Defending private schools

This is regarding your article "Defending public schools" `Aug. 11` by Elizabeth Randall.

To promote public schools by condemning private schools is quite shortsighted. Successful private schools serve a market who are looking for a certain level of attention and features not typically offered in the public setting: accelerated academics, enrichment classes (art, music, drama, foreign language, swimming, etc.), small class sizes, state-of-the-art technology and up-to-date facilities. Whereas a public school has to be a school for everyone, private institutions readily admit they may not be for everyone; it is what enables them to offer more. Their success is not at the downfall of the public system; instead it offers a viable alternative.

It is equally simplistic to infer that parents who choose private schools do it as a condemnation of public schools and educators. Parents make individual choices for a variety of reasons in the best interests of their children. At our school, many of our teachers and administrators have previously served in the public system and feel that it makes them even better prepared for the private setting.

We support education, no matter which way it is gained; public or private. Our mutual goal is that Florida schools be among the best in the nation. How can this hurt anyone?

Liz Kleppin, Park Maitland School

Mass hysteria

First let me thank you for the article `"Not in my city," Aug. 18`. It is refreshing to actually hear a voice of reason through this recent media storm.

My husband was accused of a crime he did not commit. Thanks to corrupt police, a coerced confession and the poor advice of a public defender, 15 years later he stands convicted of a second-degree felony sex offense. He has been through the hell of a five-year sentence in a Florida state prison and 11 and one-half years probation. Our home has been targeted, our cars and mailbox vandalized. I sometimes lie in bed at night just listening, fearing for our very lives. Now media sensationalism of a few horrible crimes has provoked mass hysteria and new legislation aimed more toward political expediency than actually protecting anyone, and the result is laws which not only violate the Constitution and promote a false sense of security, but also place many now law-abiding citizens and their families into harm's way.

My husband and I certainly understand people's need to protect their children and families. We also understand their trepidation at finding out a "registered sex offender" lives in their neighborhood. Unfortunately, people have been grossly misinformed.

Sex offenders who receive counseling carry the lowest recidivism rate of any other crime, less than 20 percent. People who can truly be classified as pedophiles – people whose actual sexual orientation revolves around children – are very rare. But due to this small group's proclivity toward repeatedly preying on children, people convicted of sex crimes are placed into two categories: offenders and predators. There's a world of difference.

Offenders – the vast majority of people convicted of sex crimes – are not repeat offenders. It is the predator classification that corrals sex criminals with multiple convictions and those guilty of extremely violent sexual crimes. As predators, they are, and should be, subject to extensive prison sentences and closer monitoring.

Sex offenders are the only population singled out for this scrutiny. Violent criminals who abuse their spouses, for example, often receive just a slap on the wrist.

We place flashers, streakers, butt-slappers and bra-snappers into the same category as rapists, and into a worse category than people who maim and murder. Sex offenses are the easiest crimes to claim and the most difficult to defend against. There is no need to amass forensic and DNA evidence when you have a disgruntled mother or a coached child willing to point the finger. Then the accused are left to enter a plea bargain which may allow them to salvage some semblance of a life, albeit a life subject to public scorn, vigilante justice and the promise of poverty.

Name withheld by request

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