Long-Term Solutions Needed

After reading the article by Tom Jackman in the Prince William Extra concerning the success (or apparent lack of success) of Fairfax County and Virginia's RoadShark program, I feel compelled to write to you.

The program's effect seems to be temporary at best. After a surge of activity by local police, the number of speeding tickets dropped only slightly, and accidents did not decrease--and, in fact, increased--after strong enforcement efforts.

I saw no mention of the ticketing of slow drivers in left lanes who may not even be doing the speed limit, frustrating all those behind them and leading to more anger on the roads.

Ticketing of speeders seems to be the primary concern of the police. Most non-residential roads in this area are severely underrated in terms of posted speed limits.

Going 15 or 20 miles over the limit on these roads with light traffic is not unsafe in most cases. Generally, people will not drive at a speed they are not capable of dealing with. And, yes, people do not always use good judgment.

Poor traffic signaling is another major problem in this area (Vienna is a good example). Traffic is often stopped on the main roads when there is no cross traffic. Cross traffic seems to be given a priority. Green light time is often not long enough on the main artery roadways. No wonder there is so much red light running.

Drivers are fed up with these conditions and only see police ticketing of so-called "aggressive driving" as a further nuisance. Of course the police are happy with this state of affairs, as I am sure more overtime is available in the interest of safety. At least some poor working souls are gaining from this.

But the results are not promising. In a year's time, do we really think there will be less "road rage" and speeding and fewer accidents? I contend that this will not happen unless we address some of the real problems that we are facing. Let's not just go for the quick fix.



Safety Is Everyone's Concern

An open letter to parents:

School safety has always been an issue school divisions have had to address. Recent incidents of violence in California, Colorado, Arkansas and Mississippi have raised the issue of safety to a higher level. A lot of theories have been developed that attempt to explain why violence has occurred and what is needed to prevent it from happening in other schools.

I don't believe there is one single reason why the individuals who participated in these horrible acts of violence acted as they did. I believe individuals are too complex, and their interaction in society is too complex, to identify one or two reasons for their behavior. There is no simple solution to prevent violent acts on school property. Providing safe schools will require a variety of procedures to be in place, and many participants are necessary to insure a safe environment exists in each of our schools.

Students and parents must understand that the division administration will discipline students severely, even to recommending students be expelled for violent behavior, threats of violent behavior or for bringing weapons on school property. Hand-held metal detectors will be used if necessary to determine if a student has a weapon. The police will be asked when necessary to help control a difficult situation and to prosecute individuals as warranted.

Special efforts will be made to make school buses safe for students and drivers. This includes school buses with video cameras to help monitor student behavior. School administrators will be working with bus drivers to impress on students the type of behavior that is expected.

All middle schools and high schools have security teams comprised of community resource officers provided by the county police, sheriff's department, division security staff and, at the middle school level, deputies provided by the county sheriff. Every school has a discipline plan, a security plan and an emergency plan. The division has a security staff that supervises and evaluates security procedures and coordinates security activities with the county law enforcement officials.

It is critical that school or police officials receive accurate information about potential problems. Information from students, parents and citizens about students who are planning acts of violence or destruction should be shared with school or law enforcement officials. While the school division and police department are capable of dealing with violent behavior, it is more helpful to prevent the behavior from occurring. Individuals can call the school tip line, at 791-2821, or CrimeSolvers, at 670-3700, to share information confidentially with the police and with the school division.

I believe procedures are in place to prevent instances of violence or to respond to violent behavior as it occurs. Most acts of violence are symptoms. The causes are often more difficult to identify and address because of various issues, some personal and some societal, affecting students. The school division provides counselors at every school and has psychologists to provide help and assistance to students, to help them handle problems that may affect their behavior. Division staff can recommend to parents where they may wish to receive help and assistance for their children.

All the above procedures and services will help keep our schools safe and reduce the chances of violence occurring. It takes a lot of effort from the school division and from the community to keep our schools safe. We are committed to doing our part.

Edward L. Kelly

Superintendent of Schools

Prince William County Schools

Time to Curb School Violence

The years 1998 and 1999 marked the beginning of what has become a new trend in our nation's public schools: murder in the first degree. Those school years have given a new meaning to the words "violence in the schools." Whose fault is it anyway?

Our nation was put on notice many years prior to the outbreaks of the recent shooting rampages. Many newspaper articles, talk shows and documentaries produced candid interviews of minors who were serving time in prisons for committing horrid crimes. These violent youths described the belittling treatment they received in their public school. Teasing, harassment, physical and verbal abuse were stated to have broken these teenagers down to the point of becoming so frustrated and angry that they became possessed to hurt others, because they were hurting.

Because of the negligence of teachers, administration and higher officials, who are supposed to prevent such teasing, taunting, verbal and physical abuse, our nation's public school system has become the breeding ground for murderers and other criminals. I have seen the neglect for school safety firsthand. I come to tell you that our teachers, principals and school officials here in Prince William County have allowed our children to behave at school in a manner that we, as parents, would never allow. I took what I had seen and heard through the chain of command, to include School Superintendent Edward L. Kelly, and our Prince William County School Board, and I was ignored.

Are we next, Prince William County? There are many signs to point to "yes." Although statistics will show that violent incidents are down, they are not necessarily down, they are not being reported.

What can we do as a community of parents and concerned citizens? It is an election year, we must exercise our rights and vote for those who will put action to their talk.

Teachers and administration must be held accountable for neglecting school violence and developing a positive atmosphere conducive for learning. They must be held accountable for following through with parent and student complaints and concerns. There must be more money allotted to pay for good teachers and administration.

As parents, we must listen to our children and follow through. We must elect a School Board and lawmakers who will hold teachers and administration accountable. Otherwise, our youths are going to hold us accountable for our neglect.


Dale City

Remembering Kindness

This letter is to the children and people who for the last five years have enjoyed the wonderful "Fishing Extravaganzas" held each year at Lake Brittle.

These Fishing Extravaganzas where the brainchild, along with the huge yard sales held yearly in the parking lot at Wal-Mart to pay for the trips, of Wayne Zitzke. Mr. Zitzke just wanted to take kids fishing.

Mr. Zitzke is in failing health, and it would be wonderful if some of the people who took part in his Fishing Extravaganzas and his yard sales were to remember him and send him a card thanking him.

Mr. Zitzke was a "greeter" at Wal-Mart, and brightened many people with his comical greetings.

He would love to hear from all the children and adults whom his huge heart touched.

Send letters to: Wayne Zitske, c/o Wal-Mart, 7412 Streamwalk Lane, Manassas, Va. 20109-2464.



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