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Letters to the Editor (11/15/23)

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Published November 15, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.


Boy Deserves Anonymity

Please remove and apologize for your identification of the child charged in the shooting death in Bristol ["No Room in the System," November 8; "Burlington Teen Charged in Shooting Death of Fellow 14-Year-Old," October 31].

You must be aware of the reason that children are charged under rules of confidentiality. Doing otherwise destroys lives and futures for adolescents whose brains are as yet underdeveloped and whose criminal responsibility is therefore greatly diminished. This is a 14-year-old boy who, even if he is free of adverse childhood experiences and trauma, is very early in the development of kinds of cognitive functioning. To blight his future as you are doing is cruel and wrong.

Justice for the victim in this tragic event cannot be obtained by retribution against another victim, in this case the shooter himself.

Your article indicates that the shooting was likely an accidental discharge. Yes, the boy acted irresponsibly — horribly so. We don't, in our more civilized moments as a society, make a scapegoat of a child for the negligent actions of adults, and the bad policy choices of our leaders, that led to him having possession of this weapon.

You may be justifying your choice in publishing this story on the grounds that he's been charged as an adult and that the prosecutor and court chose not to hide his identity. As responsible journalists, you should instead query the competence and motives of the prosecutor and judge, as well as the human decency of the laws on which those decisions were based.

After your wonderful reporting on Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center ["The Loss of Grace," October 25], I am doubly disappointed in this editorial choice.

Nate Hine

South Stafford

Editor's note: We understand and discussed the concerns about publicly identifying a juvenile charged with a crime. In this instance, the seriousness of the charge, second-degree murder, drove the editorial decision to identify the 14-year-old charged. While we make editorial decisions independently of other news organizations, we did note as well that several had, in fact, already published the name of the 14-year-old defendant.

'The Nature of Oppression'

I appreciated Ken Ellingwood's reflections on his family's positive experiences in the Middle East ["Our Life During Wartime: During a Previous Explosion of Mideast Bloodshed, a Journalist and His Family Straddled the Divide," November 1]. It is always good to be reminded of everyone's humanity and also of how narratives can get in the way of our remembering that. It is easy to imagine visits to other times and places where people have been divided according to ethnic background, where warmth and humanity are not hard to find among both the oppressed people and the people benefiting from the oppression. But if the fact of humanity on both sides distracts us from the nature of the oppression, we risk missing the opportunity to contribute to anti-colonial struggle.

Former Zionist Gabor Maté, a child of the Holocaust, visited the occupied territories over 30 years ago and reports that he "cried every day for two weeks at what I saw; the brutality of the occupation, the petty harassment, the murderousness of it, the cutting down of Palestinian olive groves, the denial of water rights, the humiliations..." That the current situation in Israel is one of apartheid is apparent to all honest observers, including Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; the former head of Mossad, Tamir Pardo; and the former attorney general of Israel, Michael Ben-Yair.

As Americans whose government has been the crucial support for Israeli oppression, we are complicit in the current genocide and ethnic cleansing operation. So how can Burlingtonians contribute to ending the oppression? Let's start by taking the apartheid-free community pledge that will be on the ballot in March.

Joe Kane

Burlington

Team Talk

Erik Esckilsen's ["Pitch Imperfect: Youth Soccer Comes of Age in Vermont, but the Playing Field Is Hardly Level," November 1] was an interesting read, and I do hope you pursue the topic of "pay-to-play" in further stories; it's complex and not just the monster making money off of kids' backs, as suggested here.

At Nordic Soccer Club and other clubs in our state, we take our role in the community very seriously. We take cues from what our community needs and lead where we have the expertise — not only in soccer instruction but also in healthy child development.

As one of Vermont's oldest "premier" clubs (1986), and currently its largest, we have a rich history in this community. More importantly, we have been mitigating the perceived negatives of the pay-to-play model:

• Promoting multisport athletes as a rule, not as an exception, without punitive measures to the player. When they're not playing for us, they're not paying, either.

