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Some thoughts from Alyce . . .

The following comment was made by Alyce, a long-time family friend, on my posting entitled A second letter to Janie in el cielo. Click here to read the letter. In that post I acknowledged that writing letters to those that have left this vale of tears and now exist in another realm strains credulity. Alyce’ comment is intended to express her feelings for loved ones she has lost, and to support my method of corresponding with family members I have lost. In my not-so-humble opinion, the comment is beautifully structured and presented—her thoughts come straight from the heart and her words ring true in every respect.

This  is her comment:

When I was a child and someone that I loved died, it was easier for me to accept. I don’t know why exactly. I remember that I was very young when my grandpa died,. My mom and I walked up to the casket and she showed me grandpa, but it didn’t look like him. He had his teeth in and no coveralls on—it was a suit. I pulled on mom’s dress and asked Who is that? She said It’s grandpa, and I said No.

Since I was so small I didn’t quite understand it, but later that day I had questions and mom always had the sweet answers. After explaining the teeth and the suit she said Grandpa is in heaven now with Jesus and happy, no pain, just enjoying the Lord, and I understood and accepted the answers mom gave me. Yes, I was sad because I would not see grandpa make tops and other things with his knife, but he was happy and I knew that someday I would see him again.

As I got older it became harder for me when someone I loved passed away to be with the Lord, probably because I knew as I got older I would someday pass away and leave the loved ones I have on earth, but knowing God’s promise of seeing them again has always comforted me.

I know after my mom died I went to the cemetery a few times, but then I remembered what my mom told me to remember, that she and daddy were not there, and it took me awhile to get it. When I lived in the Valley I would go and place flowers and clean their stone and the stones of others I knew out there. I knew the second they passed on that their soul was with the Lord. Now when I think of them and want to talk to them I do it while driving down the road, or at home sitting in the recliner or wherever I might be. I will always miss them as long as I am breathing, here in my temporary place, but someday I will see them again.

Everyone mourns in so many different ways, and each way should be respected, whether we think it’s the right way or not. That’s why God made each of us different. Oh, to be a child again and think like a child, not complicated!

I wish we could all be like that.

Always remember that God gives us seven days a week and twenty-four hours in each day, and we must choose how to spend the time that God has given us.

Happy New Year to all and may God bless all.

An afterthought: Alyce is employed in one of the most stressful occupations that exist in any society. She works as a Correction Officer in a state facility in South Texas, in close contact with people that are in prison because they look on life from a different aspect than most people, and Alyce would be the first to admit that without God at her back, she could not continue to endure the daily stress under which she labors.

 

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19th Street South and the Big Ditch . . .

In my memories as a small boy, let’s say from the age of five up to the age of nine, a place called the Big Ditch looms large. No, it’s not the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal or Big Dig of Boston fame or the All-American Canal that winds through Arizona. My Big Ditch was—and perhaps still is—a trench that winds through the city of Columbus, Mississippi, lined with concrete at the bottom and carrying various effluvia on its way to the river—among other functions it serves as a storm drain for the city. I know not what sort of effluvia it carried, nor do I want to know now—I was advised by my folks that playing in the Big Ditch was an unhealthy practice, but hey, it had water in it. As a young boy I was drawn to water, and please forgive the time-worn analogy, like a moth to a flame—time-worn, perhaps, but highly picturesque.

The Big Ditch meandered a half-block or so from a small three-room house with a real toilet added to a back porch, one of the old time stools with a big tank of water directly overhead and a long chain to pull to release the water—trust me, if that tank ever sprung a leak the sitter below would know it. That house on Nineteenth Street South was where I lived for several years with my mother and three sisters—my sisters were all my elders by at least eighteen months.

During my time at that address I cut my reading teeth on romance magazines such as True Story, True Romances, Ladies’ This and Ladies’ That, ad nauseum. However, I’m pleased to report that my early reading pursuits among those periodicals were adequately balanced by True Detective and True Crime and various other magazines of that ilk, if you get my drift!

