Letters to the Editor: September 25, 2013

Laws on men­tal ill­ness are in­sane

As in the case of sev­er­al oth­er mass shoot­ing per­pet­rat­ors in the past, the D.C. shoot­er, Aaron Alex­is, sought psy­chi­at­ric help be­cause he was hear­ing voices in his head, be­lieved that people were fol­low­ing him and that a mi­crowave ma­chine was dis­rupt­ing his sleep. Clearly, he was psychot­ic, suf­fer­ing de­lu­sions, hal­lu­cin­a­tions and para­noia, yet some­how, clue­less law en­force­ment of­fi­cials and the me­dia are still seek­ing a motive for his ac­tions.

A per­son should be thank­ful when he lit­er­ally “ducks a bul­let.” Our older son works near D.C. for the U.S. Navy and of­ten meets ci­vil­ian con­tract­ors at the D.C. Navy Yard for con­sulta­tions and con­fer­ences. Many a time, he has eaten in the cafet­er­ia where the 12 were killed. Re­cently, he had to be home in the morn­ing, so he sent two of the people who work for him to the site. They made it out of the build­ing safely. Two oth­ers whom he has at­ten­ded con­fer­ences with in the past were not so lucky. 

Our young­er son had men­tal health is­sues 25 years ago. However, he has been well, tak­ing med­ic­a­tion, work­ing and pro­duct­ive for 20 years and in fact has spoken to the crisis in­ter­ven­tion team of the po­lice de­part­ment nu­mer­ous times about men­tal ill­ness and deal­ing with in­di­vidu­als in men­tal dis­tress. I have vo­lun­teered for the last 20-plus years in the area of men­tal health, speak­ing to doc­tors, so­cial work­ers, fam­il­ies and con­sumers. 

The al­leged shoot­er is also a vic­tim. On his gun, he carved the words, “Bet­ter off this way,” which could in­dic­ate that he ex­pec­ted to die and that his own suf­fer­ing would end. 

The law says that a men­tally ill per­son can­not be med­ic­ated against his will, but if after killing sev­er­al people, that per­son is cap­tured alive, he can be med­ic­ated in pris­on un­til he is judged “sane” enough to face tri­al. Now he is eli­gible for the death pen­alty, ig­nor­ing the fact that, med­ic­ated, he is not the “same per­son” who com­mit­ted the crime and would not have done it if he were in his right mind. Per­haps it is our laws that are in­sane.

Mel Flit­ter


Com­munity Walk for sui­cide pre­ven­tion is Oct. 6

I will be join­ing with thou­sands of people na­tion­wide this fall to walk in the Amer­ic­an Found­a­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion’s (AF­SP) Out of the Dark­ness Com­munity Walk. 

The Phil­adelphia Out of the Dark­ness Walk is on Oct. 6.

My per­son­al fun­drais­ing goal is $1,500, and so far $453 has been raised. I would ap­pre­ci­ate any sup­port that you give me for this worth­while cause.

The Amer­ic­an Found­a­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion is at the fore­front of re­search, ad­vocacy, edu­ca­tion and pre­ven­tion ini­ti­at­ives de­signed to re­duce loss of life from sui­cide. With more than 38,000 lives lost each year in the U.S. and over 1 mil­lion world­wide, the im­port­ance of AF­SP’s mis­sion has nev­er been great­er, nor our work more ur­gent.

I hope you will con­sider sup­port­ing my par­ti­cip­a­tion in this event. Any con­tri­bu­tion will help the work of AF­SP, and all dona­tions are 100-per­cent tax de­duct­ible.

Donat­ing on­line is safe and easy.

To sup­port me and make an on­line dona­tion, please go to www.af­sp.org

At the top of the page, click on “Out of the Dark­ness Com­munity Walks.” At the cen­ter of the page, click on “Out of the Dark­ness Com­munity Walks” again. Un­der “find a par­ti­cipant,” please type in my name Soph­ie Car­roll. Thank you for con­sid­er­ing this re­quest for your sup­port. 

