31 December 2012

The sun sets on 2012 and the sun rises on 2013

As 2012 fades into the sunset and 2013 rises at dawn, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! In Spanish, Feliz Año Nuevo! In Slovenian, Srečno novo leto! And in German, Glückliches neues Jahr!

Like 2011, if any year was more newsworthy, 2012 was it.  The most newsworthy - if not two of the most newsworthy - took place back in March of 2012 when Trayvon Martin was gunned down at the hands of a neighborhood watch vigilante in Sanford (a community north of Orlando), George Zimmermann.  After so much publicity in the media in the weeks that followed the shooting, George Zimmermann was arrested and charged with second degree murder and is presently awaiting trial.

God knows what kind of trial George Zimmermann will get:  Another Casey Anthony style trial?  Wasn't she found not guilty of first degree murder in an Orlando courtroom in 2011?

And another more newsworthy story, which took place just a couple of weeks ago before Christmas:  The mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  26 lives, including students, faculty and administrators including the principal, were sadly lost.

In the wake of the Columbine High tragedy in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, the quick fix to make our schools safer was to enact strict zero tolerance policies that turn law abiding students into criminals for very minor transgressions of the student code of conduct as well as turn our public schools into mini-state prisons and treat students like if they were prison inmates.  In Florida, our legislators responded by making your presence within 500 feet of a school during the school day - even if you are on non-school public property - a trespassing offense.

Turning our schools into state prisons is not the answer to safety in our public schools.  The real answer here is from the source:  Better gun control, including re-enacting the federal ban on assault weapons which unfortunately expired in 2004.  After all, better gun control as well as closing the gun show loophole when it comes to selling guns and ammunition.

You know what the gun loophole is?  When you go to purchase a gun here in Florida, you pay for it but you don't get it right away as there is a three day waiting period.  During that time, basic information is collected from you for a records check with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement which includes a state FCIC (Florida Crime Information Center) and federal FBI NCIC check.  However, when it comes to a gun show, these background checks are never done, hence the gun loophole.

We had the Republican National Convention here in Tampa the week before Labor Day, in which Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination for President of the United States.  Unfortunately, the Republican National Convention turned out to be a fizzle according to what I heard.

A few months later, we had the general election in November for President of the United States.  Here in Florida, the ballot was two pages long with not only the President and Vice President but Congressmen, Senators, Florida Legislators and a handful of local officials, not to mention so many amendments to the Florida Constitution on the ballot.  Who will remember the long lines at the polls on election day?

Fortunately, Barack Obama was relected for a second term as President of the United States - a big relief so that our country can move forward economically.

So, if any year was newsworthy (other than the St. Petersburg Times - er, the mis-named Tampa Bay Times writing scare stories about the economy, house values and the real estate crisis, thank you Mark Puente (who now writes stories concerning St. Petersburg city government) and Jeff Harrington), 2012 was it. Did I mention the St. Petersburg Times?

Since 1 January 2012, the St. Petersburg Times was mis-named the Tampa Bay Times, further eroding St. Petersburg's identity as a city as well as a destination.  Since the newspaper got renamed, the articles have taken on a more pro-Tampa and anti-St. Petersburg flavor.

I have said this before as New Year's Day 2012 approached, and I will say it again as New Year's Day 2013 approaches.  Let me set the record straight:

1. Tampa Bay is not only a body of water, it is the name of the region that encompasses two cities, St. Petersburg and Tampa, and within two counties, Pinellas and Hillsborough.

2. Tampa Bay is not a city, period.

3. We St. Petersburg residents have been accustomed to and know our daily newspaper as the St. Petersburg Times. This assures our identity as a city for well over 100 years.

4. We St. Petersburg residents are not part of Tampa nor Hillsborough County. In fact, it is the St. Petersburg Times that championed the cause for the creation of Pinellas County from the western part of Hillsborough County in 1912.  We St. Petersburg residents are proud to be part of a county - Pinellas County - free of any influence from Tampa.

5. St. Petersburg slowly loses its identity as a city. We have been known by plenty of other monikers over the years such as God's Waiting Room among other things. Add to that the recent article in Men's Health about St. Petersburg being the most saddest city in America.

Don't the editors at Men's Health Magazine have something else to write about instead of labeling St. Petersburg in a negative spotlight? After all, depression knows no boundaries.

The St. Petersburg Times may be the Tampa Bay Times as of 1 January 2012 and it is to this day. However, it will continue to be the St. Petersburg Times in my book.

Happy new year!

21 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

In a couple of days Christmas will be here!

Unfortunately, as we approach Christmas 2012 we approach it on a much somber note, especially the recent tragedy involving Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where 26 lives were unfortunately lost.  It is a very tragic event, especially for the parents of the children whose lives were lost in the tragic events that took place.  For those parents, it is very sad and sorrowful that instead of celebrating the joys of Christmas with their children, the parents are having to plan and attend the funeral of their children.

With the coverage of recent school related events such as the suicide of a 15-year-old teenager from Hudson, Florida due to negative comments posted on a social networking website and now the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School here on The Edward Ringwald Blog, I was pondering whether to put up the annual Christmas page here at EdwardRingwald.com as Christmas was just a few days away.  I was asking myself, should I put up the annual Christmas page like I always do or not?

Believe me, putting up the annual Christmas page here at EdwardRingwald.com is like putting up the Christmas tree where I live.  But reslilence in the face of recent events - both local and national - kept me going.

As such, I present to you my annual Christmas page over at EdwardRingwald.com, of which you can go to just by clicking your mouse on this link.  There you will see pictures of Christmas lights from downtown St. Petersburg as well as a couple of pictures from Pinellas Park, Tampa as well as a section on downtown Plant City's Christmas lights.  And no Christmas page is complete without a visit to the grandaddy of all Christmas displays in St. Petersburg located at 2719 Oakdale St S, situated southeast of 4 St S and 22 Av S.