Now on to my story of the Big Ditch:

I’m fairly certain that if I were standing at the bottom of the Big Ditch now I would have a 360-degree view of my various surroundings, but as a boy if I made it to the bottom I was hidden from sight unless my searchers were standing on the edge of the ditch.

I won’t dally on this posting—my readers may not be ready for a story that follows a young boy uptown from home to the beginning of the ditch, and downtown to the point that the ditch connects to a river, a point which included a long concourse of concrete, a man-made slide of great proportions, a slide lined with algae that allowed one to sit down in and on and zip to the river’s edge, bailing out just before the drop to the fast-moving current. Such slides required that one be clothed from the waist down, whether in long or short pants, especially after numerous slidings had removed patches of the algae.

I realize that such activities may be difficult for adults to understand, but for us, a group of kids that craved adventure, the Big Ditch equaled and surpassed everything that the Bobbsey Twins ever did. Our play mirrored the adventures created by Zane Grey and James Fennimore Cooper and Edgar Rice Burroughs—we played cowboys and Indians, Riders of the Purple Sage, The Last of the Mohicans and Tarzan of the Apes. We sneaked out of the house with matches and cups and a pot and a fry-pan and had lunch in the Big Ditch, dining on frog legs and hackberry tea—the frogs resided in the ditch and the hackberry trees grew along the un-cemented sides of the ditch. Please don’t ask me where we got the water to make the tea.

A special note: I have no memory of having lured girls to join me and others for lunch—I must confess that girls at that particular phase held little interest for me, and I am not aware of any interest displayed by the other boys.

Yes, we caught bullfrogs, and with our pocketknives—every kid in town carried a pocketknife—we dispatched the frogs to somewhere else in the cosmos, then separated the legs from the rest of each frog, skinned the legs and then burned them in the skillet and boiled hackberries to make tea for the repast. Hey, I’m not making this up—it’s a miracle, one of God’s wonders, that we didn’t fall prey to fatal diseases, but the only thing I can remember suffering was awakening with double mumps on a memorable Christmas day—click here for a truly heart-rending narrative of that calamitous event.

As I promised at the beginning, I will not dally on this story. There’s lots more to talk about, some of which I probably won’t discuss until I make my final report to YOU KNOW WHO at the conclusion of life’s journey—let’s face it—all of us have things that we like to keep to ourselves!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Underage enlistment and other stuff . . .

Underage enlistment

My initial enlistment in the United States Air Force required perjury on the part of three people. The recruiting sergeant, my mother and I all lied about my age. I lacked six months and 12 days before my seventeenth birthday, the mandatory minimum age for enlistment with parental or guardian permission. The recruiting sergeant used ink eradicator on a certified copy of my birth certificate to change my year of birth and my mother perjured herself by signing the required parental consent form, and I was off on a great adventure—all 16 years, 110 pounds and 66 and three-fourths inches of me.

Speaking of height—I was unable to comply with the very first order given by an Air Force officer. Several of us, all new enlistees, were ushered into a room furnished with one desk, one chair and two flags—the U.S. flag and the official U.S. Air Force flag. The NCO that took us to the room told us the captain would be there in a few minutes to administer the oath of enlistment. A bit later the captain came in, said good morning, looked at his watch and said, Stand tall, men. I’ll be right back. I lacked one-fourth of an inch being five feet, seven inches tall, and I was dwarfed by the NBA wanna-bees with whom I was to share the oath of enlistment. Need I say more?

For those that have never had the pleasure of being sworn into the United States Air Force, here is the complete text of the oath I took:

US AIR FORCE OATH OF ENLISTMENT

I, (state your name), swear to sign away 4 years of my life to the UNITED STATES AIR FORCE because I know I couldn’t hack it in the Army, because the Marines frighten me, and because I am afraid of water over waist-deep. I swear to sit behind a desk. I also swear not to do any form of real exercise, but promise to defend our bike-riding test as a valid form of exercise. I promise to walk around calling everyone by their first name because I find it amusing to annoy the other services. I will have a better quality of life than those around me and will, at all times, be sure to make them aware of that fact. After completion of Basic Training I will be a lean, mean, donut-eating, Lazy-Boy sitting, civilian-wearing-blue-clothes, a Chair-borne Ranger. I will believe I am superior to all others and will make an effort to clean the knife before stabbing the next person in the back. I will annoy those around me, and will go home early every day. So Help Me God!

