Library Bummer

The stench: Jim Schutze made a good point about the bond referendum ("Saddam and City Bonds," May 1). I used to be a big fan of the downtown library. I could usually manage to find a spot near an air vent and a reasonable distance from the nearest "researcher" stinking of alcohol-sweat-vomit-urine.

A couple of years ago, I went to the rest room at the library and found a "researcher" with his pants around his ankles, backed up to a urinal, as he finished taking a dump. I have not been back. Why are we building new public structures when the city cannot or will not properly operate the ones we already have?

Steve Chantelois

Walk in Their Shoes

Don't blame CPS: While there is no doubt that CPS and Bill "put another one in the score column" Hill made a huge mistake here ("1-Hour Arrest," April 17). I would like to point out why this most likely happened and who else is at fault. First let me say that unless you have been in the shoes of a CPS caseworker and have seen the endless parade of battered, neglected, starved, physically and sexually abused children the caseworker has, you have no real understanding of why this happened. Let's just assume this story was different for a moment and there was serious evil befalling these children that was being covered up as harmless pictures, and the caseworker let it go. The child dies or is seriously harmed. The district attorney now has a legitimate case against the caseworker for neglect, and that caseworker is going to jail, no doubt. This goes especially if the sensationalist news reporters get a hold of the story.

Just so we know who the average caseworker is, they are usually in their 20s, just graduated from college. This is their first professional job ever, and often they are getting paid 24K a year for a job that requires them to be away from home most nights and weekends. Every day they see horrors inflicted on helpless children you would expect from a Third World dictator, not the child's parents. They deal with lawyers and judges who are less interested in the child's well-being than the law and marking up a "win."

I was a foster parent for four years, and in those four years I saw good and bad. Mostly I saw people desperately, quietly trying to save children in a system that does not value a child, for parents who mostly cared less, using laws that were designed in emotional moments that now hurt more than help, for a public that demands the wisdom of Solomon while paying for the services of street-sweepers. When you go to blame someone for this mess, stand in front of a mirror and take a good look at the culprit. It is each and every one of us.

David Dyer

Phone Home

Roswell autopsy film: Thank you for at least allowing an article on this subject ("Contact," April 3) to appear in your paper--we understand the strictures the media are under--but many of us would take exception to your characterization of the "autopsy film" as a "fake." According to whom? Professional debunkers in the employ of the dumbing-down experts in Washington? The more attempts made to debunk these things, the more credibility they achieve and the less respect we have for so-called "authorities."

Don Deppeller
Smoky Lake, Alberta

Truancy by the Numbers

Tardy school district: Your recent piece, "Absent Without Leave" (April 24), contains some interesting statistics and statements. But they do not reveal the complete story. The statistic cited in the article that it took JPs an average of 79 days to hear truancy cases after they were filed was once cited by commissioners as 73 days.

And the comment that "The JPs knew the system was broke...They didn't complain until we tried to fix it" needs a veracity check.

As early as 1998, various JPs were meeting with DISD officials to encourage them to file their cases in a more timely manner. And in November 1999, several of the JPs met with Dr. Ruben Olivares at the district offices on Ross Avenue. Without exception, the JPs expressed concern that the district needed to find a way to expedite the filing of cases with the courts. One judge even complained that in the preceding school year the district waited until May to file approximately 1,000 cases--the last month of the school year.

The statistics for the last DISD truancy cases filed in this court in spring 2000 reveal the following: The district filed 261 cases and requested dismissal of 215 of those cases, or 82 percent. Reasons given for dismissal of the cases were: student had turned 18--11 percent; student withdrawn from district--20 percent (over half of those students were withdrawn before the case was filed); unable to locate (mail returned and the district had no knowledge of the student's whereabouts)--8 percent; improved grades and attendance--19 percent; no reason given--21 percent. Sixteen percent failed to appear in court after being summoned.

For the 261 filed DISD cases, the average number of absences prior to the offense date cited in the complaint was 32.7, and the average number of days from the offense date to the date the complaint was received in the court was 65. That means that a student could have possibly missed 90 days of school before a complaint was even filed with the court.

If these statistics are representative of cases filed in the other courts in the county, then timely hearing of the cases is probably of no benefit. However, the statistics do raise a question as to whether the JPs are the only villains in this play.

Jim Terry
Justice of the Peace
Precinct 3, Dallas County


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