While you're there at my Christmas 2012 page, you can also view my Christmas greeting cards.  This year, I offer my greeting card not only in English but in Spanish, German and Slovenian as well thanks to the magic of Google Translate.  After all, EdwardRingwald.com - as well as Interstate275Florida.com and DrawBridgeAhead.com - reaches out not only to an American audience, but to a worldwide audience as well.

I usually have the Christmas page up at EdwardRingwald.com about a week or so before Christmas.  However, with the recent tragic events that have taken place I felt it was necessary to devote the time and energy to cover those events for you right here on The Edward Ringwald Blog.

But resilience has to prevail.  With that in mind, enjoy my Christmas page at EdwardRingwald.com.

And to the students, faculty and administration of Sandy Hook Elementary School who lost their lives in the recent tragedy, may they rest in peace.

16 December 2012

Another School Mass Shooting Tragedy

This blog entry is dedicated to the victims of the recent mass shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

I was checking the news on my afternoon break at the office, only to find very serious breaking news on Bay News 9:  Mass shooting at elementary school.  I checked every other local St. Petersburg area news websites, and they had the same thing.

This is very horrific.  In fact, it is very sad.  According to Bay News 9, 26 people lost their lives which include adults and children.

Coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy on selected media outlets (there are more articles being posted as more information comes in; check individual media outlets for further coverage):

CNN coverage (has complete coverage)
RTV Slovenia coverage (in Slovenian)

Every time I hear of a tragedy involving a school shooting on the news - whether it may be Sandy Hook in Connecticut or Columbine in Colorado (which happened in 1999) - it always reminds me of what happened in February 1988 at Pinellas Park High School in Largo, Florida.  Two students that were suspended the day before - Jason Harless and Jason McCoy - got onto the school campus and began shooting when a faculty member identified the two students that were not supposed to be on campus.  Two assistant principals and one faculty member were affected with one assistant principal, Richard Allen, losing his life while another assistant principal, Nancy Blackwelder, survived and the faculty member was hit by one of the shots and survived.

Both Jason Harless and Jason McCoy were put on trial and found guilty and both served prison terms.  It is believed that Harless and McCoy stole the weapons used in the attack, similar to the assailant in the Sandy Hook shooting, 20-year-old Adam Lanza in which the weapons used were stolen.

Now how could school shooting incidents like what happened at Sandy Hook as well as Columbine and Pinellas Park have been avoided?

Zero tolerance school rules don't work.  These so-called school rules punish even well-behaved students.

Arresting and jailing anyone that comes close to, but not upon, a public or private school campus in Florida doesn't work.  These so-called security zones, similar to the sperrzones on the former East German border with West Germany during the height of the Cold War, turn law abiding Floridians into criminals for the rest of their lives.

What is really needed is better gun control.  Specifically, we need measures in place to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of anyone not allowed to have them in their possession.  It is believed that the assailants in the Columbine shooting had weapons which were purchased for them by someone else, called a straw purchase.

Unfortunately, we have a major barrier to gun control in America:  The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  Every time any piece of legislation - whether it may be on a Federal or Florida (or any other state) level - organizations that vehemently oppose gun control such as the National Rifle Association can, and have influenced lawmakers to significantly revise or withdraw legislation related to gun control.

Want a great example of effective gun control legislation?  Head south on Interstate 5 in San Diego towards San Ysidro and the Mexican border.  As you head south on Interstate 5 (or Interstates 805 or (soon to be) 905), you see the warning signs posted as you approach the Mexican border:  WARNING:  GUNS/AMMO ILLEGAL IN MEXICO.  In other words, weapons and ammunition are illegal south of the border, and American citizens who tested this theory ended up spending time in Mexican prison.

Or, head north on Interstate 75 past Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and cross the two-lane international bridge over the Canadian border into Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.  Yes, go got that right, Canada.  Weapons and ammunition are severely restricted due to Canada's very strict gun control laws, and to enter Canada with a firearm you must declare it and fill out paperwork on entry.  Try to bring a firearm into Canada without delcaring it and you can face substantial fines, not to mention having the firearm taken permanently away from you.

We are surrounded by countries on our northern and southern borders that have effective gun control legislation.  But America's gun control legislation is way far from effective, which is sad but true.

A doctor treats a medical condition by addressing it from the source where the condition arises from.  Likewise, Congress and the Florida Legislature needs to treat the condition of ineffective gun control by passing much better legislation getting to the source to begin with.

In closing, my condolences to the families of the students, faculty and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School who lost their lives in the recent school shooting tragedy.

15 December 2012

Social Networking Tragedy

This blog entry is dedicated to Jessica Laney, the 15-year-old teenager from Hudson (a community in Pasco County, Florida on US 19) who recently committed suicide due to cyber-bullying on a social networking website.  My thoughts and condolences go to Jessica's family in this time of grief and sorrow, especially with the Christmas holiday season underway.

In a June 2012 post I discussed why I do not (and I will not) have a presence on a social networking site such as Facebook.  With the recent tragedy involving a 15-year-old teenager from Hudson, Florida (a community in Pasco County on US 19), Jessica Laney, which was attributed to cyber-bullying on a social networking website, ask.fm based out of Latvia, this is one of many reasons why I don't (and won't) have a presence on a social networking website such as Facebook. 

First, let's start off with a link to an article in the St. Petersburg Times by staff writer Erin Sullivan and a comment I made in which I made a few points regarding making a comment about a person on a social networking website:

This is tragic.  This is very sad.

Unfortunately, this is America and whatever you post about a person, especially on a social networking website, is protected by the First Amendment.  However, it comes with a responsibility that free speech is protected by the First Amendment provided that you do not violate the law such as making threats against someone.  But how is this being enforced?  That is the question.

To contrast, if you get caught saying things to another person, especially on a social networking website, that are hurtful (to that person) in another country - let's say Singapore or even Canada - you can get prison time.

A fellow St. Petersburg Times commenter whose name is firehawkv8 offered a slightly different point of view, and I respect that.  For those other commenters on this St. Petersburg Times article who have way different points of view, I offer an explanation.