Hey, I’m just kidding! That oath came from the internet—you can check it and other hilarious pseudo military service oaths out here. That site is well worth a visit—trust me, you’ll like it!

The real oath of enlistment, the one that is administered by all services except the National Guard follows—this oath differs from the National Guard only because it includes the name of the state of enlistment. Click here for a history of the real oath of enlistment.

In the Armed Forces EXCEPT the National Guard (Army or Air)

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

The months and days between enlistment and the attainment of the required age of 17 were considered minority time, and had the law governing minority time in service not been changed, it would not have been counted in determining the time required for retirement from the military. The law was changed, I believe, in the 1950s through congressional action—my minority time was counted in my total service for retirement purposes.

Re: Minority time:

A funny thing happened to me on the way to retirement from the U.S. Air Force. About a month after I began basic training, our training NCO told one of the trainees to break formation following breakfast and report to the commanding officer. He then took a long look at me and said, You might as well go with himyou’re not seventeen either.

The two of us were ushered into the commander’s office and told to be seated. In addition to the commander, a military chaplain was present. The chaplain told my fellow trainee that his mother had contacted him, saying that her son was underage and she missed him and wanted him back home with her. Following that information, the commander told the trainee that it was his choice—he could be released from his oath of enlistment and be separated from the Air Force immediately without prejudice, or if he chose, he could continue his training and his enlistment.

When my fellow trainee elected to remain in service against his mother’s wishes, the commander told me that nobody believed that I was 17 years old, but that he would give me  the same option. I could continue my training, or I could choose to be released from the military without prejudice. He didn’t bother to ask me if I was underage, and I didn’t admit that I was—he probably figured I would lie if he asked me. I guess the commander and I were well ahead of the curve on the don’t ask, don’t tell option—mind you, this pertained to age only.

And the rest is history—I elected to remain in service. I managed to successfully complete basic training and I continued to reenlist over a period of 22 years plus before retiring. My retirement was based purely on years completed—no percentage for disability—no lower back pain, no loss of hearing, no bad feet, 20-20 eyesight, good teeth, etc.

I mention the absence of disabilities because some retirees feign medical problems in an effort to retire with a disability percentage—yes, Virginia, it’s true, some do—it’s only a few perhaps, but still some do try to fake it. Any percentage of disability will reduce taxes on their retirement pay and give them a leg up for employment in federal service—a disability of just five percent qualifies one for employment preferences and a reduction in federal taxes—a slight reduction, perhaps, but still a reduction. In many cases the full amount of retired pay is exempted from federal tax.

A bit of advice for future retirees—only the claim of lower back pain has even a slight chance to fool the medics. If one holds one’s ground, a disability may be given, probably the minimum five percent. Don’t even consider trying to fool the machines used to determine loss of hearing—it can’t be done. I’m not speaking from personal experience—had I known the ins and outs of faking medical problems I may have made the attempt, but I learned all this only after I completed my retirement physical. The doctor told me that my case was unusual—I took that as a compliment.

That’s it—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Pee Ess: I subsequently retired from a second career as a United States federal law enforcement officer after 26 years of spotless service, and still with no disability percentage, not even five percent—damn it!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Postcript to “Mayhem on Delaware campus”:

Postscript to “Mayhem on Delaware campus”  . . . 

A six-year old boy in a Delaware school was recently sentenced to a five-day suspension and 45 days in a reform school for bringing a Cub Scout camping knife to class. The item was given to him when he joined the Cub Scouts. It combines a fork, spoon and knife in one tool, a tool indispensable to every Cub Scout and Boy Scout—I’m uncertain whether such tool is given to Girl Scouts and/or Brownies, and if given, whether it would be indispensable to them.

Click here to view my original posting. It prompted the following response from a viewer:

“Significantly reduced the boy’s sentence—impressive. Schools have become such odd places. Being an older father of elementary students, I am shocked at how far schools go to assert their dominance over students. But then, I look at the parents of some of my children’s classmates and understand why.”

