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Thursday, June 16, 2005 08:09 am

letters 6-16-05

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We welcome letters, but please include your full name, address and a daytime telephone number. We edit all letters for libel, length and clarity.

Send letters to: Letters, Illinois Times. P.O. Box 5256. Springfield, Illinois 62705. Fax: (217) 753-3958. E-mail: editor@illinoistimes.com

NEW REGS DON’T GO FAR ENOUGH

The Illinois Department of Agriculture recently released hand-washing guidelines in an effort to help prevent the spread of Escherichiacoli and other potentially deadly bacteria at petting zoos. While well-intentioned, the guidelines simply aren’t good enough when children’s lives are at risk, particularly as hand-washing does nothing to prevent spread of E. coli by inhalation.

In addition to the recent E. coli outbreak that sickened at least 26 children and four adults who visited petting zoos at fairs in Florida, 108 children became ill last year after visiting a petting zoo at the North Carolina State Fair.

E. coli also sickened 82 people at the Lane County Fair in Washington in 2002. Investigators believe the bacteria spread through the air inside the goats-and-sheep barn. Investigators also traced a 2001 E. coli outbreak that sickened 23 people who attended the Lorain County Fair in Ohio to an animal show barn and determined that E. coli were in the rafters, on bleachers, on the walls and in sawdust on the floor.

Hand-washing guidelines do little to protect people and absolutely nothing to help animals. The Animal Welfare Act, which doesn’t even cover birds, horses, and some other species, only requires petting zoos to give certain animals enough room to stand up and turn around. Many petting zoos fail to meet even these minimal standards. For more information, visit wildlifepimps.com.

Heather Moore
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Norfolk, Va.

CAGING BIRDS IS UNNATURAL

I have to take exception with your listing of the Fourth Annual South County Exotic Caged Bird Fair under the “nature” category in your June 9 edition. In my opinion, caging birds is one of the most twisted and cruel acts performed against nature by humans. Of all the creatures in the world, birds, whose flying represents freedom and unhindered movement, should be the last animal that deserves to be imprisoned. This does not even take into account the isolation that these animals are subjected to when they are removed from their flocks. You only have to watch the movie Winged Migration to experience the wonder and beauty of flying. By caging birds, we are not only making them suffer a life of imprisonment but also encouraging poachers to remove them from their natural habitats. I understand, but don’t approve of, the need for zoos in educating people, but the practice of having exotic animals in homes should be considered illegal and immoral.

Jan Mier
Chatham

WE FAILED CHELSEY SHORES

There is a reason Chelsey Shores ended her life. Whatever the reason, she obviously felt she could no longer cope with it.

One reason given in most articles was the bullying and harassment to which she was subjected. The malicious acts were committed by some of her classmates. Supposedly she was treated in such a manner because she was “different.” Regardless of the reason for the bullying, teasing, and harassment, it did occur. The reason is not important. What is important is why it occurred at all and why it was allowed to continue once it started. It is highly improbable that those who were involved in Chelsey’s everyday life were not aware of her torment, yet no one came to her aid. Chelsey’s death will and should haunt the tormentors and those who failed her for the rest of their lives.

John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. . . any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Chelsey Shores’ death has diminished all of us. We failed her.

John D. Kolaz
Springfield

Editor’s note: Chelsey Shores died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on June 6. In her valedictory at Auburn High School, she spoke of people who judge others unfairly, making life “unbearable.”

PRAISE FOR CATHOLIC WORKER STORY

Your June 9 cover story by Luiza Ilie [“Something that matters”] was just outstanding! Beautifully written and wonderfully inspiring. Thank you!

Andrea Shields
via the Internet

HIS JOY TO SERVE

Congratulations to the Illinois Times and Luiza Ilie for telling the story of Eric Anglada [“Something that matters,” June 9]. How often we fail to give credit to young people who are willing to step out of the mold and become such selfless, caring individuals. In a world that teaches them that the avenue to success is the bank account, large home, and prestigious job, it is difficult to imagine a young man who can find contentment and even joy in ministering to the disenfranchised in a central-Illinois community. His story makes me wonder what sparks that defining moment in making so profound a choice. Reading of his commitment and seeing in his face such God-like euphoria in serving others humbles me.

Barbara Fuhrwerk
Springfield

WHY BURDEN TEACHERS?

In this day of liability lawsuits, why would Gov. Rod Blagojevich want to burden teachers with the responsibility of screening children for mental health? What happens if a child is improperly screened? Will teachers or schools be held accountable and have to face liability suits?

In order to determine mental health, one has to determine mental illness. Are teachers trained and qualified? Why doesn’t the state work with parents instead of teachers? Do politicians believe that parents are incapable of caring for their children? Let’s support our teachers to teach and our parents to parent.

The governor wants the final version of the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Plan on his desk by the end of June, but there’s still time for public comment. E-mail Laura Hurwitz at lhurwitz@voices4kids.org or call 312-516-5569.

Karen Brockelsby
Edinburg

PRESERVE OUR DEMOCRATIC LEGACY

Students can’t move on to high school without passing the U.S. Constitution test. Yet they can graduate from it without fully grasping the First Amendment. Why? Because the education system is failing teens when it comes to teaching them the greatest civics lesson of all: free speech and free press.

A recent survey by the Knight Foundation revealed some disturbing findings. Of students surveyed at 544 high schools across the United States, three-fourths have no real opinion on the First Amendment, and more than a third think it goes too far in the rights it guarantees.

Many also believe people shouldn’t express an unpopular opinion, but that fits right in with their position on newspapers. Only half say newspapers should be permitted to publish freely without government approval of stories. Given the post-9/11 climate in this country, their views are not entirely without precedent. They might have first come across similar notions while reading 1984. But then on a very real scale they witnessed the willingness of some adults to hand over certain rights in the hopes of increased safety. Ignorance spells doom for a democracy. If we want multiple perspectives to not only be allowed but also encouraged, we need to act now. We must obliterate support for censorship — it’s fallacious and it’s the antithesis of what makes our nation strong.

Schools should provide in-depth lessons about the First Amendment so students don’t take liberties for granted. These lessons should be mandatory. We can’t think of a more critical and relevant component of U.S. history than talking to teens about their rights and the importance of protecting them.

The Illinois First Amendment Center is not content to let the foundation on which America rests be eroded. We look forward to when the curriculum, crafted last month by a group of teachers, is ready for eighth- through 12th-graders next fall. We also would urge teens to get involved in their student newspapers and, better yet, for the schools to think of ways to increase exposure to the media in the classroom and as an extracurricular activity.

Teen attitudes about the First Amendment are especially crucial because each generation of citizens helps define what freedom means in our society. These teens are future leaders and lawmakers. Let’s make it our duty to turn them into well-informed, responsible citizens.

Jim Slonoff
Past president, Illinois Press Association
Hinsdale

CORRECTION

Roberta Codemo’s new storytelling program on WQNA (88.3 FM) is Story Bites. The name of the show, which airs at 3 p.m. Mondays, was incorrect in the June 9 edition. Illinois Times regrets the error.

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