Dispatches > Quick Takes

QuickTakes

Issue: "NEA: School bully," June 22, 2002

Private citizens vs. terrorism

Stop terrorism: Arm Brooklyn's Jews. That's the message of Toward Tradition's Daniel Lapin, who argues that America's Jews who support gun control endanger themselves. The New York Times reports that Rabbi Yakove Lloyd of the Jewish Defense Group planned armed patrols to protect Borough Park and Flatbush. A group of about 50 men would operate from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., six days a week. The NYPD threatened to arrest the patrollers. "We will not tolerate people going around with guns in this city acting unto themselves," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. But Rabbi Lapin praises Rabbi Lloyd. "These men and women living in New York's Jewish neighborhoods are right to be worried about their safety, and they are right to want to protect themselves and their families," he says in a statement. "Effective self-defense means being armed and trained in the use of appropriate weapons, such as the handgun."

Taking down the decalogue

A federal judge expelled the Ten Commandments from a Cleveland courtroom. Judge James DeWeese had posted the decalogue in his courtroom on the grounds that it was more than a religious text. The ACLU sued and won. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer's John Caniglia reports that Mr. DeWeese, a Richland County common pleas judge, posted the texts with his own money as a teaching tool. The judge said that many criminals "were full of excuses and didn't seem to have any internal government at all." U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley said that Mr. DeWeese's purpose was "generally laudable" but "constitutionally deficient."

Million-dollar kids

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California has spent $12 million on a special boot camp to punish kids who bring guns to school. Yet the state sends almost nobody there. The military school has seen a whopping 25 students, reports Kelly St. John in the San Francisco Chronicle. Only 10 graduated. "If Gov. Gray Davis wants to save an easy $3 million in his budget, some say he need look no further than the empty new classrooms, vacant dorms, and bloated payroll of the Turning Point Academy in San Luis Obispo," the reporter notes. The state has spent about $1 million per graduate. The school expected to have 360 pupils in its first term. Instead, it saw only one, a 16-year-old known as the "$9 million kid," referring to Turning Point's budget. "He slept alone in a dormitory, exercised alone in the academy's expansive yard, and was the sole object of attention for 45 staff members and teachers," Ms. St. John writes. "Arguably, these few graduates are the most expensive students ever in the history of the state," Julian Crocker, San Luis Obispo's school superintendent told the paper. "Admitting that a program does not work is a lot better than trying to put Band-Aids on an internal hemorrhage," he argued in a memo. Still, the state plans to throw another $2.9 million at the school this year.

Glorified social ill

Need a new reason for concern over public schools? A Florida high school celebrated teen pregnancy in its school yearbook. Pinellas Park High School dedicated six pages of photos and interviews to young moms in the student body. Candace Rondeaux reports in the St. Petersburg Times that some faculty and parents complained that such positive coverage glorified a social ill. The spread is titled, "I Just Can't Believe That I'm Having a Baby." The teenagers described their pregnancies as a "combination of heaven and hell." Student Stacy Pauley, for example, is profiled with a sonogram of her baby and posed with her child after birth. Another student described having labor pains in school: "I felt this pain in my stomach, and it was like, 'Only 10 more minutes until class is over.'"

Marriage matters more than age

The U.S. teen birth rate dipped 5 percent last year, falling to its lowest level in six decades. Among black teenagers, the rate fell 8 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. This was the 10th straight year that the teen birthrate has fallen, according to HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. Abortion wasn't cited as a reason for the long-term trend, reports The Washington Times' Cheryl Wetzstein, and a separate government report found a 2 percent drop in the abortion rate between 1997 and 1998. Still, observers worried about the rate of births occurring out of wedlock: 33.4 percent now, compared to 20 percent two decades ago. "Children will benefit very little if all we're doing is delaying the out-of-wedlock birth by a few years," Heritage Foundation analyst Robert Rector told the Times. He said that marriage matters more than the mother's age in keeping babies out of poverty: "Clearly, we have to have a policy to try to restore healthy marriages in those communities where marriage is disappearing."

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