First of all, our country was founded on the principles of liberty and democracy.  Right after our American Constitution was drafted and approved in 1789, there were certain civil liberties that we cherish today that were not written into our constitution.  So, the first ten amendments were proposed and passed which we know today as the Bill of Rights.

The First Amendment, which we know very well by heart, permits freedom of speech among other things without undue government interference.  However, freedom of speech thanks to the First Amendment is not absolute - instead, court decisions over the years define what is lawful free speech.  In other words, you can speak what you want but only in a lawful manner.

Fast forward 200+ years.  Fast forward to the present day and age of the Internet and social networking such as Facebook and MySpace.  How does Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites enforce their rules and regulations (called the Terms of Service) when it comes to making comments about a person on unfavorable terms?

The social networking sites do have a way for you to report an inappropriate comment.  Unfortunately, nine times out of ten these reports are looked at and then get set aside on the back burner.  The end result:  The unfavorable comments continue, even if it escalates to unlawful behavior.

After all, this is America, where we cherish our God-given right of free speech and expression.  Unfortunately, our American civil liberties that we cherish so much stop right at the United States border when you cross into Mexico or Canada.

Once you walk thru that metal turnstile or drive your car across the dividing line south of San Ysidro, the American Bill of Rights stop right there at the international dividing line that separates the United States from Mexico.  After all, the American Bill of Rights does not follow you once you are in Tijuana - instead, you are subject to the jurisdiction of Mexican law once you cross the border from the United States into Mexico.

In a lot of countries around the world, you can end up going to prison for making even unfavorable statements about a person which would otherwise be legal in the United States.  For instance, take the case of a restaurant owner in Ottawa - Canada's national capital - who was convicted of defamatory libel after the restaurant owner launched a nasty online campaign against a customer who spoke up about her dissatisfaction of the restaurant in an online review, according to an article on consumerist.com.

Had this taken place in the United States, more than likely no legal action would be taken as libel is largely a civil matter and you have to prove a very good case to win a libel claim.  Once you cross the international border, things do change; what would be a civil tort for libel in the United States can become a criminal offense in another country such as Canada.

What could have been done to prevent needless tragedies such as what happened to Jessica Laney thanks to the comments made on a social networking website?

A lot needs to be done here.

An important line of defense against social network cyberbullying is in our schools.  More and more schools and school districts are tackling the issue of cyberbullying by offering counseling and support to students that are victims of cyberbullying.  Unfortunately, as this article from ABC Action News (WFTS-TV, the ABC affiliate here in Tampa) states, faculty and staff at Fivay High School, where Jessica Laney attended, were very reluctant to speak to students about bullying and suicide in the wake of what happened.

This is why most high school students who are victims of cyberbullying are afraid of even making a report or talking to a trusted individual such as a teacher, a counselor or even administrative personnel.  It is done out of fear of a student being given disciplinary action on the part of school administration such as an out of school suspension.

After all, a public school system's student code of conduct - such as the student code of conducts of the various school districts of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area including the Pinellas County School District - makes it clear:  As a student, you are guilty of any offense in the student code of conduct unless it is proved otherwise.  The student code of conduct is akin to Mexican law, based on Roman law and the Napoleonic Code, which means that you are guilty of a criminal offense and the burden of proof that you are innocent falls upon you, not the state.

Have you seen the movie Bully which was shown in theaters in the early part of 2012?  It's a touching documentary of families who were touched by incidents of bullying in our public schools.  You got to see it for yourself; it is supposed to come out on DVD sometime in 2013.

Unfortunately, despite anti-bullying policies put in place by the school districts there are schools that do condone bullying in any form and punish the victim with out of school suspensions among other things, citing useless zero tolerance school rules.  It is these actions taken by school administrators that lead students to do the unthinkable.

Another line of defense against social network cyberbullying is parents.  As a parent, you should be open and up front about your child's activities, both in school and online at home.

According to StopBullying.gov, here are the warning signs that your child is being bullied.  Note that not all children being bullied exhibit these warning signs:

Unexplainable injuries
Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry
Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking an illness
Changes in eating habits
Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school
Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
Self destructive behaviors such as running away from home or the unthinkable:  Committing suicide.

Moreover, as a parent you play an important role in your child's education, which is ultimately your child's future.  As such, if you think that your child is exhibiting the above warning signs of being bullied then it is your right - and an obligation - as a parent to speak with your child's school administration about your concerns.  Make sure that you stress to the school administration that your child is being bullied and don't let the school administration brush it off as an isolated incident.

The thing to remember is that bullying in your child's school, whether it may be fellow students, teachers or staff including your child's principal or assistant principal, should not be a part of your child's daily routine in school.

Another item to remember is that if your child uses a computer during the school day, its use is usually restricted to school related tasks throughout the school day.  Nearly all school districts block access to social networking websites such as Facebook, and that's the way it should be:  School is a place where your child is getting an education in order to prepare for your child's future.  Unfortunately, in school districts where the use of cell phones is permitted on a limited basis, the potential for cyberbullying on social networking websites exists.  (In fact, you can get a Facebook app for your BlackBerry right on BlackBerry's App World!)

My teenager is in crisis due to cyberbullying.  The high school that my teenager goes to won't help me.  What do I do?

I would like to close out this blog entry with what you can do as a parent if your teenager is in crisis because of cyberbullying.  If we can understand and realize the important warning signs as I mentioned earlier cyberbullying tragedies, especially attributable to social networking websites, can be avoided and lives saved.

With that in mind, here's what you should do as a parent if your teenager is in crisis due to any form of bullying, including cyberbullying.

Someone posted a threatening message on my teenager's Facebook page:  Call 911 immediately.  Do not close any screens on the computer until law enforcement arrives.  Law enforcement will take a report and gather any screen shots of the page as evidence to help track down the perpetrator.  Insist that a police report be taken so that you have a police report number to reference it by later down the road; don't let the police brush it off as a minor non-reportable incident.

