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Public Pulse

By: Judi Lewis, Omaha World-Herald , May 7, 2002, Tuesday

Respect other cultures
We once again have proved our ignorance of other cultures in the taking of four Hmong children from their parents whose only "abuse" was to provide traditional treatment for their children. It clearly demonstrated the following:

(1) Teachers have too much responsibility and insufficient training. We concentrate our multicultural training only on African-American and Native American culture and ignore Asian-American citizens, particularly those who are "out of the mainstream."

(2) Child Protective Services has too much power and insufficient training. It reacts and everyone suffers as a result.

(3) An obvious mistake was made. The court system is so inflexible that once a mistake is made, the system cannot react immediately. Child Protective Services should immediately have gone to a juvenile court judge and requested a release pending the hearing, if the hearing was necessary. I spent two years working with the Hmong as our allies during the Vietnam War. They are more than willing to share their culture with us. We owe it to them to make the extra effort to understand their culture as they adapt to ours. Alan Moore, Bellevue

Learn from debacle

The recent events concerning two families in Omaha whose children were removed from their homes due to the families' use of "coining" made Child Protective Services, Omaha Public Schools and the Omaha Police Department look more than a little silly.

I am aware that child abuse is a larger problem than most people know, and claims of abuse of any form should always be taken seriously. But how long do families (and their children) have to be torn apart before there is some cultural-awareness training for these agencies? According to Friday's World-Herald article about other communities, this technique is neither new nor unfamiliar to Asian families and child welfare agencies in other cities.

CPS, OPS and the Omaha Police Department usually do the right thing for families and children. However, these two incidents have been taken way too far, and I hope that these three agencies, as well as all other agencies responsible for the health and welfare of children, learn something from this debacle. Mary Raumaker, Omaha

Don't blame the judge

I am quite sorry for the family of Daniel Callahan and the agony they have had to endure this past year. I am quite perplexed, though, with the Omahans who are so critical of the judge's ruling in the case. People clearly do not understand the juvenile justice system in Douglas County.

If they want to find fault, perhaps it should be at the fact that due to Jon Hoover's age, the matter was placed in juvenile court rather than adult court. By the guidelines of the juvenile court system, the punishment was quite severe and appropriate.

If people are unhappy with the sentence, perhaps they should look at ways to change the sentencing guidelines rather than finding fault with a judge who was working within those guidelines. Diane Thomas, Omaha

How is this justice?

Let's see if I have my facts straight. A 23-year-old woman buys three bottles of vodka for an underage friend. He in turn passes on one of the bottles to Jon Hoover, who then gets drunk and kills Daniel Callahan. For her part, the woman, who had no connection to Hoover, gets one year in prison. Hoover gets probation. Is this what they call justice? Bryan Moss, Ceresco, Neb.

Revise juvenile code

How completely unfortunate that the young lady who purchased the alcohol for Jon Hoover received a jail term, but Hoover, who killed a man, did not. How can the Juvenile Court code not include anything about punishment or sanctions?

The entire story involving the death of Daniel Callahan is so unfortunate and unnecessary for both families involved. The consequences are minimal in this tragic event, and we have now shown our young people in this city that it is basically OK to drink and drive.

I pray that the judge will modify the court order and not require Hoover to visit the grave on the anniversary of Daniel's death. Hasn't the family suffered enough? Jody Ekstrom, Omaha

Restraints are overused

As chairman of the State Foster Care Review Board, an independent state agency, I must respond to recent articles about the death of a child in foster care and express the board's concerns regarding inappropriate use of restraints.

Facilities across the state use restraints as a routine method of controlling children. There is minimal oversight of these incidents. There is neither uniform reporting of restraint incidents nor mandatory review of strategies used prior to the incident and how or why the restraint was administered. While there are protections against restraints for elderly populations, the review board is concerned that there are no such protections for Nebraska's foster children.

Many foster children are subject to high numbers of physical, chemical or isolation restraints, some even on a daily basis. The Foster Care Review Board believes physical restraints should be implemented only as a last resort to protect the safety of the child and others. The board is concerned that physically restraining a child conveys a message of violence.

