- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Charter school advocates are sounding a new alarm: The South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act undermines teaching and learning and could push highly skilled teachers out the schoolhouse door.

The measure, comprising several components to combat truancy, curb anti-gay bullying and bolster mental-health services for youths, mandates that public- and charter-school teachers provide mental health assessments for all students, among other things.

Families should include discussions about their children’s mental health with their primary care providers.

City officials should not “assume that the vast majority of our children have severe behavioral or psychological issues,” Ramona H. Edelin, executive director of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, said in an interview. “I think it is clear the District should do more for those who do have problems. But assessment and care are best in the hands of real mental-health professionals.”

Ms. Edelin and other advocates are also concerned that the measure, introduced by D.C. Council member and Health Committee Chairman David Catania, would place undue burdens on teachers and threaten the city’s growing corps of highly skilled teachers.

“Our teachers are working with students over the summer, in before- and after-school programs and on weekends,” Ms. Edelin said, adding that their chief goals are to raise literacy, graduation and college rates.

“If you add on mental-health assessments, if they have to be trained as mental-health professionals, they are not going to stay,” she said.

The South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act is misnamed and misguided.

The incident, a shooting that left youths dead, injured and emotionally rattled, had absolutely nothing to do with public schooling.

Besides, teachers can’t assess truants, because they are chronically absent, and teachers are already having a tough time simply helping youths to read at grade level.

Lawmakers who support this bill are trying to undermine charters’ independence.

Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown needs to step up, brush the nonsense aside and refocus lawmakers on a problem that deserves their collective attention: truancy.

iGaming, cont’d.

Asked and answered, for now: The head of the D.C. Lottery responded to some issues posed by the proposed D.C. online gambling program called iGaming, including a trick question about the potential to game the system inside the Pentagon, as mentioned in the online version of my July 18 column.

“The iGaming system will only be available within the physical boundaries of the District,” Executive Director Buddy Roogow said in an email on Monday. “Access to iGaming within the District will only be permitted at trusted sites with verifiable IP addresses. Any locations within the federal enclave, including the National Mall, will not be considered a trusted site and access will be denied. This includes both government computers and employees’ personal computers. The system will recognize their location and will shut them out. Finally, the Pentagon is not within the District and, therefore, is ineligible for iGaming access through the D.C. Lottery.” Well, thank you, Mr. Roogow.

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