My teenager has expressed hopelessness, helplessness or is thinking of suicide:  Suicide is a very serious matter!!!  In an immediate emergency, call 911.  Or, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK (that's 1 (800) 273-8255) to be connected to the crisis center near you.

My teenager is in constant anxiety and fear, and it is showing in declining grades in schoolwork:  You may want to find a mental health counselor in your area.  If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which is open not only to you but your entire family, your employer's EAP can be of valuable assistance.

In Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, you can also call 211 to get help.

Whatever you do, if your teenager is in crisis, please get help somewhere.

A personal note:

Personally, I think the Pasco County School District as well as Fivay High School and its principal, Angie Stone, failed Jessica Laney.  After reading the articles on several Tampa Bay area news media outlets including the St. Petersburg Times, ABC Action News, 10 News (WTSP-TV), and Bay News 9, I think Jessica Laney was afraid to report what was going on to someone at school for fear of retribution.

The Pasco County School District needs to do more to address the issue of bullying, especially cyberbullying, in all of its schools.  This should be a priority for Pasco County's newly elected Superintendent of Schools, Kurt Browning, who used to be Florida's Secretary of State.

Had this taken place in another country where defamatory libel is a crime, such as Canada, the perpetrators who posted those remarks on ask.fm that led to Jessica Laney's suicide would more than likely be charged with a criminal offense, probably an indictable offense (that's what felonies are called in Canada) as a loss of life was involved.  What compounds the issue is that ask.fm is based in Latvia and you got international law involved.

Remember, the life you save as a parent is your teenager's life.  For that reason, early intervention when your teenager is bullied is very critical.

Like what the signs say on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge next to the crisis intervention/motorist aid call boxes, there is hope - make the call.

What happened to Jessica Laney is very sad and tragic.  May she rest in peace.

Parents, it's your children.

10 November 2012

Is Thanksgiving in Danger of becoming Extinct?

The holidays are almost upon us.  We will be traditionally kicking off the holiday season beginning with Thanksgiving Day and the Day After Thanksgiving, commonly known as Black Friday.  By the way, not to mention the constant stream of holiday music we'll hear.
The holiday season is my favorite time of year.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are not just holidays; these holidays are time to be with friends and family.  You know what Thanksgiving is all about:  Big turkey dinners and the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, televised on your local NBC affiliate (here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, that would be WFLA-TV NewsChannel 8).
Recently, I have been noticing a lot of things going on that Thanksgiving as we know it in America may end up becoming extinct, thanks to Corporate America.  About this same time last year I wrote a blog entry on Thanksgiving, Christmas and the ever-growing Anti-American holiday sentiment in which public schools and Corporate America are increasingly shunning the holiday season in one form or another.
I recently came across a petition on Change.org started by C. Renee of Corona, California regarding Target's plans to open its doors at 9 PM on Thanksgiving Day in order to get a jump start on the Black Friday madness.  Apparently, what Target is doing is in response to Wal-Mart (Florida's trespass and ban for life happy retailer) opening on Thanksgiving Day an hour earlier than Target at 8 PM.
What is going on here?
This is Corporate America at its finest:  Shunning one of America's major holidays, Thanksgiving Day, by being open for business just to make a quick buck.  Last year Target opened their doors at 12:01 AM on Black Friday, as was reported in my blog entry from last year.
Being open on Thanksgiving Day may be convenient, but if you as a retailer decide to open on Thanksgiving Day, your associates cannot enjoy any quality time with their families on Thanksgiving Day.  Being open on Thanksgiving Day is not right.
First, I can understand that our police officers, firefighters and public safety personnel do have to work not only on Thanksgiving Day, but any holiday of the year for that matter. After all, we rely on these fine personnel to keep us safe.

However, I am miffed when I find out that a retailer – especially a retailer known for traditionally closing on Thanksgiving so that their employees can be with their families – decides to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day all in the name of making a quick buck.

Does Corporate America care anymore about America’s traditional holidays?
Here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, we have businesses that are traditionally closed on Thanksgiving Day so that their employees can be with their families. A great example is Publix Super Markets, which has had a closed on Thanksgiving Day policy from the day George Jenkins founded Publix a long time ago.

If George Jenkins ever found out his Publix stores were open on Thanksgiving, I imagine he would be very sad to see this.  This is one of many reasons I prefer to shop at Publix whenever I need groceries.

Unfortunately, two other supermarket chains have decided to practically do away with Thanksgiving and be open on Thanksgiving Day, citing customer convenience:  Sweetbay Supermarket and Winn-Dixie.  Sweetbay claims that they are open on Thanksgiving for customer convenience, but Sweetbay’s Belgian owners – Delhaize Group – apparently believes that Thanksgiving is an interruption to their business. While Sweetbay may be open as a customer convenience, in reality their associates cannot enjoy quality time with their families on Thanksgiving.
After all, Thanksgiving is not a legal holiday in Belgium, nor in the rest of Europe for that matter.  One minor exception, according to Wikipedia, is in the Dutch town of Leiden, where a non-denominational church service is held on the morning of American Thanksgiving Day, commemerating the hospitality the Pilgrims received in Leiden prior to setting out across the Atlantic in search of the New World.
Sweetbay used to be known as Kash ‘n Karry, which was locally owned here in Tampa for many years. Then Belgian based Delhaize Group came into town in 1996 and bought up the Kash ‘n Karry chain, remodeled the stores, and rebranded them as Sweetbay as we know today.
Practically the same thing is over at Winn-Dixie. Besides being open for Thanksgiving in the name of customer convenience, Winn-Dixie is notorious for poor customer service: Rude and belligerent checkout staff as well as forcing you to surrender your personal information if you want lower prices or you are subjected to substandard treatment as a customer. In other words, the person ahead of you with a Winn-Dixie Customer Reward Card gets better treatment while you, with no card (being your choice), are subjected to more harsh and belligerent treatment.   Like Sweetbay, Winn-Dixie’s associates end up paying for being open on Thanksgiving Day in that they cannot enjoy quality time with their families on Thanksgiving.
And we can't forget McDonald's, which traditionally used to rest on Thanksgiving as well as Christmas according to signage posted at the store entrance.  Today, it seems like McDonald's is slowly trying to do away with Thanksgiving by being open more and more on Thanksgiving Day; it used to start by being open for breakfast hours.
Now here's my take on Corporate America being open on Thanksgiving Day for the sole purpose of making a quick buck before Black Friday:
1. Being a native born American citizen, I firmly and strongly believe in all the holidays that America celebrates, including Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.
2. If Corporate America does not want to have anything to do with Thanksgiving, then have your corporate eons lobby Congress to repeal Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Believe me – it won’t happen; Thanksgiving is deeply rooted in tradition as an American national holiday to begin with, going back to the days when the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620 and earlier when Juan Ponce De Leon landed on the Florida east coast near St. Augustine in 1513.
3. Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays to be with family and friends. As such, I do not conduct any business on Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.  Besides, I was born and raised in an era where retailers were closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas (and we knew better to stock up on things before the holidays); unfortunately, today we live in an "I gotta have it right now" era - an era of instant gratification.

