- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

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June 10

The Tampa Bay Times on limits to football practices:

Florida’s high schools are taking another significant step to protect the health of tens of thousands of football players. The Florida High School Athletics Association’s plan to restrict full-contact practices will limit the potential for injuries on the field. Students, parents and coaches should all embrace the change as a way to make football a little bit safer.

Anything affecting high school football in Florida is a big deal, with more than 41,000 boys and girls in the state playing for their schools. Those students risk injury every Friday night during the season. Many also risk injury during the week, with fractures, sprains or bruises occurring during practices. Of course, of particular concern are concussions. A 2015 JAMA Pediatrics study found that football practices “were a major source of concussion” at the youth, high school and college levels. Repeat concussions can cause permanent brain damage in athletes, and limiting contact in practices can mitigate that risk, the study found. The athletic association is doing just that, cutting full-contact practice time to just 80 minutes per week, following guidelines developed by Practice Like Pros, a group advocating for safety in high school football.

This should not be a shock to the system, as many coaches already limit full-contact practices. While it’s more difficult to make games safer, schools have a lot of control over practices. They ought to eliminate as much risk as possible while still teaching the techniques to successfully and safely play on Friday night. Protecting teenagers from injuries is in the best interest of us all.

Online: https://www.tampabay.com/

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June 12

The Orlando Sentinel on the Pulse nightclub shooting:

Words cannot adequately convey the depth of the horror and grief in Central Florida in the wake of what now ranks as the worst mass shooting in American history.

Orlando now tragically sits atop a list of infamy, sharing the sorrow of Virginia Tech, Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.

We will not - we must not - let Sunday’s heinous act of brutality and cowardice define our community.

As terror has struck other cities around the world in recent months - Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino - our shock and anger have been mixed with a growing sense of unease. Orlando, as one of the world’s most popular and iconic destinations for travelers, and a community that proudly cherishes its diversity, has long been considered a high-value target for would-be terrorists.

Now it appears our worst fears have been realized.

Investigators on Sunday were sorting out the details of the massacre following the carnage in the early-morning hours at Pulse Orlando, a gay-themed night club. They were studying what could possibly have motivated the shooter, identified by police as 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen of Port St. Lucie, the U.S. born son of Afghan parents. He is said to have been investigated by the FBI for possible ties to Islamic extremism, though he had not been charged. He reportedly declared his allegiance to the Islamic State, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said ISIS had claimed responsibility for the massacre. But Mateen’s father insisted his son was motivated by hatred of homosexuals.

Whatever conclusions investigators might reach, the loss of at least 50 souls, and the wounding of dozens more innocents, is an unbearable blow for any community. We join with the families, friends and neighbors of victims in mourning them. An outpouring of love and support from Central Florida is the bare minimum due them.

Beyond offering our abundant prayers and sympathy, we must ensure that those who survive - who will forever carry the scars from the trauma - know that they are not alone today, tomorrow or in the months and years to come.

Let our community define itself by our unequivocal response: United.

How we come together to remember and honor the dead, and comfort their families and friends.

How we help heal the victims wounded in body and spirit.

How we work with our leaders and our neighbors to close gaps in security and make Central Florida safer.

How we stand in defiance of anyone who would provoke fear and division in our community.

How we proudly reaffirm Orlando’s identity as a welcoming, inclusive place for people who live here or visit, no matter their background or orientation.

We will unite, in an affirming bond that is more mighty, and enduring, than the twisted thoughts of a young man who allegedly unleashed this atrocity.

It’s inevitable, and healthy, that the lead-up and immediate reaction to the shooting will be scrutinized for any shortcomings. But local, state and federal leaders deserve credit for responding in cooperation and solidarity. Gov. Rick Scott quickly declared a state of emergency to remove any barriers to federal and state assistance.

Lest we forget, we have heroes. They are the people who stepped up as community treasures in the midst of tragedy.

The police who converged on an active crime scene in the middle of the night to confront the shooter.

The trauma teams at area hospitals who responded to the overwhelming crush of gravely wounded victims.

The crowds of caring people who stood patiently in lines snaking from area blood-donation centers.

The neighbors who spontaneously provided food and drinks to the first responders on the scene.

Let us sustain and build on these efforts.

Central Florida is tested as never before. Our heartfelt response will grow stronger every day. #OrlandoUnited

Online: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/

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June 14

The Bradenton Herald on high schoolers helping the homeless:

The 10 high school students carried no illusions into a project to bring awareness to a major societal dilemma that defies solutions - homelessness.

Overcoming fear borne out of preconceived impressions, the youths learned a valuable lesson in humanity - one that will last a lifetime: The homeless are people, too, deserving of respect and dignity like everyone else. Nobody grows up aiming to be homeless.

The students understood they could not solve homelessness. But they could have an impact - primarily through their award-winning documentary film they produced last September and screened at the Sarasota Film Festival to a favorable reception. They titled their campaign, “Just Say Hello, Homeless are Humans, too.” All they want to communicate to the public is a simple but profound message: Being homeless doesn’t make anyone less human.

The youngsters simply approached the homeless and talked, asking questions, breaking bread and simply walking with them - even visiting homeless camps. The danger in that interaction, risking personal safety at the hands of an addict, the mentally ill or the overly aggressive, stops the general public from even looking at the homeless.

As Jacob Huesman, a Braden River High senior, told Herald urban affairs reporter Mark Young: “It’s not fair to judge an entire population on what some members of the public experience with the homeless.” Indeed.

Manatee County’s homeless population is estimated to be 5,000 - 1,800 of them children. While those figures define the size of the problem, Mother Teresa recommends a simple approach: “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

All these months later, the students, from Braden River, Southeast and Lakewood Ranch high schools, continue to volunteer their time in several homeless programs - countless hours, an adult volunteer with their organization, the appropriately named Humans of Manatee County, told Young.

Their group is part of the international Future Problem Solvers, and this month their documentary took first place in the annual international competition in Michigan and earned a special “Beyonder” award as well - an honor that is not given annually. Their documentary also won in the Film Rush Manatee! student film competition this spring.

Deb Yaryura, an adult volunteer with Humans of Manatee, described the experience in . terms: “It’s been a huge eye-opener for the students and for me. The students started out in utter fear of the homeless and now are able to converse and treat them as human beings. The transformation has been amazing.”

Their student project complete - with honors, too - their newfound understanding is taking on a new mission, as Madelyn Kumar, a Southeast senior, told the Herald: “Encouraging the community to be more accepting of the homeless.”

Communities around the country are grappling with this issue. Perhaps the first step is that acceptance.

Cheers to the 10 students and their supporters. Their advocacy for the homeless should be an inspiration to us all. Together, the community should be able to improve the lot of many.

Online: https://www.bradenton.com/


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