• Removing cost as a barrier to pay-to-play; we provided $40,000-plus in scholarships last year. No child is denied a spot at Nordic because of finances.

• In the elementary and middle school years, letting families know that they can and should play both club soccer and community soccer if they want to. They certainly have the bandwidth to do so.

• Putting joy into the game at every level. This is a coaching requirement at the club. Sport is for life — not only to make a high school or college roster.

We're not here to milk anyone; we're here to help.

Craig Stone

Burlington

Stone is head coach at Nordic Soccer Club.

The Other Story

["Pitch Imperfect: Youth Soccer Comes of Age in Vermont, but the Playing Field Is Hardly Level," November 1] was a timely piece at the close of the fall youth soccer season. I was so excited to see this headline, since it is a subject matter dear to many, myself included, in the greater Burlington community. However, I'll admit a bit of disappointment. The article dedicated a few paragraphs and quotes to the clubs whose mission is to level the playing field, but for the most part, the important details were left out. There is an inspiring story to be written on club soccer in Vermont right now and the ways it is reaching across class divides in Chittenden County. Perhaps there is an opportunity for a follow-up piece.

Cayenne MacHarg

Burlington

MacHarg is a board member of the Burlington Football Club.

'Dereliction of Journalistic Duty'

In "From the Publisher: Don't Stop Shopping" [November 1], Marc Sherman tells Paula Routly on the phone: "It's not helping anybody to continue to talk about what's wrong in Burlington." Routly writes that "Sherman's message was clear" and goes on for six paragraphs about how we have a civic duty to shop locally, especially at Seven Days' advertisers and corporate partners.

I agree that Sherman's message was clear but think Routly is missing the boat. The message is the same as that found in numerous letters to the editor lately: This paper's coverage — particularly in notes "From the Publisher" — is focused on the negative in a way that is contributing to the problem, not helping it. I've been disappointed by this publication's turn to fear, uncertainty and doubt, even as I've been pleasantly surprised to read a nuanced account of the state of our city in the Burlington Free Press: September's "Burlington City Hall Park: How City's Centerpiece Reflects Community's Pain and Beauty" by Lilly St. Angelo.

We need more coverage like that, not columns like "Burlington Blues" and "Don't Stop Shopping." There is no doubt that these issues are many-faceted, but to say the solution is eating cheeseburgers for the next 10 days is, frankly, a dereliction of journalistic duty.

Dan Suder

Burlington

'Save Room for Wildlife'

In "On Thin Ice" [October 11], University of Vermont science professor Paul Bierman speaks of a potential sea rise of 20 feet if the Greenland ice sheet melts by the end of the century. Think about Boston becoming a series of islands. He says that 40 percent of the world's population — more than 3 billion people — live near a seacoast.

In this meltdown scenario, I suspect the Northeast, including Vermont, likely will not be immune from intense pressure to develop more and more land, even our precious mountain ranges.

The price of conserving land will continue to rise, perhaps exponentially as more people are displaced. The cost in reduced wild areas and wildlife diversity will also rise.

Northeast Wilderness Trust works exclusively on nature conservation, prioritizing wildlife habitat and maintaining ecological processes — keeping land fully protected from future development.

The org's wildlands ecologist, Shelby Perry, recently completed an 80-mile walk for wilderness with a goal of raising $10,000 toward conserving Bear's Nest Wilderness Preserve, approximately 2,721 acres at the center of the binational wildlife movement corridor. To date, donations total $7,735.00.

Save room for wildlife. They wish to raise families, too.

Bernie Paquette

Jericho

'Hypocrisy' on Climate Change

[Re "Pipe Dream? It's Decision Time on Burlington's Long-Simmering Proposal to Heat Buildings With Wood-Fired Steam," September 27]: Every article I read for or against net zero or so-called climate change seems only to point out the utter hypocrisy we all share on this issue.

I fully support sound environmental policies, but are we blinded by the corruption of science as it is today?

Science used to be the pursuit of the truth and now is simply corrupted by political motivations and the almighty dollar — to present what the dollar wants you to promote and conclude to be "scientific-proof" for your political beliefs. Science is now simply a political tool.