4. Finally, if the spirit of the American holidays – especially the fall holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas – offend you in any way, please consider leaving the United States of America and find another country where our American holidays are not celebrated, especially a country where human rights and civil liberties are grossly violated.

We cannot let Thanksgiving as well as Christmas become extinct, thanks to Corporate America that think these holidays are a nuisance. Thanksgiving and Christmas - along with America's other major holidays - are not a nuisance; instead our nation's holidays are part of our heritage.  Besides, you have a right to express your disapproval of retailers being open on Thanksgiving Day by not spending your hard earned money at these places.

As I said last year, onward with the holiday season!

03 November 2012

Headed to the Polls on November 6th?

In a few days we will be electing a President of the United States as well as a plethora of federal, Florida and local officials.  Additionally, at the same time we will decide on a plethora of Florida constitutional amendments; in fact, the ballot is two pages long and double sided, so be ready.

Now if you have voted either by absentee ballot or by early voting, that's great!  However, if you prefer to vote the traditional way at your assigned precinct on November 6th, that's fine too!  What follows is what you will expect in Pinellas County on November 6th; for all other Florida counties the process is essentially the same as optical scan ballots are mandated by Florida law and you can read along.  You can also find this information as a topic over at EdwardRingwald.com as the Pinellas 4 Step.

OK.  Here's what you will want to do before you head out to your assigned polling place on November 6th.  The first thing you want to do is to find out where your assigned polling place will be on November 6th, and to do that you will want to head on over to the website of the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.  There you can find your assigned polling place by entering your residential street address and you'll know where you need to go.

But wait! There's more!

In addition to where you will go to vote on November 6th, you can also print a copy of the sample ballot that is tailored specifically to your precinct.  Print a copy and mark your choices so that you can carry it with you and use your marked sample ballot as a reference when you fill out the official ballot in the privacy booth.

Got your sample ballot with you?  You're ready to head on over to your assigned polling place on November 6th!  But before you head over to the polls, you need one more important item:  Picture and signature identification!

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, in compliance with Florida Statutes the following types of identification are accepted:

Florida Driver License
Florida Identification Card
United States Passport (either the book or Passport Card is OK)
Debit or credit card
Student or Military ID
Retirement Center ID
Neighborhood Association ID
Public Assistance ID

Now if your photo ID does not have a signature, you will have to present another ID that has your signature.  Now what if you do not have any ID on you when you show up at the polls on November 6th?  Don't worry, you can still vote but you will have to vote a provisional ballot.

Got your sample ballot with you?  Got your ID with you?  Then let's head on over to our assigned polling place and vote!

Once you arrive, you will be greeted by a precinct deputy whose job is to maintain order in the polling place.  The precinct deputy - who is a poll worker - will direct you to a table marked Step 1.

At Step 1, this is where you will check in.  There will be an inspector - another poll worker - who will check your ID (remember to bring your ID as I mentioned earllier!) and have you sign the register that confirms your name and address is correct.  You will be asked at that point to sign the register in the space provided.

For those of you that requested mail ballots but decide to vote at the polls instead:  Bring your mail ballot with you so that the mail ballot can be cancelled so that you can receive a regular ballot.  If you forget to do so, you can still vote but a verification phone call will be made to the Election Service Center by a poll worker to verify that your mail ballot was not received.

The inspector will hand you a yellow ticket with your name attached to it.  At this point, you will be directed to Step 2.

At Step 2, this is where you will receive your actual ballot.  Before you head to Step 2, check your name to be sure everything is correct.  Now that you are at Step 2, present your ticket to the ballot distribution manager (this will be another poll worker); at this point you will fill in the oval to confirm that the name on the label on the ticket is correct and below that oval you will sign to signify that you are receiving your ballot.

Hand the signed ballot ticket to the poll worker.  At that time you will receive the actual ballot inside a red secrecy envelope plus a black ballpoint pen.  You are ready for Step 3!

Remember, as the November 6th ballot is lengthy you will receive two cards; the two cards constitute the entire ballot.

At Step 3 you will proceed to any open privacy booth where you can mark your ballot in private and in secret.  Make sure that you completely fill in the oval next to your selection.  When you are finished, review your selections and when you're ready you can head on over to Step 4 to wrap up the voting process!

Remember the marked up sample ballot from earlier?  You can use your marked up sample ballot as a reference when you are making your selections on the official ballot!

I made a mistake on my ballot card.  What do I do?

No problem!  Simply head back to the poll worker at Step 2 and request a replacement ballot.  The poll worker will give you an envelope for you to place your incorrect ballot into, simply place the incorrect ballot into the envelope, seal it up and hand in the envelope to the poll worker who will exchange it for a ballot.

Remember, a ballot marking machine - which is similar to the touch screen voting we used to do in Florida but it does not cast your ballot - is available for your use.  Just let the poll worker know at Step 2 and another poll worker will be summoned to assist you in using the machine.

