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Tennessee editorial roundup

July 17, 2019

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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July 17

Johnson City Press on what more needs to be done about student suicide rates:

Recognizing youth suicide rates are skyrocketing, Tennessee now requires colleges and universities to develop a suicide prevention plan and distribute it to students every semester. But given the primary reasons for the dramatic decline in mental health among young people, that seems insufficient.

According to statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, suicide is the ninth-leading cause of death in the state and the second-leading cause of death among college students.

A new study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology finds that between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression among children aged 12 to 13 increased 47 percent; between 14 to 17, 60 percent; and between 18 to 21, 46 percent.

In an effort to help turn the tide of increasing suicide rates among young people in universities and colleges, a law went into effect July 1 in Tennessee requiring public institutions of higher education to develop and implement suicide prevention plans in consultation with campus and community mental health experts or the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.

But simply distributing information to students could be enhanced with active outreach programs. Considering the driving forces behind increased rates of depression and suicide — drugs, and the digital world these young people inhabit — the demand for active, in conjunction with passive, programs seems clear.

One of the authors of the study, Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of “iGen,” a book about how technology affects the lives of young people, says the way they communicate and spend their time has fundamentally changed, and that unfettered access to social media can lead to “an overload of information and stimulation.

“Given what we know about adolescent development and vulnerability and the intensive need for intimate and healthy social connection during these years, you can see how social media may not be developmentally appropriate,” she said. Twenge cites cyberbullying, fear and anxiety of being left out and sleep deprivation tied to constant smartphone use as factors affecting teens’ mental health and well-being.

Another author of the study, Dr. Melissa Mercado, says it underscores a need for “implementation of evidence-based, comprehensive suicide and self-harm prevention strategies within communities targeted at young people.”

With no turning back from digital access and overload, direct and active communication with students is not only more effective, but necessary if we are to save them from themselves.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com

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July 15

Crossville Chronicle on staying healthy in the summer heat:

The heat is on!

Crossville meteorologist Steve Norris confirmed ... what we’ve all known was coming: months of heat and humidity as summer settles in on the Plateau.

Tennessee summers are notorious for the three “H’s” of misery: heat, humidity and haze. Rising temperatures aren’t merely uncomfortable — they can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke and turn deadly.

The Cumberland Plateau’s bevy of natural resources and the variety of summertime activities are particularly appealing. Enjoy them — and be sure to drink lots of water, even if you’re not thirsty. Take advantage of the cooler early morning and late afternoon hours for outdoor activities, and spend the hottest part of the day indoors.

Pace yourself when hiking, running or taking part in activities of physical exertion. Keep hydrated, and watch out for others who may be feeling the heat’s effects.

Remember to check on loved ones and neighbors, especially if they are elderly, have health problems or live with no air conditioning. Such folks are most susceptible to the ills caused by intense summer heat.

Keep an eye on pets. Make sure they have fresh, cool water to drink, and beware of hot pavement when walking dogs. A good rule of thumb is to place your hand onto the pavement. If it’s hot to the touch, it’s too hot for Fido to walk on.

Lastly, children and pets should never be left unattended in a vehicle. Temperatures inside a vehicle can reach life-threatening levels in a matter of minutes — even on cloudy days, and even with windows partially open.

Parents and caregivers should make a habit of checking the vehicle before locking up and leaving it every time. The National Safety Council reports that of the 52 children who died in hot cars last year, more than half had been forgotten and left behind by a parent or caregiver.

And be sure to lock it up. An alarming 26.3% of children succumbing in hot cars last year had gained unattended entry to the vehicle in which they died.

We encourage you to enjoy Cumberland County outdoors in the summertime. It’s a special place. But take care of yourself while doing it. You’re special, too.

Online: https://www.crossville-chronicle.com

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July 13

Cleveland Daily Banner on how local taxes will be used to create a new education center:

Although the Bradley County Commission Finance Committee has peeled the much-debated PIE Center from the coming 2019-20 budget proposal in order to lessen the impact of a potential property tax increase, it is not a dead issue.

Nor should it be.

Phase 1 will continue — as planned — using a $1 million appropriation from the state coffers of visionary Gov. Bill Lee and $1.3 million from Bradley County Schools. A later bond issue — calculated to total $16.6 million for Phase 2 — will follow as the 2020-21 fiscal year approaches, and the first debt service payment will be due in 2021-22.

Because of the PIE Center’s (Partnerships in Industry & Education Center) expense, Bradley County taxpayers appear divided. Most agree such a modern alternative to public education is a relevant goal because of the growing need for a better-skilled workforce to fill jobs of the future that require more vocational and technical training.

But it’s the tab — and who’s going to pick it up — that’s creating the fuss.

In truth, local taxpayers — residential and commercial — will bear the brunt of the cost through their property tax payments. It’s a big chunk, but it’s going for the best of causes; that being, education.

Here’s why: Change is coming. Life as we know it — especially in the job market — is taking the same twists and turns that economic development professionals have been predicting for years.

To improve efficiency, industry is rapidly moving to technology. Unskilled labor on assembly lines is evolving to a greater dependence on electronics; hence, young people whose education includes vocational and technical training will enjoy the advantage in landing these jobs of the future.

Let’s face it. Not all students will grow to be doctors, lawyers, health-care specialists, teachers, entrepreneurs, pharmaceutical researchers and administrative professionals. For these young people, the conventional four years of college and additional work in graduate school is not of personal interest.

What they need is a practical education in vocational and technical sciences that will qualify them for blue-collar jobs of the future. This is the type of training to be offered by the PIE Center.

Here’s the caveat: It is local industry that needs these types of workers. Subsequently, it should be local industry that foots some of the PIE Center bill.

...Weeks ago, Cleveland Associated Industries — which has represented more than 29 manufacturers in its 50-year history — took a bold step by endorsing the immediate development of the PIE Center by Bradley County Schools.

The public statement — made in the form of a letter to Bradley County Commission Chairman Johnny Mull — took a realistic look at CAI members’ needs regarding workers of tomorrow, and how the PIE Center can train them in ways that conventional classrooms cannot.

“This center will create an innovative student experience through collaboration with businesses, changing learning pathways, providing experiential learning in STEM, embedded work-based learning experiences and promotion of design thinking. Bradley County can be a model for the region, if not the county, in rethinking our approach to technical education.”

CAI’s endorsement should be taken seriously for what it is: An appeal by Bradley County’s largest employers to help them find, and train, future employees who can keep the companies efficient, competitive and growing.

The endorsement speaks highly of a group of manufacturers that want to remain in the Bradley County community. Yet, these employers need to take one step more: A commitment to ante up toward the PIE Center’s cost.

Let’s be clear: Companies are already signing on to finance the development of their respective training areas and to install equipment inside the PIE Center facility, in exchange for a no-rent agreement until their operations are launched. Likewise, they agree — in the event of closing their training operation — to keep their space intact . as an incentive for the next PIE Center partner.

It’s a generous gesture, one that anchors the partnership between education and business. Yet, we would ask these same local industries to chip in for the cost of bringing the PIE Center to fruition.

We offer no suggested amounts. We don’t know how much each company can afford. We just know a $16.6 million bond issue — as calculated by Mayor D. Gary Davis — will strain Bradley County government, while taking its toll on taxpayers.

If local companies — especially individual CAI members who signed the letter endorsing the PIE Center — could contribute toward some of the funding, local taxpayers could feel better about the partnership.

By chipping in on the PIE Center’s costs up front, local industry will be investing in our young people, in the workforce that our manufacturers desperately need and in the future of our hometown.

Online: http://clevelandbanner.com

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