If you have any ques­tions about the Out of the Dark­ness Com­munity Walks or AF­SP, vis­it www.af­sp.org

Soph­ie Car­roll

Age 16, George Wash­ing­ton High School

Try­ing to swipe a DVD? Who cares?

On a re­cent trip to the free lib­rary on Cottman Av­en­ue, I saw a dis­turb­ing event that seems to be a com­mon prac­tice, as I have seen it sev­er­al times in re­cent weeks.

A young man at­temp­ted to leave the lib­rary with a DVD stuffed in his bag. When the alarm went off, he merely walked back to the front desk, checked out the item, and went on his way. What struck me was there was no fear in his face, only an­noy­ance. Nobody chal­lenged him. He was al­lowed to ba­sic­ally “get away with it.”

This is prob­ably lib­rary policy, maybe a de­sire to avoid a con­front­a­tion, more likely a mis­guided at­tempt to give a break to in­ner-city kids, like over­due fines for­give­ness. (No won­der so many books and DVDs are miss­ing.)

This kind of ap­proach is do­ing them no fa­vors. When a kid knows there is no pun­ish­ment for steal­ing, and in fact can feel no shame in get­ting caught - Why? Be­cause it’s ex­pec­ted be­ha­vi­or? - there is trouble ahead. When that kid gets his first job, will his em­ploy­er let him steal?

I sug­gest that the lib­rary sus­pend the child’s lib­rary card for an ap­pro­pri­ate peri­od, call the par­ent, and pos­sibly have the child vo­lun­teer some time back to the lib­rary. Con­sequences are good teach­ers.

We have a lot of young people in this city with no sense of mor­al right and wrong. Par­ents have failed, and the schools are fail­ing. Please, let’s not have every in­sti­tu­tion cave in to the soft bigotry of low ex­pect­a­tions.

Richard Iac­on­elli


In re­sponse to George Tomez­sko’s let­ter

I have two male gay friends who were mar­ried in Canada where same-sex mar­riage is leg­al, and who are plan­ning to ad­opt chil­dren. 

I hope they do be­cause they are among the most lov­ing couples I have ever known. 

Their un­tra­di­tion­al mar­riage is a beau­ti­ful re­la­tion­ship which I know would be passed on to whatever for­tu­nate chil­dren they would raise. 

It’s a new world, Mr. Tomez­sko, and a far, far bet­ter one in which you and I grew up. Get used to it. It’s here to stay, thank God.

Ed­ward Huber


Ry­an Raid­ers look strong this sea­son

Kudos to Ray Pas­cali for his ex­cel­lent let­ter re­gard­ing Arch­bish­op Ry­an’s foot­ball tra­di­tion. He spoke of the Raid­ers’ his­tory of Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ships and dif­fi­cult sched­ules, aka, Penns­bury and Ne­sham­iny. 

Ry­an foot­ball is back, bet­ter than ever. Their sig­na­ture win, thus far this year,  has been their con­vin­cing win over Car­din­al O’Hara. After their blo­wout win over Chichester, 54-10, they are 4-0 to be­gin the sea­son. 

Tough games are forth­com­ing against La Salle, The Prep and Ro­man. Ry­an is cap­able of win­ning these games and go­ing un­defeated. 

It is pos­sible that they could play Penns­bury or Ne­shim­iny in the 4-A play­offs. Both teams are very good this year. I scouted the Raid­ers in their romp over Ben­s­alem. They con­trolled the ball on both sides, at the line of scrim­mage.

Samir Bul­lock, a ju­ni­or run­ning back, is a big-time col­lege pro­spect who re­minds me of sev­er­al Ohio State run­ning backs from past years. He cuts on a dime and leapfrogs over de­fens­ive play­ers. 

Sev­er­al Ry­an coaches have told me that we need more fans to come out to sup­port the team. I agree. State champs this year? Don’t count them out!