Most importantly, you are allowed a maximum of three (3) ballots pursuant to Florida Statutes.  This applies whether you mark your ballot in the privacy booth or use the ballot marking machine.  My recommendation:  If you are on your third ballot use the ballot marking machine; that way, you can review and even change your selections before you mark your ballot.

At Step 4 you will see the optical scanner machine where you will feed in your ballot and cast your vote.  This applies whether you manually filled in the ballot in the privacy booth or used the ballot marking machine.  The optical scanner is manned by yet another poll worker called a machine manager who is there to resolve any problems you may have when you feed the ballots in.

As the November 6th ballot is two cards, you can feed them in any order.  Just be sure to feed in the two cards into the optical scanner.

If your ballot is marked correctly, the optical scanner will take your ballot, record your votes and deposit your ballot into the secured ballot box.  As always, if you run into any difficulties simply ask a poll worker for help.

REMEMBER:  I can't over-emphasize this enough but be sure to review your ballot selections carefully!  Once your ballot is accepted by the optical scanner and your votes are recorded, YOUR BALLOT CANNOT BE RETRIEVED FOR CORRECTIONS AT A LATER TIME!!!

After you deposit your completed ballot into the optical scanner, be sure to return the pen and secrecy envelope given to you and exit the polling place through the exit as designated.  Be sure to collect your "I Voted" sticker as you exit.

Congratulations!  You have just completed the Pinellas County Four-Step and you can be proud of yourself!

The polls open on November 6th at 7 AM and close at 7 PM.  As November 6th is the general election, expect delays when you go to vote at your assigned polling place, so plan ahead.
When the polls close at 7 PM on November 6th, feel free to tune in or log on to your favorite media outlet and watch the returns come in (a list of selected Tampa/St. Petersburg area media links is provided for your convenience):
Here are also links to the Supervisor of Elections websites for the counties in the Tampa/St. Petersburg metropolitan area.  These links are provided for you as a convenience in locating your precinct and assigned polling place as well as viewing a sample ballot:
Pinellas County (St. Petersburg, Clearwater)
Hillsborough County (Tampa, Temple Terrace, Brandon, Plant City)
Pasco County (New Port Richey, Zephyrhills, Dade City)
Hernando County (Brooksville, Spring Hill)
Citrus County (Inverness, Lecanto, Crystal River)
Polk County (Lakeland, Bartow, Winter Haven, Auburndale)
Manatee County (Bradenton, Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch)
You can also log on to your county's Supervisor of Elections website to see election results as they come in as well.

14 October 2012

WTSP 10 News' change of voice over announcers

If you are a frequent viewer of WTSP 10 News (the CBS affiliate here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area) and their programming such as their newscasts (which I like as an alternative to Bay News 9, which partially survives on stories shared from the St. Petersburg Times as both have a news sharing alliance with each other) you have by now noticed some changes that took place at the WTSP camp out there on 11450 Gandy Blvd.

One change which is obvious is the return of America's most popular game shows - Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! - to WTSP.  Right after the Great Tampa Bay TV Affiliate Switch of 1994 and WTSP's conversion from being an ABC affiliate to a CBS affiliate as we know today both game shows stayed on for several years, then moved over to the relocated ABC affiliate in Tampa, WFTS ABC Action News.

Let me digress for a moment back in the days when Jeopardy! was on WTSP.  This was around 1995, back in the days of the reliable Emergency Broadcast System used to warn us of severe weather.  I was watching Jeopardy! at home and the weather outside started getting worse by the minute, due to the summer thundershowers that are a common occurrence in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.  Right after Jeopardy! announcer Johnny Gilbert announced, "and now, here's the host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek" then three beeps went off along with a text crawl on screen warning of severe weather on the horizon.

What I was thinking:  Was Johnny Gilbert playing with the beeper signal?  I knew that the beeper signal originated from WTSP's studios, but the timing was perfect to the nanosecond.  Luckily, the beeper signal was not the two-tone Emergency Broadcast System signal (which, by the way, would have required WTSP to interrupt programming).  (Today we have the Emergency Alert System, which is ineffective when it's used for a national emergency as was demonstrated in November 2011).

Now on to another change that took effect over at WTSP 10 News:  You may not notice this, but WTSP has decided to change voice over announcers.  Don't confuse this with the announcers that you hear on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, but this is the announcer you hear anytime you watch a promo for an upcoming program, such as this example:  "Today at 4, on 10 News".

(I can only give you textual examples of what you hear on WTSP 10 News, as actual sound samples would more than likely violate copyright).

What I can say is this:  WTSP 10 News and its general manager, Ken Tonning, should be proud of the return of America's two most popular game shows back home after several years being on WFTS, the Tampa area ABC affiliate.  However, I think Ken Tonning made a mediocre choice when it comes to picking a voice over announcer for the station - besides, the past two WTSP station announcers did a much better job at promoting WTSP 10 News to its fullest.

Now for a backgrounder on voice over announcers who do TV station promotional materal (which are called in broadcast speak "promos").  Back in the old days, a TV station used to have a person called a staff announcer that used to work for the station as part of the team.  Not only the staff announcer did all the promos for the station, the staff announcer was called on to assist with other station related tasks such as voicing news summaries (especially back in the days when television was not 24 hours a day) and other tasks that may be determined by station management from time to time.

Fast forward to the technological marvels of ISDN telephone service and the Internet.  These two technological marvels enable anyone working in the voice over industry to perform their profession without the expense of moving to New York or Los Angeles.

Today, the typical voice over announcer has a few television stations plus numerous radio stations as their clientele.  A typical voice over announcer's day is receiving scripts from the clientele TV and/or radio station and recording the script in a studio built for that purpose.  Most voice over announcers set aside a portion of their homes and convert a room or two to accommodate the professional grade equipment needed, as well as make the room as soundproof as it can be to achieve the best possible sound.  Besides, having a voice over announcer setup at home significantly reduces overhead costs for the voice over announcer as office space can come at a significant premium depending on the metropolitan area involved.