The use of physical restraints is an affront to children's dignity, is detrimental to their self-esteem and teaches them little about learning to control their own behavior. It is time for the state to alter its acceptance of restraints and move to protect the children in its care. Barbara Heckman, Lincoln

Remember Ak's impact

More than 75 years ago, a group of Omaha business people formed an organization called Ak-Sar-Ben whose purpose was to better serve the Omaha business community and bring people to Omaha.

Countless charities, county fairs, 4-H events and numerous other organizations were supported financially by Ak-Sar-Ben not only in Omaha but in many other cities and towns in Nebraska and Iowa. Besides the many scholarships that Ak-Sar-Ben gave every year, it promoted many concerts, rodeos, horse shows, stock shows, horse racing, hockey, Ice Capades and the Coronation Ball. All of those events annually brought thousands of people to Omaha who would spend millions of dollars in hotels, restaurants and the rest of the business community.

As a result, Ak-Sar-Ben gave much money to the public school system, fire and police departments and rescue squads, not only in Omaha but also in surrounding communities in Nebraska and Iowa. The debt for the bridge between Omaha and Council Bluffs was paid off by Ak-Sar-Ben.

Ak-Sar-Ben can make a tremendous contribution to the success of the new convention center. It has taken the first step by naming the very capable Sherman Berg as its general manager. Even though the old Ak-Sar-Ben is effectively gone, let's not forget it. We should support it and make it as strong as ever. Joe Kirshenbaum, Omaha

Schools again lose

The Legislature raised taxes. The governor said he would veto any tax increase, and he did. It looks good for him, since he wants to run for re-election and the people will vote for him.

When this same governor and at least some of the legislators ran for office, they promised to help the schools. Now the schools will probably have to cut back on classes, subjects and maybe even teachers. Legislators who expect schools to cut back on funding should take a cut in pay.

Let's put Gov. Johanns on "The Weakest Link" and legislators on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and maybe they can make some money to help with our state debt. Lyle Hackney, Jackson, Neb.

Lincoln is too noisy

Hurray for Leslie Reed's May 2 World-Herald story on noise in Lincoln. It's about time we start addressing a sound environment around these parts.

I find it interesting that Lincoln Police Chief Tom Casady considers the number of tickets written for overall sound disturbances as some kind of a success rate. In a city of nearly a quarter-million people, the number he quoted (1,336) should be about double what it is for car stereos alone. I have yet to see one of his officers write a citation in my neighborhood. Also, response time is awful. By the time officers arrive, my sleep has already been more than disturbed.

Eliminating this problem begins and ends with enforcement - the kind that involves hanging around a targeted area until the frequency of disturbances subsides. Jonathan D. Roth, Lincoln

Parents, be role models

Parents must know their boundaries. As captain of the Duchesne varsity soccer team, I know what it's like to be in the heat of the game and let your emotions get the best of you. When I am trying to calm my team after a heated moment and the parents are yelling from the benches, the parents are just egging on the fury of the team.

Some parents get so involved in the game that they insult players personally. When parents get to this level, they must remember that they are the role models. When we players see them on this level, it does nothing but let down the team. Nothing good can come from such behavior. Stephanie Stephens, Omaha

Scouts merit praise

What a wonderful picture and article (April 29 World-Herald) about 10 Eagle Scouts from Troop 359. Five boys who became Eagles five years ago called themselves the "Big Guns," and five who achieved scouting's top rank on April 28 called themselves, "Big Guns II." Hats off to all of them!

As a mother, grandmother and mother-in-law of Eagle Scouts, I'm well aware of the hours, days and years of hard work and dedication that it takes to get to the top of scouting. Those boys, with the help of good scoutmasters, older scouts and counselors and the boys' families, should be applauded. Hopefully, they will pass along their love of scouting. Ann Carlson, Fremont, Neb.

We need a dog park

I just returned from taking my dog to Holmes Park Dog Run in Lincoln, and it was such a wonderful experience. A creek runs through the seven-acre fenced park, so the dogs can play in the water. It is beautiful and well cared for with benches, tables, trees, parking and trash cans.

It is outrageous that a city the size of Omaha cannot have even one park for dogs and their owners to enjoy, while a city half Omaha's size is working on its second. Lincoln has really got it together.