Esteemed scientists who dispute net zero or climate change are ridiculed and all but disbarred from the scientific and research fields in academia, often subject to McCarthyism tactics to expunge their scientific research and conclusions and even ruin their personal lives.

Already in Vermont, those perhaps with the best of intentions are in bed with those with political motivations to direct "in the name of science" how you must alter and limit your personal choices and freedoms we take for granted.

If I take one step out of Vermont, north, south, east or west, how will all the political restrictions we face from Montpelier to "cure climate change" make a whit of difference?

Can anyone dare to read how some European countries are scaling back on net zero, while China approved 106 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity?

Each day, hundreds of vehicles in Vermont line up outside our schools to drop off and pick up our children. Will climate-change hypocrisy restrictions soon disallow this freedom of choice?

Robert "Bob" Devost

Jericho

The Picture of Injustice

I finally got to read Joe Sexton's incredible piece on Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center and Grace Welch ["The Loss of Grace," October 25]. I was deeply moved, angered and saddened. First and foremost, thank you for putting this huge effort into something so important that was repeatedly swept under the carpet by so many professionals. My anger lies in the fact that these people did not get their feet held to the fire, so to speak — in any way. That is true to this day. I am familiar with some of those players, and I was shocked.

Sexton should receive a writer's award for his portrayal of this horrible injustice.

Deborah Moore

Underhill Center

'Many Graces Out There'

Lots of blame, labels and medications to go around ["The Loss of Grace," October 25]. So many looked the other way. Grace Welch blew through a lot of people, systems, schools, hospitals — some well intentioned. Whatever happened to humane treatment? Standards and guidelines for state facilities; confidence in elected officials; and there are still many Graces out there. Let us pay for prevention, not litigation.

Ruth Furman

Jericho

Doctors' Note

We physicians who formerly provided care at Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center are collectively shocked and saddened to read ["The Loss of Grace," October 25], on the abusive maltreatment in the North Unit. We observed thoughtful treatment under director Dr. Judith Christiansen as we provided health care for the residents at Woodside.

Historically, the vast majority of residents received access to primary care, a working school, intensive on-site psychiatric care and off-site specialty care. This über-structured environment included frequent Department for Children and Families meetings to determine the best path back to the community. The goal was never for youth to remain in the juvenile justice system.

Joe Sexton's exposé illustrates how youth residential placement in Vermont can be when they are not safe in their home, community or foster care. When Woodside was created in 1984, the state's aim was to create a therapeutic space to meet the overwhelming needs of young Vermonters in DCF custody. Woodside was a place where the juvenile justice, health care, child protection and mental health systems convened.

A residential facility, run well, is both possible and crucial for troubled youths who otherwise end up on the street, sent out of state at great emotional and financial cost, or — worse — deceased.

Prevention and stabilization in our communities is the ideal approach for the many children involved in our ongoing mental health crisis. But for those who are not well served by living on the street, incarcerated in an adult facility or in the emergency room, a safe and therapeutic center, or multiple smaller centers, must be implemented in Vermont.

Elizabeth Hunt

Charlotte

Jeremiah Dickerson

Colchester

Alan Rubin

Burlington

Forever Haunted

I read "The Loss of Grace" [October 25] cover story last weekend. It took me three days because the sheer horror of revelations forced me to take significant breaks between readings.

This story — no, this Vermont reality — will forever haunt me. And I hope it does. None of us must ever look away again or forget what happened at Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center. The state's "settlement" in the end is shameful at best. Those legislators, judges and state administrators who had awareness of the cruelty and mistreatment of all those children deserve a stint at Woodside, in my opinion.

I am incredibly thankful to Joe Sexton for his pursuit of the full record. And sincere thanks and a warm hug to Kerrie Johnson, who would not give up on Grace Welch or the unspeakable actions at Woodside. I applaud the courage and judgment of Seven Days in publishing this important article.

Barbara Biemeck

Barre Town

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