As soon as the voice over announcer completes a voice over task the finshed products are sent to the client over a dedicated ISDN telephone connection.  Some voice over announcers have a restricted access FTP site on the Internet where their clientele can log in and retrieve the individual MP3 sound files.

Even though most voice over announcer work is done by way of ISDN and the Internet, we still have live voice over talent that is still used today.  A great example is the annual Academy Awards telecast on ABC, and Academy Awards telecasts 83 and 84 were announced by Tom Kane (with assistance on Oscar telecast No. 84 by a newcomer on the Oscar telecast block, Melissa Disney).

So, I gave you a little backgrounder on voice over announcers who do promo material for TV as well as radio stations.  As for WTSP 10 News, perhaps WTSP general manager Ken Tonning could have done better if he wanted to polish the image of WTSP 10 News for the new TV season to try to beef up the ratings in the Tampa/St. Petersburg TV market.

More Jeff Harrington Myth regarding Citizens Insurance

In Saturday's (13 October 2012) St. Petersburg Times there is a headline plastered on Page 1-A, the front page:  Opt out or stay?  Get the facts.
It's a Question and Answer column on if you want to stay with Citizens - the State of Florida's homeowners insurer of last resort - or go with the takeout company that Citizens is assigning you to.  This Q and A was written by none other than Jeff Harrington, the St. Petersburg Times' purveyor of anxiety and fear when it comes to articles on the economy.  (With one minor exception:  The recent sale of The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com to Los Angeles-based Revolution Capital, a private equity firm).
Did I mention Jeff Harrington?  Remember during the height of the credit crunch the St. Petersburg Times was nothing but lots of articles about how impossible it was to get a non-mortgage loan?  All written to instill fear and anxiety in the general public?
If you haven't read my topic on Surviving the Housing Crisis, please by all means feel free to do so.  After all, the news media such as the St. Petersburg Times - as well as other media outlets such as Bay News 9 - should not be drowning you in fear as far as your mortgage, your home's value or the ability to get homeowners insurance is concerned.
OK.  I took a look at that article with interest.  After looking at that article it's got some helpful hints, but unfortunately the element of fear is contained.  First, let me give you a backgrounder on why Citizens came about in the first place.
Let's trace back to 2004, and Florida's golden hit parade of hurricanes - Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne - plus the Florida platinum hit parade of hurricanes such as Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005.  Insurers were being hit big time with losses that came about from claims from homeowners for damage as a result of these hurricanes which we will know and remember for the forseeable future.
What did insurers have to do?  Stop writing homeowners policies in Florida and pull the homeowners insurance business out of the state.  With insurers cancelling or non-renewing policies at a alarmingly fast rate, the State of Florida stepped in and created a homeowners insurance company which would be dubbed the insurer of last resort:  Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, or simply called Citizens as we know today.
Several years have passed since the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005.  Citizens was writing the majority of homeowner policies for homeowners in Florida who are unable to get homeowners insurance through traditional means.  Then the State of Florida was enticing insurance companies to take homeowners out of Citizens and have the insurance company take the risk.  The process in which an insurance company takes over a homeowner's Citizens policy is what is called a "takeout".
But here's the good news:  You are not stuck with Citizens, nor the insurance company that Citizens assigns you to when you get your letter with a request for a response.  I have seen more and more insurance companies slowly getting back into the Florida homeowners market.
When you get that letter from Citizens saying that you will be assigned to another insurance company, what you should do is to call your insurance agent before you make that decision.  With more and more insurance companies getting back into the Florida homeowners market every year, your choices for homeowners insurance should get better - and hopefully see lower rates.  This is true even if your homeowners policy is one or two months away from renewal.

Very important:  You only have a limited amount of time to decide whether you want to stay with Citizens or go with the insurance company that Citizens is assigning you to.  When you get that letter from Citizens, call your insurance agent right away and have him or her shop around for the best quotes on homeowners insurance.  Same thing if you have condominium unit owners insurance - when you get the letter from Citizens, call your insurance agent.

In short, let me say this again:  You are not stuck with Citizens, nor the insurance company that Citizens assigns you to when you get your letter with a request for a response.  Don't let the St. Petersburg Times drown you, the homeowner or condominium unit owner, in fear.

23 September 2012

Rick Scott and Pam Bondi: Resign from office!

Now that the general election for President of the United States is just a little more than a month away, we Floridians know that this is the halfway point for Florida Governor Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as far as their terms of office are concerned.  Their terms expire in January 2015, which is a couple of months after the November 2014 general election.

Even if President Obama gets re-elected for a second term, we Floridians have to put up with two more years of Florida state government that is unresponsive to the people, instead favoring the special interests.  This is how life in Florida has gone down the storm drain under Rick Scott as well as Pam Bondi:

The unauthorized turning of public meetings into private meetings.  Remember what happened at The Villages?

The refusal of federal healthcare money.

Throwing the potential of 25,000 jobs into the trash can by refusing federal money for high speed rail (the expansive median on Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando serves as a reminder).

The constant lying and deceit to the people of Florida.

To the people of Florida who are unemployed and their unemployment benefits have ran out.

To the people of Florida who are discriminated while looking for work.

To the Florida homeowner subjected to the super high homeowners insurance rate increases by Citizens.

Children that are constantly fed with drill and practice in school for the FCAT.

Children that are being treated as property of the county school district.  Try to have a conference with your child's teachers and more than likely you will be arrested for either trespassing on school property, interfering with the operation of a public school or a combination of the two.  Try to greet your child in the unsecured area of school grounds (the area where you do not have to check in at the office, present your ID and pick up a visitor pass) when the school day is over and you will be arrested for trespassing.

The constant use of Florida State Statute 810.09 - Florida's trespassing laws - as a tool of oppression against the people of the State of Florida.  Florida's trespassing laws are an easy tool of oppression, especially for private property owners who don't want to go through the time and trouble of going to court and getting a restraining order against a person.