The viewer’s response was highly cogent—clear, logical and convincing, and obviously heartfelt. His comment about the dominance exerted on students by today’s schools was insightful and accurate. We daily abdicate our responsibilities and surrender our children to schools at every level—faculty members are in full charge of the students. In effect, the students become charges of the institution (note the definition of charge below).

I responded to the viewer’s comment as follows:

Thanks for the comment—I appreciate your interest. I realize that in your case the thoughts expressed below constitute “preaching to the choir,” but perhaps some wayward readers will be influenced by them, one way or another—we need all the help we can get!

This is the definition of CHARGE (from Wikipedia):

“During the European Middle Ages, a charge often meant an underage person placed under the supervision of a nobleman. Charges were the responsibility of the nobleman they were charged to, and they were usually expected to be treated as guests or as members of the household. Charges were at times more or less used openly as hostages, ensuring that the parents were kept in line.

The nuclear family is fast disappearing from the American scene. Our families have become splintered because of government intrusion by local, state and national authorities, intrusions that we appear to welcome.

I abhor the appellation of Chicken Little, but in this instance I embrace it—the sky is falling, and telling the king won’t stop its downward spiral because the king is, in many ways, responsible for the accelerated pace.

I fear that our slide down that slippery slope will continue.

 

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Letter to the editor, Express-News—S. A. cop shoots man with knife . . .

Letter to the editor, Express—News

March 10, 2010

P.O. Box 2171

San Antonio TX 78297

Please accept my compliments for your report on the use of a hitherto unknown weapon available to our police officers, as reported in today’s issue of San Antonio’s only daily newspaper. The development of the new weapon and its procurement were unknown to me until today’s issue arrived and had been read. The prompt for this submission was an incident that was reported  on page 2B in the News Roundup feature of the Metro section. I was pleased to note that our city is well ahead of the curve for innovative additions to the arsenal of weapons available to our uniformed police. The innovation pleased me, but the writing gave me no pleasure. This was the item’s heading:

S. A. cop shoots man with knife

In accordance with current journalism practices, details pertinent to the heading were given in the first paragraph, effectively setting the scene for the reader:

A San Antonio police officer shot a man Tuesday night after he ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife on the South Side, officials said.

The author—or authors—used an estimated 200 additional words to cover the events that followed the shooting, but no more details on the new weapon were given. I had no interest in subsequent events—my attention was riveted on the heading and on the first paragraph, one that featured a single sentence, pithily constructed. While pleased at the introduction of the new weapon, I was fascinated by the ambiguities contained in the heading and its first paragraph.

The heading—S. A. cop shoots man with knife—was a bit ambiguous, but clear enough for any reader to surmise that—or at least possibly that— a combination of knife and pistol was used. However, the paragraph that followed was even more ambiguous—it is repeated here for emphasis:

A San Antonio police officer shot a man Tuesday night after he ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife on the South Side, officials said.

Based purely on that paragraph, no reader can be sure whether other officers were present nor whether one officer, the one that fired the shot from the combination knife/firearm, shot one of the other officers as he ran at them. The reader has already surmised that the butcher’s knife doubled as a firearm, so in the face of that ambiguity could also surmise that the shot fired hit one of the other officers.

Oh, and there is yet another ambiguity—we are told that a man ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife. We don’t know exactly which man, nor do we know who was wielding the knife—one could reasonably surmise that it was wielded by the officers. If wielded by more than one officer, it must have been a really large butcher’s knife.

The reader is told that the butcher’s knife was wielded (carried) on the South Side, perhaps indicating that the carrier (or carriers) had previously wielded the knife/firearm combination in a different part of the city. The author erroneously capitalized both words, either inadvertently or purposely in the belief that locations appearing in the middle of a sentence should always be capitalized.

A reader might also surmise that the butcher’s knife  was carried on the side away from the officers—on the south side—in order to conceal it until the man came within reach of the target. I find that plausible—the wrong doer may have been running toward the other officers at an angle—sideways, so to speak—thus deliberately making an effort to conceal the weapon.

