- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

What about the missing boys?

Danielle van Dam. Miranda Gaddis. Ashley Pond. Elizabeth Smart. Erica Pratt. Nancy Chavez.
As an excellent article points out, the abduction of these six children has captured unprecedented media attention over the past six months ("Summer of fear: High-profile kidnappings belie trend" Nation, Aug. 15). The article fails to point out an obvious fact, however: All of the abductees are girls.
Yet according to a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 52 percent of all abducted children are boys. Anyone who doubts this statistic can visit the organization's Web site. There you will see the pictures of children with forlorn eyes half girls, half boys all pleading for help.
How could media coverage of this national tragedy gloss over the plight of lost boys? Some would defend this by invoking the old notion of chivalry, that somehow girls demand more attention. Chivalry, however, is a code of conduct governing the personal relations between men and women.
Child abductions are terrible for all parties involved, including those who read about them in newspapers or watch news reports on TV. Please do not allow the whims of chivalry or political correctness to sully our compassion for those kidnapping victims who happen to be boys.


NEA defends its September 11 history lessons

Once again, The Washington Times has lived up to its reputation for inaccurate, out-of context reporting with its most recent attacks against the National Education Association (NEA).
Before the NEA launched its public "Remember September 11" Web site, an article condemning its content appeared in The Times ("NEA delivers history lesson," Page 1, Monday). Instead of waiting to view and evaluate the site herself, the reporter quoted foes opposed to the NEA and public education and attacked our initiative. She wrote that our site took a decidedly "blame America" approach.
Lies and distortions about the NEA are nothing new. Most of the critics of this September 11 Web site have been bashing public school teachers and the NEA for a long time. But using this national tragedy to score political points is a new low.
NEA's sentiments are shared by James McGrath Morris, a 12th-grade social studies teacher from Springfield and Robin H. Gurwitch, a pediatric psychologist at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Both were interviewed for the same reporter's Tuesday follow-up article "NEA plan for 9/11 not backed." In separate e-mails, both complained their quotes were taken out of context and that the reporter claimed to be interviewing them for a story on September 11 history.
As it turns out, both educators had high praise for NEA's new site. "Excellent," Mr. Morris says. "Outstanding as always," Mr. Gurwitch adds.
The materials on the NEA's "Remember September 11" Web site, developed by classroom teachers and other education professionals, were designed to help parents and educators deal with the full range of issues and emotions surrounding the first anniversary.
Those who visit the site will find it a handy aid, with more than 100 age-appropriate lesson plans and 60 links to supporting material. Our project, a celebration of American values, includes information supplied by the American Red Cross, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Library Association, the Public Broadcasting System and other respected groups.
As always, the NEA's tone is "pro America" not "blame America." We stand by our belief that the entire Muslim community cannot be held responsible for the actions of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda terrorists. In a country where whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians and Muslims live on the same block and learn in the same classrooms, knowledge and understanding, not extremism and blame, are critical to the peace and prosperity of our great nation.

National Education Association

[Editor's note: In her interviews with James Morris and Robin Gurwitch, our reporter asked how each of them would teach students about September 11. Our reporter also brought up one of the lesson plans that was included on the National Education Association's Web site, and then asked Mr. Morris and Miss Gurwitch how they felt about some of the points highlighted in that lesson plan.]

D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics seeks to spruce up its name

The purpose of this letter is to address several unfounded points made in the Aug. 14 editorial "To vote, or not to vote?" The Washington Times has unfairly criticized the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics by stating that the board's "incompetence rivals the signature-gathering effort" of Mayor Anthony A. Williams' campaign. The board takes exception to this unfounded conclusion.
First, it is true that D.C. voters will be using a new ballot and casting their votes on the optical scan voting machine beginning with the Sept. 10 primary. However, the statement that the board has "failed to educate most voter-age residents" on how to use the new voting machine is simply untrue. To be sure, the board would prefer that the use of the new voting machine and ballot would not be in an election in which two of the candidates for mayor are running as write-ins. However, while the board is not responsible for the circumstances of this election, it is prepared to conduct the election in a fair and appropriate manner.
Voter education about the new ballot and voting machine began in March 2001. To date, the board's staff has completed 107 demonstrations across the city. This amounts to one public meeting every five days in the past year and a half. For the convenience of the community, most of the sessions occurred after normal working hours, including weekends.
Specifically, the board's staff has demonstrated the process and trained would-be voters at meetings of advisory neighborhood commissions, civic and community associations, the D.C. League of Women Voters, the Metropolitan Police Department Public Service Area 112, the D.C. Chapter of Retired Federal Employees, political meetings of the Democratic, Republican and D.C. Statehood Green parties, and the D.C. Office on Aging. In addition, demonstrations were conducted at special events, including at D.C. public schools, public libraries, churches and the Mazza Gallerie mall.
The board also presented demonstrations at the National Black AIDS/HIV Awareness Day and the Washington Urban League Parent Expo. The board conducted a demonstration at D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton's Election Reform Town Meeting, Mr. Williams' Citizen Summit II and a meeting of the D.C. Council that aired repeatedly on cable Channel 13.
Those demonstrations were conducted in each of the District's eight wards. Undoubtedly, the board's staff did not reach all registered voters, but it is patently unfair to say that the majority of the District's voters "have seen no demonstration of the new system."
Second, it is true that for some voters, the board's 2002 Election Guide, which includes instructions on how to use the new ballot, didn't arrive until Aug. 12, which was the deadline for voters to inform the board about changes in their address, party or name. Regretfully, we must acknowledge that some voters may not have received the guide in time to make changes. However, many voters received the guide before the deadline and were, in fact, able to update their registration.
The board's ability to mail the guide in a timely manner was impeded severely by the threatened budget deficit the city was facing, and spending by D.C. agencies was halted by City Administrator John Koskinen and Chief Financial Officer Natwar Ghandi on July 2.
The spending freeze was imposed on all D.C. government agencies. Specifically, agencies were advised that "no new spending should take place." On July 23, Mr. Koskinen and Mr. Ghandi indicated that agencies were free to spend within certain parameters effective July 30. To their credit, recognizing the essential aspect of the board's functions, Mr. Koskinen and Mr. Ghandi did not require the board to cut its budget, as was the case with other D.C. agencies.
The contract with the vendor producing the guide was completed Aug. 1. The guide was printed and mailed by third-class postage within one week, by Aug. 7.
It is most unfortunate that because of the delayed mailing of the guide, some voters were unable to make changes to their voter registration in time to meet the requirement that such changes be made 30 days before an election. Nonetheless, the good news is that all qualified registered voters will be able to vote on Election Day by special ballot. This special ballot will be counted. This process is called an Election Day Change of Address and is a practice with which voters in the District are familiar.
Finally, as is the board's practice before every election, poll workers have been undergoing and will continue to undergo training on the use of the new ballot and voting machine. Unfortunately, the board cannot guarantee that no individuals among the several thousand we expect to vote in the upcoming election will encounter any problems with the new voting system. However, the board has striven to prepare the public and its volunteers on the proper use of the new ballot and voting machine.
The board recognizes the responsibility of The Washington Times to criticize an agency such as ours should it fail to apprise the public of critical information. For the reasons set out in this letter, such criticism is without merit.

D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics

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