Editorials from around Pennsylvania
Editorials from around Pennsylvania:
THANK YOU, TEACHERS FOR DOING A JOB WE COULDN’T DO, May 10
Whoever said there can be too much of a good thing could not have been talking about schools.
Every child deserves to go to an excellent school. How great it is for the children of Lancaster County that there are so many of them here.
We congratulate the administrators, teachers, students, parents and staff members at the 10 county high schools that rank among the finest in the nation.
Penn Manor High School, in particular, deserves kudos for its four-year streak atop the Lancaster County leaderboard. It’s impressive.
The U.S. News & World Report rankings factor in whether historically underserved students — minority and low-income students — at a school outperform the state average.
Beyond this particular set of rankings, how a school performs depends on so many factors.
ZIP codes certainly can matter — if a school has a great many students living in poverty, or students for whom English is a second language, or students with special needs, the challenges of those students may be reflected in standardized testing scores.
A district’s school board may factor into the equation: Is it supportive of the educational mission? Is it willing to invest in innovative teaching methods and good facilities?
And certainly, administrators play a role. Penn Manor Superintendent Mike Leichliter is highly respected in Lancaster County, and clearly has steered his district well.
But teachers — they are key. ...
... And this goes for teachers at all of Lancaster County’s schools.
We could not do what you do.
Most people couldn’t.
It may look like a cakewalk in June, when schools close for the summer. But we realize that many of you will be using the summer months to further your education, write curricula, create bulletin boards, scour garage sales for books and supplies — which you’ll pay for with your own money — and plan classroom projects.
We also know it’s anything but a cakewalk when you’re standing in front of 24 sleep-deprived, snarky, unimpressed teenagers, and you need to not only engage their interest, but adapt what you’re teaching to their varying abilities. (You must do all of that while needing to use the restroom, and your next opportunity to do so is a couple of hours in the future.)
It’s not easy, either, when you’re a special education teacher and the students in your learning support classroom are expected to ace the same tests as the students in the gifted classroom a few doors down. Or when you’re a teacher of the gifted who must strike a balance between challenging your students and keeping them from being crushed by the weight of the expectations placed on them. Or when a student has behavioral or emotional issues and wreaks havoc in your classroom.
Teaching seems easy to a lot of us because we all went to school and our teachers made it look easy. That was part of their job; complaining to students about late nights grading essays or early mornings on bus duty is generally frowned upon.
Teachers aren’t going to tell you about the nights they spend worrying about the student who is depressed and possibly suicidal, or the student whose family just had to move into a low-cost motel, or the student for whom they just quietly purchased sneakers to prevent any gym-day humiliation.
But these are the sorts of worries teachers carry, as they go about the business of educating students.
Public school teachers here are generally paid well: The average teacher’s salary in Lancaster County is more than $60,000, though starting salaries tend to be in the $46,000-$50,000 range. Like other professionals, teachers are compensated for their experience and academic degrees. (But unlike the workday of other professionals, there is no downtime in a teaching day.)
Every excellent school, and every school that’s striving toward excellence, depends on excellent and caring teachers. They’re essential. And we thank them for their dedication.
DO AWAY WITH LAW SHIELDING CHILD MOLESTERS, May 16
Among the troubling findings in the sexual abuse case against a Catholic Diocese of Erie priest are indications that the two victims involved might not have been the only ones.
In announcing that his office had charged the Rev. David Poulson, 64, of Oil City, with sexually abusing two victims when they were minors, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro noted that nine other men testified before a statewide grand jury about contact they had with Poulson as minors.
“In at least one of these cases, prosecutors believed evidence of a sexual assault existed, but it was barred on statute of limitations grounds,” Shapiro’s office said.
In other words, justice is forever out of reach of that man because of the amount of time that has passed since the alleged offense. Given the nature of the crime, that’s unacceptable.
At his news conference in Erie where he announced the charges last week, Shapiro renewed his call for eliminating the criminal statute of limitations going forward in cases involving the sexual abuse of children. We support Shapiro’s recommendation and urge the Legislature to take prompt action.
“It is long past time to reform these arbitrary time frames and seek justice for all of our children,” he said.
The current statute of limitations, set in 2007, allows criminal charges to be filed until the victim’s 50th birthday. Such crimes committed before the 2007 law are covered by previous statutes, which were much more restrictive.
