Letters

High School Confidential

Frank Kogan's cover article "Every High School Is a Time Bomb" [May 4], on the Littleton tragedy, should be required reading for anyone having anything to do with secondary education. Kogan was the first journalist I've read who correctly mapped the social world of high school that led Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris to commit those horrible murders. Unfortunately, similar tragedies are possible wherever a high school cranks out a kid or two stretched past the breaking point by the torture inherent in a system with cliques of preppies, geeks, jocks, skaters, and outcasts.

John Dunagan
Portland, Oregon


Rage Relations

Re Frank Kogan's "Every High School Is a Time Bomb": One detail that hit home was the racist attitude of the killers.

I am a 19-year-old college student currently living in New York, but I was raised in a suburban community, much like Littleton, Colorado, where I was a social outcast. I wore black, listened to dark music, thought of myself as intellectually superior to everyone, hated jocks and everything associated with the high school system— which seemed to hate me.

Being a short, weak "freak" made me an easy target for many groups, including a group of black students who singled me out because I couldn't defend myself. I was randomly screamed at and punched in stairwells. Other students in my situation suffered the same problem. As a result, many students grew more and more racist throughout high school, despite being the children of liberal, "enlightened" ex-hippies.

I am not comparing the taunting I received to the discrimination blacks encounter in America (and I won't attempt to state that I understand what those black students felt). However, I would say that this is an integral part of race relations that has been left off of the table.

Name Withheld
Manhattan


It Takes a Family

Thank you, Karen Houppert for your excellent article ["Crisis in Family Court," April 20]. Not only have child-abuse deaths actually gone up since ACS commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta effectively abandoned efforts to keep families together (reversing a five-year decline), the "when-in-doubt-yank-'em-out" approach does tremendous harm to children.

At best, they will be deprived of loving parents whose only crime may be poverty, and also of siblings, friends, and teachers. At worst they'll be forced to sleep on chairs or the floor in a violence-plagued, makeshift "shelter," another legacy of a system overwhelmed with needless placements. Or they could wind up like four-year-old Caprice Reid, who in 1997 was beaten and starved to death in a New York foster home that was reopened by one private agency after another shut it down as substandard.

There are states that have resisted this approach. Michigan's Intensive Family Preservation Program has served more than 50,000 children, with a far better track record for safety than that of foster care— in which the rate of abuse is much higher than is generally known. Alabama reframed its entire child welfare system to follow family-preservation principles. The result: foster care placements declined and an independent, court-appointed monitor found that children are safer now than before the changes.

Ms. Houppert describes the disagreement as one between "family preservationists" and "child protectionists." But as the track record of states and cities that have taken either approach makes clear, there is no real child protection without family preservation.

Anne D. Lopiano
National Family Preservation Network
Laurel, Maryland


Dead to Rights

My thanks to Greg Tate for his dead-on description of the March Against Police Brutality ["Blood and Bridges," April 27]. Here in the hinterlands we don't get much news about such protests so I haunt the Net to get the 411. While the rest of the media has moved on to Kosovo, killer kids, and Pamela Anderson Lee's shrunken chest, the Voice has reminded me why America needs an energized alternative press. Plus, it's grand to see Greg Tate writing about current events.

Jeff Winbush
Columbus, Ohio


Blood and Blues

I must commend the Voice for its coverage of the Diallo incident. Greg Tate's article "Blood and Bridges" really hit home.

At a time when some of the black media chose to ignore the issue, the Voice has taken a stand and covered it. As an African American and mother, I thank you.

Kweli Murray
Brooklyn


Mining Truth

Mark Schoofs's article, "All That Glitters: How HIV Caught Fire in South Africa" [May 4], was fascinating. I look forward to subsequent articles on this subject.

I am especially interested in the attitudes the migrant workers and the women who follow the mining camps have about wearing condoms. With a 33 percent increase in the rate of infection, why is unprotected sex still commonplace? It appears the South African government is not taking this problem seriously.

Pam Washburn
Manhattan


Unfare

Now that some cabbies have adopted cell phones as full-time companions, cabbie-passenger interaction is becoming a thing of the past [Grace Bastidas, "Fare Game: Cab Drivers Face a Cell Block," April 27]. One of the greatest pleasures of a New York cab ride was having a spirited conversation with the driver while maneuvering around the city.

When I'm at work I make a few personal calls, like everyone else, but I'm not responsible for getting someone safely through traffic. Let cab drivers keep their cell phones if they want, but when I step in and that cab starts moving, shut the damn thing off.

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