I thirst for more information on the new weapon, and I trust that the additional information will soon be provided. Apparently some highly imaginative weapons manufacturers and cutlery makers have created a dual-purpose weapon by combining a deadly blade with a deadly firearm—a weapon that can be used against a miscreant at close quarters or from a distance, depending on the situation and the discretion of the officer or officers.

The mere thought of police officers armed with such a weapon should strike fear into the hearts of any person contemplating one or more criminal activities. An errant citizen now knows that he (or she) will be sliced, slashed or stabbed as necessary if the officer is close enough, and if the officer is not within knife range, that errant (he or she) will be shot as many times, and in as many body parts, as necessary.

As an aside to this letter, I learned from a radio report this morning that the man was shot in the leg—which leg was not revealed, but it was either the left or the right. I do not recall the radio report shedding any light on that facet of the incident, nor do I recall the report specifying which man was shot and which man did the shooting, so my doubts created by the ambiguities present in the report remain extant.

And now for mandatory disclosures if any exist, and in this case there is one. This posting was not submitted to the Express-News for consideration. I have compiled an impressive collection of submissions to the editor in past years—some were printed and some were rejected. I soon realized that the rejections contained one or more criticisms, all of which were intended to be constructive, but the editor apparently did not consider them constructive, and in fact, in one instance the editor agreed to print a letter but would not include the whining portions of the submission. I refused permission to print it, whether with or without my whinings.

So now you know the rest of that story. I address constructive criticisms to the editor but I do not submit them to the editor. I submit them to Word Press on my blog. That publisher has never rejected a letter and I trust that they never will, assuming of course that my submissions are pertinent and in good taste—just as this letter is.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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Letter to the editor, San Antonio Express-News: Mayhem on campus . . .

In the interests of full disclosure: This posting was not published by the San Antonio Express-News, the only daily newspaper in the second-largest city in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States. My decision to not submit it for consideration was based on its premise, its length and my experiences with rejection in the past.

Also in the interests of full disclosure: I served as a member of the U.S. military for 22 years and another 26 years as a federal law-enforcement officer. As a result of that combined 48 years, I am not completely unfamiliar with the various ways and means one might use to commit mayhem on campus.

Mayhem on Delaware campus:

A six-year old boy in a Delaware school was recently sentenced to a five-day suspension and 45 days in a reform school for bringing a Cub Scout camping knife to class. The item was given to him when he joined the Cub Scouts. It combines a fork, spoon and knife in one tool, a tool indispensable to every Cub Scout and Boy Scout—I’m uncertain whether such tool is given to Girl Scouts and/or Brownies, and if given, whether it would be indispensable to them.

The Delaware school has a zero-tolerance policy on students bringing to school any item that could possibly be used as a weapon. The incident has gone national in our media, and many people feel that in this instance the school has gone too far, that it has overreached in its efforts to protect students from harm (and to protect themselves from lawsuits).

No, I say—they have not overreached. On the contrary, they have fallen far short. Their action indicates a lack of attention to detail—they can’t see the forest for the trees.

In any school on any day, there are many items that can be used to maim and kill. These are items that are immediately available to all students and faculty members, items as deadly or deadlier than a Cub Scout camping tool, yet they are not prohibited by the school administrators—either they are unaware of their potential for maiming and killing, or they feel that the utility of the items outweighs that potential.

Let’s make the policy on weapons in our schools truly zero-tolerance at every level, from pre-kindergartens to kindergartens to elementary schools to middle schools to high schools and to all schools awarding advanced degrees. The threat is the same at all levels. The only difference is the ages of the people involved.

Let’s ban every item that could possibly be used by a student to kill or maim another—and we probably should extend this policy to faculty members—one could always go postal (forgive me, USPS) and attempt to take out a few students or other faculty members.

All those items—every one—should be removed and banned in order to protect the children and faculty.

Let’s start with the school cafeteria:

Do the students use metal flatware in the lunchroom? If so, all metal knives and forks and spoons must be removed—each tool, even the spoon, can be used with deadly results.

