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Letter: St. Anthony's went too far

For transgressions deemed racially insensitive and inflammatory, four students were unilaterally expelled from St. Anthony's High School by the school principal, Brother Gary Cregan ["Expelled by high school," News, April 17]. There has been a real lesson taught here, but not the one Cregan might think.

The offenses involved two seniors bringing a Confederate flag to a school sports event, and two sophomores posting a photo of one of them in blackface on social media, along with a racially inflammatory rant.

The campus of a Catholic school is not the same as the public square, so I believe that the flag-bearers were properly deterred. The episode involving social media is not so simple.

In both incidents, the consequence of expulsion seems so egregiously dire as to strike the conscience of a reasonable person. Valuable life lessons may have been gained through resolving this by school-parent conferences. However, that was forfeited for the expediency of political correctness.

Rather than encouraging tolerance and a respect for different points of view, administrators at St. Anthony's have fostered an atmosphere of zero tolerance and conformity.

Jeffrey Converse, Locust Valley

St. Anthony's decision to expel two seniors for their stupidity was harsh. Other options could have included counseling, suspension, or exclusion from the senior prom or graduation.

Is the Confederate flag a symbol of racial intolerance, or is it just a flag? Brother Gary Cregan's letter to parents said that the Confederate flag is "a reminder of a painful past where our country went to war, resulting in over 600,000 killed, and thank God, the end of slavery." He has stated that "Saint Anthony's will always demand acceptance and respect for all races, religions and cultures."

In our expansion across this continent, the U.S. government maintained a policy of brutalization, hostility, insensitivity, prejudice, discrimination and near genocide of American Indian people. Is St. Anthony's policy consistent? What action has it taken against students wearing a Cleveland Indians hat, a Washington Redskins T-shirt or an Atlanta Braves jacket?

Are these teams' logos symbols of racial insensitivity or just a team's nickname? Some colleges have changed mascots or nicknames, including St. John's University, from the Redmen to the Red Storm, and Siena College, from the Indians to the Saints.

These young men will remember this incident for the rest of their lives, but how will they remember it? For their own racial insensitivity, or for St. Anthony's intolerance of their stupid and immature act?

Chet Lukaszewski, Huntington

Editor's note: The writer was a public high school social studies teacher for 36 years and wrote the curriculum for a Native American studies elective.

Opposed to cameras in school zones

Regarding "Nassau OKs request for speed cameras" [News, April 18], this is not a safety issue. It is simply a revenue grab to pay for the raises for Nassau County's unionized workers.

The speed limits in front of most schools are ridiculously low. When the children are arriving at school, I can understand the low speed limits, but that is also when we have professional crossing guards at each corner.

Why do we need to go 20 mph when school is in session and no children are outside? Or when the schools are closed? This is a ridiculous request the county is sending to state officials.

Why can't Nassau raise revenue by enforcing existing laws that do involve safety? For example, I now see more blacked-out car windows, which are illegal and unsafe. The threshold for window tinting in New York is 70 percent.

Write these car owners a ticket daily, and that would be a safe and effective change for the public.

Stephen E. Rach, West Sayville

Bring focus back to school children

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was in New York this month to support pioneering efforts on the Common Core state standards ["U.S. ed secretary boosts NY's King," News, April 11].

He told the audience at NYU, "Stay the course, work with tremendous urgency and humility, and continue to lead with courage." New York would be wise to heed the advice of our nation's education leader. It is time to turn a page and get the focus back to where it belongs: on students.

Thanks to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Education Commissioner John B. King Jr., our state is leading the way in establishing higher standards that will help prepare all children for the challenges of a competitive global economy. These higher standards, based on the Common Core, were written by educators and built on timeless principles of education: critical thinking, textual analysis and digging deeper into complex issues so that students have as rich a learning experience as possible.

New York's higher standards are moving forward, but there's still more to do. Cuomo and the State Legislature came together to improve New York's move to these new, more rigorous learning standards. Now it's up to us as New Yorkers to come together and make this work for our kids.

Glen Weiner, Manhattan

Editor's note: The writer is the deputy executive director of StudentsFirstNY, an advocacy group for education reform.