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School Daze 

Editor:

Ryan Burns' article "Unequal Opportunities" (Jan. 2) reads more like a McCarthy-era witch hunt than a researched article about discrimination in our public schools. As a substitute teacher of over four years in the district, I know Eureka High has school assemblies on stopping racism and sexism. In classrooms and hallways you will see notices, in prominent places, against bullying. I'm not saying racism, sexism doesn't go on in our schools. But to hold teachers and the school responsible for students' behavior anywhere on or off school grounds is oppressively ridiculous.

I almost spit out my coffee when I read, " ... students have gone so far as to assault staff; ... slapped the buttocks of school administrators ... female teachers, and Defendant failed to take steps to stop this behavior." That's like saying someone who gets mugged is to blame for not stopping the mugger. Then he wrote, "Female students have taken to wearing rhinestone-encrusted jeans as armor. ... " Hello? I suppose stores selling these things by the truck load should rename designer jeans "Female Bottom Armor." Mr. Burns, Humboldt County is not the Valhalla of progressives. Just look at our county supervisors. Surprise! There are racists in Humboldt County. But I challenge anyone to show me a teacher in this school district that teaches racism. If Mr. Burns would take the time to visit Eureka High or Zane Middle, he would see African-American students socializing freely with Anglo, Latino and Asian students. Racism is learned behavior likely due to family background. Even East Coast, ivory towers of education realize students' grades and behavior are mostly a result of home life.

I could go on picking apart this article but I hope readers get my point. Let's stop bashing those who are expected to be social workers, role models, psychologists, police, teachers and administrators doing their best to educate kids. Let's support them and start putting more responsibility on the students and their parents because they are the main influence on their young lives.

Larry Arsenault, Rio Dell

Editor:

I was saddened and embarrassed to be a Eurekan after reading your article "Unequal Opportunities." While I am aware that discrimination and bullying in schools is not only a Eureka/Humboldt County problem, the spotlight is on us right now and we need to do something! No child should feel afraid to go to school, and something is horribly wrong when this kind of treatment toward children in our schools is allowed to continue after kids are brave enough to come forward for help.

The superintendent's quoted response to the problem was appalling in its dismissiveness, and I certainly hope he intends to do something drastic to educate the staff and students of our schools regarding the serious implications of this kind of behavior, and not because they are being sued, but because it is the right thing to do to protect our children!

To "Brianna" and "Jessica," I applaud you (and want to hug you)! Stay strong and know there are many of us in your community who support you, and please know that your efforts will help many other children who are suffering in silence in our schools. And to all of my fellow parents, guardians and relatives of all of our Humboldt County children, please talk to them about bullying and its harmful effects; we all need to work to make our schools and communities safe for our children!

Amy Lennox, Eureka

Editor:

Your article about the lawsuit against the education system had somewhat negative comments about the Community School system. We at Blue Ox have been working with the Humboldt County Office of Education Community School students for 14 years now, and have found them to be wonderful young people. The students at Blue Ox are caring and compassionate, with a desire to please and be praised for their work. Sounds like most young people, doesn't it? The reason these students are not a good fit in a standard school setting is because they are "doers" and not sitters; they learn by doing. The idea that students only learn when sitting at a desk in nice neat rows saying, "Yes, Mr. Teacher" or "No, Mrs. Teacher" is simply not the case for everyone.

In 2002 the Blue Ox Community School students were invited to make a presentation at the largest conference for hands-on learning in the world, called "Kids Who Know & Do," being held in San Francisco. We took the entire class of 18 and gave six demonstrations, including three Native American young men that demonstrated how to make a traditional dug-out canoe on a small four-foot log. All the students did such an incredible job presenting their skills that Blue Ox became the first school in the history of the conference to be invited back a second year. They nailed those presentations, too!

In 2010 we had our first school reunion with 50 former students attending, and I'm proud to report we had every trade under the sun represented, from electricians to road pavers, a chef to maintenance people. These young people are doing fine and we at Blue Ox are honored to be working with the HCOE Community School Program.

Eric Hollenbeck, Eureka

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