Nothing can be done about crimes covered by those previous statutes, in criminal court at least. That means that many offenders are beyond the reach of law enforcement.
But there’s a compelling case for eliminating the criminal statute, as with homicide, given the heinous nature of the crimes and their devastating effects on the victims. The law should offer no haven for those who prey on children.
It’s not uncommon for child victims to take years, even decades, to come forward. The emotional damage of their abuse lasts long after they come of age.
“Children are targeted by predators because they are vulnerable, they are young and they struggle with shame, confusion or fear,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro also rightly backs the elimination of the statute of limitations on civil cases brought by people who were victimized as minors. The law currently gives them until their 30th birthday to sue.
Eliminating the civil statute would offer another path to justice for those victims. The reform should also include a temporary retroactive window allowing victims to sue in cases that are now beyond the statute.
That would allow some measure of justice for those victims, and a reckoning for their abusers. Shapiro supports that provision, though some legislators claim it would be unconstitutional.
TRUMP AIDE FOLLOWS THE LEADER, May 16
It is beyond ludicrous that President Donald Trump’s White House refuses to even acknowledge, let alone apologize for, the hard-hearted insult slung at Arizona Sen. John McCain last week by one of its aides.
What it wasn’t, unfortunately, was surprising.
The name-caller-in-chief hasn’t just lowered the bar for civility; he hasn’t just knocked that bar to the ground; he has dug a pit and buried it. Trump’s belligerence, mean-spiritedness, childishness and testiness — broadcast in public remarks and via social media — have set a tone of schoolyard nastiness that permeates the White House and, increasingly, the nation.
The aide in question is Kelly Sadler, a special assistant to the president. While discussing McCain’s opposition to Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, Sadler said of the senator, who has been battling stage four brain cancer “It doesn’t matter; he’s dying anyway.”
Maybe Sadler was being an icy-veined calculator; maybe it was a bad example of gallows humor. Whatever, when the insult reached the public, the White House should have quickly renounced the comment and apologized.
Sadler seemed to sense this. According to The Hill, she called McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, to do just that.
No such contrition from the White House, which responded to queries about the comment by issuing a general statement praising McCain for his military service, then circling the wagons. White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined repeatedly during a Friday press conference to provide an administration response to the comment, offering a pile of twaddle along the lines of “I’m not going to validate a leak one way or another out of an internal staff meeting.”
The White House has clearly learned nothing from its mishandling of the Rob Porter affair, in which a former top aide continued to work closely with the president even though he could not obtain top security clearance owing to testimony of spousal abuse from two previous wives. In that case, the administration hemmed, hawed and harrumphed for days - pumping oxygen into a story that would likely have succumbed to a traditional news-cycle death following a timely acknowledgement and apology.
Such is the case again, with calls increasing for Sadler’s dismissal as the White House refused to address the issue.
The Washington Post may have identified the reason behind the recalcitrance: “The White House probably thinks it cannot punish Kelly Sadler for her awful comment about John McCain because President Trump has also said nasty things about McCain. It may worry that showing her the door would set a troubling precedent for a president who may one day cross a very similar line.”
“May one day”? How about, “has already repeatedly”? Otherwise, touché!
This is a president that can’t help slinging insults at friends and foes alike. (McCain, as the Post noted, is already on his sizeable hit list, having been insulted for his POW status.) And this is a Republican Party that countenances such behavior.
Where is the moral outrage that followed then-candidate Barack Obama saying small-town voters cling to guns and religion, or then-candidate Hillary Clinton referring to Trump supporters as a basket of deplorables? These were, after all, benign comments when compared with characterizing Mexicans as rapists and murderers, describing personal acts of sexual assault, or insulting a sitting senator battling an almost certainly terminal prognosis.
And where are the gatekeepers of first lady Melania Trump’s new ”#BeBest” campaign, with its aim to reduce cyber-bullying and nastiness?
There have been a few voices in the wilderness, such as that of former President George W. Bush, but they have been mild and ineffective.
The inability of the president to govern himself civilly — and of his aides, friends and family to impress upon him the wisdom of doing so — has contributed to an increasingly disrespectful political culture . and can only spill out into the culture at large.
It is a sad reflection on the White House, its culture, its staff and its leader.
