In New York, little accountability for school safety

Regarding your Aug. 20 article "School-safety rankings - or just black marks?": The New York State Education Department's official designation of only two schools in the entire state as "persistently dangerous" is a tactic to evade an important tenet of the No Child Left Behind Act. Kids who are terrified about violence in their schools often give up and stay home. Kids who are in school, but who are hysterical at the thought of what will happen when they have to walk to their next class, are likely to be distracted.

New York's public schools must report specific categories of incidents - including homicides, arson and riot, sexual offenses, and incidents involving the use of weapons. The Albany spin doctors came up with a definition of countable dangerous incidents that includes only weapons offenses. How can we expect kids to grow up with respect for society's ethics and rules when those with the highest levels of authority in these kids' school world are allowed to so flagrantly avoid complying with them? If schools are violent, it means the adults who run and work in them haven't been doing their jobs, or doing them well. No Child Left Behind would hold them accountable by letting parents transfer their kids to safer learning environments.
Dee Alpert
New York
The Special Education Muckraker

Dangers of a bilingual United States

Regarding your Aug. 20 article "Why Spanish is the favored new language of politics": Pandering politicians who campaign in Spanish should be condemned for promoting social disunity. They are sending the message that assimilating American values of shared language and community no longer matters. Why should immigrants learn our ways when politicians are anxious to adjust to theirs?

If immigrants want to maintain their former language, the proper place is in the home. English is the civic language of this nation and allowing Spanish to seep in as the alternative to our historical roots will take us down the road to an American Quebec.

Any votes gained among Hispanics are likely offset by votes lost among Americans who don't want to live in a bilingual country.
Brenda Walker
Berkeley, Calif.

Growing awareness of the Patriot Act

Regarding your Aug. 21 editorial "Ashcroft's Whistle-Stops": The Patriot Act may have seemed like a good idea to our lawmakers at the time, but a small minority of us were paying attention. It seems now that people are beginning to understand the grave injustice perpetrated in the name of fighting terrorism. Many of the act's provisions seem to have little to do with terrorism and simply serve to bring us incredibly close to a police state. The Patriot Act must go.
Wes Melton
Le Roy, Ill.

The ideal Democratic hopeful?

Regarding your Aug. 19 article "Can Wesley Clark be the Democrats' Ike?": As the recklessness of the Iraq venture becomes increasingly clear, who has better credentials to challenge the neoconservatives than four-star Gen. Wesley Clark?

Having seen plenty of war, Wesley Clark has nothing to prove. He understands that unilateralism is "the one thing that will kill you in the war on terrorism." A foreign policy true to our principles, he says, would be one of "generosity, humility, engagement, and of course force where it is needed." More and more Americans see that the current administration has spent the sympathy of the world and increased the terrorist threat. A little humility and much generosity will impress Muslims as no shock-and-awe tactics can.
Todd Buchanan
Nederland, Colo.

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