Letters for week of Jan. 12

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Promote best education for next generation
To the editor:
   I’d like to point out to you a disturbing trend in our community. Our school district has been the target of folks looking to reduce their overall taxes. Each of the last four school budgets has been squashed by a significant margin. Most recently these groups have suggested closing the John Hydock Elementary School.
   These groups are primarily seniors and are very well organized. Having dozens of relatives in the same demographic group, I can appreciate their position. However, I am very interested in my children receiving the type of education that I feel they deserve. I hope you feel the same way and engage yourself during important elections.
   According to an article in the Dec. 29 Register-News, Ernest Dubay is one of the folks interested in closing John Hydock. Acting as a spokesperson for the Homestead/Four Seasons group, he was quoted as stating, "We live in Homestead. We don’t generate kids. The longer we live the more we pay." I think Mr. Dubay should take note that the longer he lives the more we pay as well. As far as "generating kids," I don’t think I’ve heard anything more eloquently put. Maybe folks shot down the school budget when Mr. Dubay was growing up.
   Social Security will likely not be solvent when I retire and I have no current need for it. However, I understand that many of the retired folks in our community do need these benefits. As a contributing member of this society, I am pleased that I can help those folks and I am proud to set such an example for my children. What would our community resemble if we chose to only take care ourselves and our own specific needs?
   We are raising the next generation of citizens. They will need to be better prepared for a more competitive environment than we have experienced. They will also need to support a rapidly growing number of seniors through their economic contributions. The least we can do is prepare them for these challenges.
   I am urging you to support the new society as well as the old. Take action and promote the best education for our kids.
Tim Kelly
Columbus
Follow ‘rules of the road’ to help ensure safety
To the editor:
   Although I do not know them personally, I wish to express my heartfelt sympathy to the Mohacsi family on the loss of their beloved Ashley to such a horrific accident occurring from an innocent act — walking down the street.
   Regrettably, we cannot turn back the hands of time and bring Ashley back to her family and friends. However, we can prevent other tragedies from occurring. Adults and children alike should know and follow the "rules of the road" to ensure their safety:
   — Always walk AGAINST the flow of traffic. This gives a pedestrian the chance to view oncoming traffic and to react, if necessary, to an out-of-control vehicle. Always walk on sidewalks when they are available rather than in the street.
   — When riding a bicycle, travel in the same direction as vehicular traffic. You are a "moving vehicle" and therefore should use appropriate hand signals when turning.
   I hope and pray the Mohacsi family finds some peace and comfort in knowing that the community shares their grief, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.
Sue Young
Bordentown Township
Children need stronger special education protections
To the editor:
   I am writing in reference to the recent article (Register-News, Dec. 22) about the speech pathologist Shirley Graves, who alleges that she was forced out by the Mansfield School District for her criticism of the special services director. Ms. Graves alleges that the director improperly altered student individualized education plans (IEPs) in the district. As a special education parent in the Montgomery School District, the charges by the therapist to me seem plausible.
   For blowing the whistle on alleged improper actions, Ms. Graves is deserving of support, solidarity and accolades from parents of special education students. Families of special education students as a class face troubling times, not only in Mansfield and Montgomery townships, but across the state of New Jersey and the entire nation.
   Revisions to the law that governs special education — the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — are shifting the balance of power in the IEP process further in favor of school districts. A recent Supreme Court decision shifts the burden of proof in due process hearings when IEP proposals are in dispute to the parent in most cases — further weakening parent advocacy protections.
   Throughout New Jersey, parents are demanding that New Jersey keep stronger special education student protections in place. Thousands have signed a petition and written letters around 11 points of unity for strong student and parent protections. To get further information about these efforts and to sign the petition, visit http://StudentAdvocate-NJ.org .
   As a coordinator of the effort to uphold student and parent protections, I am hearing many horror stories from the districts. In one district, several months into the year, the administration claims that it cannot find professionals and parents learn that speech and other services are not being provided. At the recent state hearing, school representatives argued that they should be allowed to use speech therapy assistants to provide services. Districts are emboldened by the erosion of our rights and shifts in due process rules.
   The act of a director who changes the plan and lops services onto the floor is likely a common one. The good news in Mansfield is that Ms. Graves boldly came forward. The situation there calls for a state and federal civil rights investigation and whistle-blower protections for Ms. Graves.
   Parents need to organize. We need to stand independently from the Department of Education and from the school districts. We need "no strings attached" organizations that can challenge district and state policies without fear of funding cuts. We need organizations that can say to the district when it forces a strong advocate professional like Ms. Graves out: "No, you can’t do that. You need to hire her back."
   Meanwhile, we need to mobilize ourselves to be in Trenton at the Department of Education on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 5:30 p.m. for a press conference and vigil followed by hearing participation to demand strong protections for our children in New Jersey code. See http://StudentAdvocate-NJ.org, call (908) 881-5275 or write advocate@studentadvocate-nj.org for more information.
Bob Witanek
Montgomery