PHILLY SHOULD SPEED UP WORK TO MAKE BIKE LANES SAFER BEFORE ANOTHER CYCLIST DIES, May 15
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia will hold a “Ride of Silence” on Wednesday to mourn cyclists killed on Philadelphia’s unsafe streets.
The coalition planned its solemn ride even before food courier and cycling enthusiast Pablo Avendano, 34, was killed Saturday. An SUV struck Avendano on Spring Garden Street near 10th Street.
Avendano seemed to be following safety protocols. In fact, his helmet lay in the street near his bicycle as police investigated the scene.
This is the second time in as many years that a cyclist struck in central Philadelphia died. Emily Fredricks, 24, was killed in November 2017 when she was hit by a trash truck on Spruce Street near 11th Street.
Philadelphia has more traffic deaths per capita than New York, Los Angeles, or Boston, according to the city’s Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2030.
Mayor Kenney has said he wants to add bike lanes to ensure cyclists are adequately protected. Council should be involved in that process, but not given the expanded powers Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell sought in a misguided bill she introduced in March.
Going forward, the administration wants to move bike lanes on Spruce and Pine Streets, from Front to 22nd Streets, to the left sides of those thoroughfares. Other ideas include separating bike riders from cars using Jersey barriers, poles, and planters, as well as moving parking lanes off curbs, leaving cyclists to travel between parked cars and the sidewalk.
The city should accelerate its plans to protect cyclists before another one dies. In the meantime, the general public should support the coalition when its members gather at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the steps of the Art Museum.
People ride bicycles to get to work and school, for sport and for health. Doing that shouldn’t mean dying on the streets of Philadelphia.
SYSTEM OF DESPAIR: PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS SHOULDN’T LAND IN JAIL, May 15
Quinn Glover, 56, is trapped in more ways than one.
His mental illness is a straitjacket that’s left him with the cognitive skills of a 5-year-old.
Arrested for grabbing the groin of a personal care attendant last month, Mr. Glover landed behind bars. When he finally gets out of the Allegheny County Jail, his only prospect is a return to a mental health treatment system that’s done little for years but bat him around.
His odyssey is additional evidence of the state’s need to establish more inpatient beds for people with severe mental illness and to beef up the outpatient treatment system for those trying to make it in community settings.
The state closed Mayview State Hospital in December 2008 after relocating about 300 residents, including Mr. Glover, who had lived there for more than 25 years. The closure of the South Fayette facility was part of a nationwide movement aimed at treating the mentally ill in less restrictive settings. It also was a cost-cutting measure; it’s less expensive to provide community-based treatment than to operate sprawling institutions.
However, the state never found appropriate homes for some of those who were relocated and failed to pump ample resources into the outpatient treatment system that was supposed to shoulder much of Mayview’s work. Besides those moved out of Mayview, the decision to close the hospital affects everyone in its former service area — Allegheny, Beaver, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties — who may need intensive psychiatric care one day.
Rather than build up community programs for the long haul, the state did the opposite. It cut millions of dollars in mental health funding during the 2012-13 fiscal year. As treatment providers scaled back operations, some community hospitals and jails reported that the state effectively shifted some of Mayview’s caseload to them.
While some of those relocated from Mayview have done well, others have not. One was murdered. Another pleaded no contest to raping a woman at the personal care home where both lived.
Mr. Glover, who suffered irreparable damage at 14 from a blood clot on his brain, also has struggled. He’s been in various facilities since leaving Mayview, most recently a personal care home in Monroeville. He needs more care than it provided.
The jail also has had a difficult time coping with him. Because of inappropriate and threatening behavior, officials moved him from a medical unit to a psychiatric unit where inmates spend most of their time in isolation. His condition there deteriorated, and after the American Civil Liberties Union intervened, a federal judge Friday ordered him returned to the medical unit pending his release to a treatment program.
But officials couldn’t immediately find one. That’s shocking and unacceptable.
More inpatient beds, in hospitals or community settings, are needed for those who are severely and persistently ill. Also needed are a stronger safety net for those receiving outpatient treatment, lest they get sicker and require higher levels of care, and better support for families who struggle with loved ones’ illnesses.
Nearly a decade after the closing of Mayview, the state’s promise to remake mental health care in southwestern Pennsylvania remains unfulfilled.