a behavior needs to be excused because the child is black. Define the expectation, communicate it and enforce it. St. Paul might actually find that the kids succeed.


• • •

When it comes to suspensions of black males, we are asking the wrong questions. Pointing fingers at parents, the black community and teachers is a waste of time. Suspensions are punishment and teach nothing.

Research is clear that punishment is not effective in the long run and only creates rebellion. We have the students we have right now -- let's deal with that reality. Punishment does not teach what to do; it only tells someone that they're wrong.

Kids need to know there is a way back when they blow it. That means accepting their mistakes, showing them the behavior we want, and motivating them to change through a strong relationship and meaningful incentives -- this might mean a break from the classroom to teach skills.

Good teachers or school counselors can do this with the right training, administrative support and time -- but this translates to vision and investment of dollars -- which is not there.

This debate over having more or fewer suspensions and whose fault it is takes the attention off developing strategies that work and blames black kids who already believe they don't matter.


* * *

'Shoot first'

Supporters seem not to know existing law



Those writing letters in favor of the "shoot first" bill apparently haven't bothered to check out existing relevant law.

It is clear, in my opinion, that Minnesota statutes 609.06 and 609.065, taken together, authorize a person to use force, including deadly force, that is reasonably necessary to prevent an offense upon that person, or when assisting another.

Not written into these statutes is the requirement to first "retreat" from a confrontation if it is reasonable and safe to do so. Importantly, the requirement to retreat does not apply in one's home.

Minnesota's self-defense laws have worked very well for a long time. No one is in prison for acting reasonably in defense of one's self or home. There have been several cases in recent years of the use of deadly force by a person in defense of their home, and the defenders were not charged with any crime.

The bill proposed by Rep. Tony Cornish would seriously alter long-accepted standards of reasonableness, to the detriment of our citizens and the safety of law enforcement officers.

Our legislators would better serve if they paid heed to the positions of Minnesota's Police Chiefs, rank-and-file law enforcement officers and our state's County Attorney's Association, all of which adamantly oppose this bill.


* * *


Vote by one synod does not reflect the whole



It is important to remember that action taken Friday ("Minneapolis Lutherans oppose marriage amendment," Feb. 18) was the voice of one synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. There are other Lutheran groups in the state and nation that do not agree with the resolution passed by the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA.

There is nothing discriminatory about the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, nor is it a political matter. Neither is it intended as an offense against any individual or group. Rather, it is a moral and ethical matter that finds its basis and answer in the infallible, inerrant and inspired word of God.

The issue is not complex, and it has not been, is not now and never will be that those in same-sex relationships need the approval and respect of the church. Rather, they need the presence of the living God to enable them to live in accord with his word.


• • •

What an interesting quote by Lauren Morse-Wendt in the marriage amendment article. She states that "the Lutheran Church is about welcome, and we proved that with the statement we made."

Any established group in the world can "welcome." Go to a Wal-Mart, a clubhouse at your local golf course, or to any church of any denomination in the Minneapolis area, and you'll be "welcomed."

The Lutheran church I was baptized into 55 years ago not only welcomed me, but gave me something so far and above a "welcome" that it's hard to express.

The Lutheran church I grew up in taught me how to live a Bible-based life, one putting the triune God -- father, son and holy spirit -- above anyone and anything else happening in our culture.

I was taught to love and care for all people, Gentile or Jew, man or woman, slave or free, black or white, gay or straight. But just because we love and respect one another does not mean we must treat all ideas as equals, or accept distortions or half-truths.

Because Lutheran church leaders have been bending toward human ways, many people cannot see the holiness and sacredness of true marriage. If the ELCA would put this to a vote among its entire membership, the definition of marriage would be voted upon as being between one man and one woman.

But we were not "welcomed" to take that vote.