John T. Fritz

Park­wood Man­or

Keep schools open on re­li­gious hol­i­days

In read­ing the Sept. 18 is­sue of the North­east Times and see­ing the back­lash to my let­ter re­gard­ing pub­lic schools clos­ing for re­li­gious hol­i­days, I want to cla­ri­fy and state that I agree with Mr. Lev­in­son. No school should be closed for a re­li­gious hol­i­day. Mr. Lev­in­son points out (via the pub­lic school hand­book) that chil­dren are ex­cused for re­li­gious hol­i­days. As a Chris­ti­an, it is up to me to keep my son home on a re­li­gious hol­i­day, not the school or the gov­ern­ment. Mak­ing ar­range­ments for my son can be­come ex­pens­ive, as I would have to hire someone or lose a day from work. I should not have to be faced with that de­cision. 

To Mr. Eck, I am a Chris­ti­an but I am not Cath­ol­ic and I wor­ship every week at my church. I com­mend you for your sac­ri­fice in send­ing your chil­dren to a school that rep­res­ents your be­liefs. However, your state­ment that, “I just wish these people who send their kids to charter schools would just be hon­est about their reas­on­ing, that charter schools are free,” is par­tially right. I would not send my son to a pub­lic school in the city and I have no reas­on to send my son to a Cath­ol­ic school. If my son were not at the top charter school in the city or a school equi­val­ent, I would send him to a private school. As far as hav­ing op­tions closer to my home, I as­sure you that I travel 7.5 miles to take my son to school and an­oth­er 7.5 miles to travel home. I also travel the same 15 miles to pick my child up from school, and my travel time is more than 20 minutes. For­tu­nately, I am blessed that my son re­ceives an ex­cel­lent edu­ca­tion. 

This brings up an­oth­er point that these “lousy pub­lic schools in this city” are not a vi­able op­tion. I say this, for if charter schools can op­er­ate on the same budget per child as the pub­lic schools, why are we fight­ing them? They do not have a massive build­ing on Broad Street, vice prin­cipals or hun­dreds of people push­ing pa­pers. Also, the teach­ers at most charter schools make less money then their coun­ter­parts at pub­lic schools and some Cath­ol­ic schools. They man­age their fund­ing, and the stu­dents “are dis­cip­lined and re­ceive a tre­mend­ous edu­ca­tion.” 

May­er Krain, I would be happy to keep my son home on Christ­mas and have him make up the work. It is my opin­ion that no pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion should close for re­li­gious reas­ons. If I were Jew­ish and worked for the post of­fice, the city, a bank or the gov­ern­ment, I would have to take a va­ca­tion day off to cel­eb­rate my be­liefs. I have no prob­lem with that at all. 

In cla­ri­fy­ing my point: no oth­er gov­ern­ment agency is closed for re­li­gious hol­i­days, so my ques­tion is, why are schools? My oth­er point was that if all pub­lic agen­cies are closed to cel­eb­rate Colum­bus Day, why aren’t all pub­licly fun­ded schools?

Steve Schmidt

Fox Chase

Re­li­gious hol­i­days bring fam­il­ies to­geth­er 

I am re­spond­ing to your fea­tured let­ter, “Don’t close pub­lic schools for re­li­gious hol­i­days.” Only Jew­ish hol­i­days were singled out. I am Jew­ish and cel­eb­rate my hol­i­days with Chris­ti­an friends. They share their hol­i­days with me.

How about Christ­mas and East­er? Should we keep school open and hold Chris­ti­an stu­dents re­spons­ible to make up their work? This sounds like a pun­ish­ment for do­ing something wrong. 

The writer cites sep­ar­at­ing church and state, call­ing Christ­mas and East­er “sea­son­al breaks.” This does not take away their true mean­ing.

I am glad there is time for fam­ily mem­bers miles away and col­lege stu­dents to come home. How won­der­ful for them to cel­eb­rate their re­li­gious hol­i­days to­geth­er. Our great coun­try was foun­ded on re­spect and free­dom for all re­li­gions. It seems the writer is not aware this ap­plies to Jews.

