Your letters, Aug. 28: Kinnaird, ‘Free’ rides, and football danger

August 27, 2013 

Courageous Kinnaird

Thank you for your editorial applauding our esteemed and courageous public servant, state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird (CHN, Aug. 21, bit.ly/18fLpkZ).

Now she will be a leader in our efforts to restore the progressive direction of our state and repair the damage done by the Republican-controlled government.

Nancy Milio

Chapel Hill

Need more like her

Senator Kinnaird surprised many of us Aug. 19 by announcing her resignation. Most know what a champion she has been of education and other children’s needs, social and criminal justice concerns, fair taxation, environmental enhancement and other issues important to North Carolinians.

It may surprise many how supportive she was of business. She could be relied upon to solve trade and licensure disputes based on consumer safety/economic protection and common-sense fairness, rather than narrow business interests. I marveled at her efforts to learn the impact of regulation on business and balance their needs with the responsibilities of regulatory agencies.

In a time when we have serious problems to solve, and need more Senator Kinnairds to solve them, her loss is unfortunate. More than unfortunate for those across our state who continue suffering in this economy, yet never knew her or her fight for their interests. It is our loss that North Carolinians failed to elect sensible representatives to work in concert with our champion in the Senate. As of Aug. 19, that declining institution took yet another dive.

Dann Carnes

Chapel Hill

Schools disappoint

With the new school year upon us, we would like to express our relief for finally being free of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) system.

We’ve spent eight years with three children in the CHCCS system and have had a largely negative experience. To be fair, our children have had several wonderful teachers and staff members who went out of their way to make our children feel welcome, wanted, and special despite the inherent flaws in the CHCCS system; yet, for the most part, our experience has been disappointing at best.

One of us was raised in this same school system, beginning some 40 years ago; the other of us moved to Chapel Hill over 20 years ago. Back then, Chapel Hill was a different town in a different era.

It was primarily an academic town without a huge medical school or RTP presence, but perhaps with remaining and resolving tensions between blacks and whites. Apart from that, there was little other diversity in this town. Over the decades since, the town has diversified, much for the better. Chapel Hill is today a town represented by people of all races, cultures, income levels, degrees, expertise, and backgrounds. But the CHCCS system has not embraced the diversity and is instead riding off of the laurels of previous generations.

Over the years that our children have been enrolled in the CHCCS system, the administration has been dismissive over significant concerns, including: an incompetent teacher (who “resigned” many months after hire); a verbally abusive teacher (who likewise “resigned” many months after hire); a principal who was mostly absent during a four-year tenure and then suddenly “resigned”; a long-term substitute specialist who we personally disapproved of and were not notified of a priori regarding her presence in our child’s class (which would have given us an early opportunity to intercept and prevent any involvement with our child); classrooms that relied on teachers instead of culturally appropriate support staff to teach non-English-speaking students and help them thrive and learn along with their English-speaking peers; a school closing (FPG, arguably the most diverse school in the district) to accommodate the interests of a very small constituency; and multiple issues with bullying (yes, bullying, an issue of grave national concern) at more than one school within the district (FPG and MMS).

We tried to keep a positive attitude. We tried to volunteer more. We reached out to the local school administration and the broader administration centered at Lincoln Center. But the reality is that the CHCCS system administration cares more about its reputation than it does about the children and families it is charged with serving.

The era and legacy of the CHCCS system are long gone.

Kara Fecho Schmitt

Charles Schmitt

Chapel Hill

No free ride

With the 2013 property tax bill nipping at our wallets, why not investigate once again the expense borne by the Town of Chapel Hill and Carrboro for running the so-called free buses?

As most of us know or should know, nothing in this world is free. The cost of this bus operation is just transferred to other taxpayers and now shows up in our increased tax bill. The time for this largesse is over as it now is with the park and ride lots.

Andrew Meyer

Chapel Hill

Dangerous experiment

As the football season begins, players will be colliding at the line of scrimmage and tackling with forces that are literally brain scrambling and bone rattling. Given the growing evidence of the long-term harm of even minimal traumatic brain injuries, all the adults involved in the game – coaches, parents, boards of education, trainers, and doctors – should pause to ponder the ethics of what amounts to an experiment.

Even with increasingly sophisticated diagnostic scans and other technologies, the fact is that we still know little about how these brain-scrambling collisions actually do their harm. We do know, however, with growing alarm, that over the long term some number of concussions – is it two, five, 10?, nobody yet knows – are associated with catastrophic outcomes. Even repeated trauma that does not result in a diagnosed concussion seems to be a risk.

Suicides, early dementia, and other evidence of brain damage should give us pause in what amounts to this massive experiment in which boys and young men are exposed to these risks without adequate study or follow up. While some programs are underway to try to change some of the techniques in football, to perhaps lessen the risk of head trauma, and clinicians have become more conscientious in their oversight of this problem, the fact remains that hundreds of thousands of boys are playing football, most of them without the possible benefits of these programs.

These players are unwitting participants in what is basically an experiment, as cases continue to mount and are studied in increasingly sophisticated ways. In most medical experiments, however, there are rigorous standards to inform participants of the risks and benefits, the requirement of informed consent, and procedures to monitor the outcomes. Not so in high school and college football.

As the lights glow on Friday nights or as the crowds cheer on Saturday afternoons, we should be asking whether it is ethical to permit, not to mention encourage, this game until much more is known about its associated harmful head injuries.

Lewis Margolis

The writer is the director of the master’s degree program in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

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