Do the students use plastic tableware? If so, all plastic knives, forks and spoons must be removed. We routinely use plastic forks to stab a chicken breast to hold it in place while we cut it with a plastic knife. And yes, a plastic spoon has fine edges and can cause damage—if held properly and applied forcefully, it could easily remove an eye.

So how do we handle a zero-tableware policy? The answer is obvious—restrict the students to finger foods. And while I’m on the subject of fingers, those digits, thumbs as well as fingers, were used in early times with deadly results—they were used to blind convicted criminals by gouging out their eyes, and are still used with deadly results in gang fights on streets and in our alleys, and probably in certain Middle East, Asian and African countries.

On further thought even a stiff finger, especially the middle one, will put out an eye if properly directed with enough force into the eye of one student by another.

If you’re wondering how to deal with those deadly thumbs and fingers, that answer is also obvious—simply require students to wear mittens at all times while on school property. Also obvious is the fact that mittens would seriously impede certain activities, including writing, scratching an itch, using restroom facilities, etc. Such activities would be handled (so to speak) as they arise, possibly by a one-on-one policy of having a faculty member supervise any activity that would require the removal and replacement of one or both mittens. Such supervision would, of course, be costly—additional personnel would be required to serve as restroom monitors and in numerous other areas. One possible alternative would be to appoint a second student as monitor, and that student could assist a fellow student in such instances. In some circumstances, particularly in rest-room visits, the team should be comprised of same-sex students. Special training for identity-definition and identity-recognition will probably be required for faculty members in higher grades. Such training should reduce the possibility of appointing rest-room teams comprised of other than same-sex students.

Pencils—particularly sharpened pencils—and ball-point pens must go. Pencils and pens, held properly between two fingers of a clenched fist with the point outward and the top pressing against the heel of the hand, can maim and kill.

Press the point into an ear and push, and the eardrum is ruptured. Press the point into an eye and push, and the eye is destroyed. Press the point into the neck toward the jugular vein and push—the jugular could be punctured and the victim will bleed to death. Press the point between two ribs with enough force and internal organs can be punctured. Think about that for a moment.

Has anyone ever noticed that airport security personnel never confiscate pencils or ball-point pens? Has anyone ever noticed that security personnel at federal buildings never confiscate pencils or pens? Think about that for a moment.

Wooden rulers with a metal edge built in to facilitate paper tearing can be used to maim and kill. The metal edge is very thin, and wielded properly will slice deeply into human skin. With a strong swing and a keen eye, a child can cut deeply into another child’s neck and possibly sever the jugular vein. Even a plastic ruler will do major damage when wielded with enough force.

Any pin such as a broach or smiley-face button (and God forbid, any campaign button) can be used with equal effectiveness. Hold the item with the pin outward, as with a pencil or pen, and push or slash with force and major damage to the skin will result.

Heavy metal items abound in a school environment, items that can be wielded with enough force, even by a small child, to main and kill, including staplers, hole punches, hammers and (by larger children or staff members) folding metal chairs. Look around—see how many offensive weapons are available to any student intent on hurting another student—or teacher.

Belts and shoelaces can be used offensively and should be viewed as deadly weapons. Belts with a heavy buckle can be swung with deadly force, and either a belt or a tie can be used as a garrote. Shoelaces can be tied together and used as a garrote. Police require arrestees to give up belts, ties and shoelaces before entering a cell. This precaution is taken to prevent the arrestee from attempting suicide, but it’s also meant to protect the officers.

All the children (and the teachers) must therefore give up belts, ties and shoelaces while in school. Considering the way some boys wear their trousers, some will have a problem. Since any maiming necessarily requires the use of one hand at a minimum, the lack of a belt may reduce or prevent such incidents. Any potential maiming, by a person using both hands while wearing low-riders, would subject such person to additional charges such as indecent exposure and intent to commit a sexual assault.

This is a posting in progress—there are many more items that should be removed from the environment in which our children spend some one-third of every day while schools are in session.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

Postscript:

The School Board has reconsidered its decision in the Delaware case. The members of the Board have significantly reduced the boy’s sentence, and are making significant adjustments to the school’s zero-tolerance policy.

 

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