Roberta Weiss


Schools should close on Jew­ish hol­i­days  

In re­sponse to Steve Schmidt’s let­ter, “Don’t close schools for re­li­gious hol­i­days,” Rosh Hashana and Yom Kip­pur are the most re­li­gious hol­i­days of the Jew­ish people.

How do you “know that most of the teach­ers today are not Jew­ish”?  Did you ob­tain an of­fi­cial count?

Your son at­tends a charter school, by your choice, which has no dir­ect re­la­tion to the pub­lic schools. Charter schools are an en­tity of their own.

Wheth­er or not teach­ers and/or stu­dents are Jew­ish, clos­ing school for the ob­serv­ance of the Jew­ish New Year is the right thing to do.

Ac­cord­ing to the Jew­ish cal­en­dar, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kip­pur nev­er fall on the same day each year. It just so hap­pens that this year, ob­serv­ance is early. There have been times when the hol­i­days come in Oc­to­ber, so then your son would not have to go to school for one day and then miss two.

I sug­gest you learn and un­der­stand the ob­serv­ances of oth­er people and their dif­fer­ent re­li­gious be­liefs be­fore you cri­ti­cize.                

Sheila Dress­ner


No sep­ar­a­tion of church and state  

In re­sponse to Mr. Schmidt’s let­ter: I grew up in the pub­lic school sys­tem and was not of the Chris­ti­an faith. We were forced to read the “Lord’s Pray­er” every­day in as­sembly. We cel­eb­rated Christ­mas and East­er in school be­cause of man­dat­ory pa­geants. Where was the sep­ar­a­tion of church and state?

Lynn Dunitz


Re­spect Jew­ish hol­i­days

I must take is­sue with Steve Schmidt of Fox Chase and his let­ter, “Don’t close schools for re­li­gious hol­i­days” (9/11/13). I am a re­cently re­tired Jew­ish teach­er from the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia. I don’t know ex­actly how many Jew­ish per­son­nel (teach­ers, school staff, etc.) are still em­ployed by the SDP, but I would think it is still a very sig­ni­fic­ant num­ber. The Jew­ish cal­en­dar is a lun­ar one. We are talk­ing about a max­im­um of three days of school clos­ings for ma­jor Jew­ish hol­i­days. It just so hap­pens that Rosh Hasha­nah oc­curred very early this year, and on week­days. This year, the schools are closed for two days of our hol­i­day, since Yom Kip­pur began at sun­down on Fri­day even­ing, Sept. 13. There are oth­er ma­jor Jew­ish hol­i­days when the schools are not closed (Sukkot, our fall har­vest fest­iv­al; Pas­sov­er; Shavuot, the giv­ing of the Ten Com­mand­ments). As a prac­ti­cing Jew, I would have loved to have taken off for those days as well, but I didn’t for as long as I worked in the school dis­trict. I am grate­ful that some re­spect has been shown for our hol­i­days of Rosh Hasha­nah and Yom Kip­pur.

When I was in ele­ment­ary through high school, most of my ab­sences were for Jew­ish hol­i­days. I was rarely sick, for­tu­nately, and my mom would write those notes. Of course, I made up my work, and that situ­ation con­tin­ued through col­lege.

I would not ask any Chris­ti­an per­son to work on Christ­mas Eve, Christ­mas Day, Good Fri­day, East­er, etc. I do not ex­pect to be off from work for all of our hol­i­days, but please show re­spect for the Jew­ish people’s holi­est days as well.

Gail Schwartz


Ob­jec­tion to school hol­i­day clos­ures is silly  

Steve Schmidt’s ob­jec­tion to the clos­ure of pub­lic schools on Jew­ish hol­i­days is silly. No one is more in fa­vor of the sep­ar­a­tion of church and state than I am, but there is such a thing as the sec­u­lar re­cog­ni­tion of a re­li­gious real­ity. 

It doesn’t make sense to have school on days when a lot of stu­dents and teach­ers won’t be there, for any reas­on, re­li­gious or oth­er­wise.

Howard J. Wilk

Pine Val­ley

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