Making sure that each law abiding Florida resident has at least an arrest record that will follow them for the rest of their lives - even if it takes the issuance of a trespass warning to do it.  From what I understand and what I have read this was Pam Bondi's goal.

Turning law enforcement such as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement against the people.  Just ask the people of The Villages who were subjected to oppression from the Sumter County Sheriff's Office with the threat of arrest for trespassing when Rick Scott came to visit.

Warehousing our disabled youth in nursing homes for life.

Warehousing our elderly and veterans in nursing homes for life and taking their prized possessions away, thanks to Florida's guardianship laws that serve to legally kidnap and exploit the elderly and disabled as well as our veterans.

Making sure that Floridians who have legally registered to vote are purged from the voter rolls.

Ask yourself: How would you feel, as an American citizen living here in Florida, got the news that you are not eligible to vote?  And the reason is because of a flawed list?

Want proof?  Here's some articles from the St. Petersburg Times:

A parent denied access to a meeting with Rick Scott, because the parent is deemed a "threat".

Rick Scott lying about Florida's jobless rate.

Warehousing Florida's sick and disabled children in nursing homes for life.

Rick Scott's shameless voter suppression effort.

Do we Floridians have to put up with two more years of the constant lying, deceit and threats?   Do we Floridians have to put up with two more years of oppression against the people of our great state?  We Floridians are getting sick and tired of life under Rick Scott!

Both Rick Scott and Pam Bondi have done nothing to make Florida state government responsive to the people.  What Rick Scott and Pam Bondi need to do is to do the people of the State of Florida a very big favor before 2014:  Resign from office!!!

Let's clean up the State of Florida before it's too late!

01 September 2012

Just barely into the school year: Principals declaring war on your parental rights!

Today (9/1/12) I am coming to you from aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 3967 from Tampa to Kansas City, of which I am changing planes there to continue on westward to San Diego for a great Labor Day weekend vacation, instead of the usual Ft. Lauderdale stuff. Southwest has introduced in-flight Wi-Fi and it lets you stay connected even while you are on your way. The price is right - $5.00 for an entire day. (Just make sure your laptop battery is fully charged up - no power outlets on board!)

We're just barely into the 2012-2013 school year in the school districts of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, and another elementary school decided to declare war on your parental rights! If you as a parent are concerned about what your child is exposed to in the closed neverworld of public school, you need to read this.

This article I found in the St. Petersburg Times' Whoa Momma! blog is part of a disturbing trend: School stops parents from walking kids to class in the morning. This time, it is Sand Pine Elementary School in Wesley Chapel in Pasco County, which is on Interstate 75 north of Tampa just over the Hillsborough-Pasco county line. According to the St. Petersburg Times article, a sign was erected by the fence stating that "parents will no longer be permitted to walk students to class in the morning".

Here is a comment I wrote to the St. Petersburg Times regarding this article I would like to share with you:

This is a great example of how parental rights are somehow being eroded when it comes to your child's education in public schools. What Sand Pine Elementary School in Wesley Chapel is doing is effectively telling parents that you are not welcome on campus.

A similar situation is in effect at Virgil Mills Elementary School in Palmetto (Manatee County). Parents are not allowed to even set foot on any part of the school campus, including where you pick up and drop off your child. What makes this so tyrannical is that parents who do so are being declared second class citizens on the orders of Virgil Mills Principal Mike Rio by having a trespass warning issued against the parent which bans the parent from campus for at least six months, if not the entire school year.

It seems like our public schools are becoming closed neverworlds, almost like the closed prison state neverworld of North Korea. God knows what your child could be experiencing in school: Physical abuse? Emotional abuse? Sexual abuse?

Parents, the school district does not own your children, period. As a parent, you set an example for your children.

By placing that sign at the school entrance, Sand Pine Elementary Principal Todd Cluff turned his school into yet another closed neverworld, essentially another North Korea so to speak. All in the name of school safety and Florida's Jessica Lunsford law.

Yeah, right. All in the name of school safety and Florida's Jessica Lunsford law, which mandates rigorous background screenings before you are even allowed on a public school campus. What happened to Jessica Lunsford, the young girl from Citrus County (about an hour and a half north of Tampa on the Suncoast Parkway, FL Toll 589), was extremely horrific and her perpetrator got what he deserved: A one way trip to Florida's death row at Florida State Prison in Raiford. (Unfortunately, Jessica's perpetrator died in prison before the State of Florida had the opportunity to carry out the ultimate penalty). In the wake of Jessica Lunsford's murder, lawmakers in Tallahassee wanted to make our schools safer: Turn them into mini-North Koreas.

The message that Principal Todd Cluff is really saying to parents: Stay out of our school or we'll trespass you. Doesn't Virgil Mills Elementary in Ellenton (Manatee County) and its principal, Mike Rio, ring a bell here? That applies even if you are coming to pick up your child from school - don't even think of setting foot anywhere on campus or we'll trespass you.

The solution that school officials will tell you, if you don't like the parental pick-up procedures, is to have your children ride the bus. Unfortunately, if your child lives within a two mile radius of your child's school, your child does not qualify for the bus even if it involves a dangerous walk to and from school. But with news stories accompanied by plenty of videos out there about incidents on board the school bus, parents don't want to take the chances.

The Code of Student Conduct of the school districts in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area make it obvious: Your child is guilty of any offenses committed until proven otherwise. In other words, the burden of proof is on your child, not the school administration. Just like when you are in Mexico or any civil law country, where you are guilty until proven innocent.

In the years since Florida's Jessica Lunsford law was passed, we have turned our public schools into so-called "security zones". Simplest explanation: You can be trespassed or even actually arrested for trespassing for even being on public property within 1,000 feet of a public school. After all, being trespassed - by issuance of a trespass warning - is the equivalent of a misdemeanor conviction for trespassing in Florida pursuant to Florida State Statute 810.09 without the benefit of due process and trial.

Why should you care as a parent? You worry every day what your child is exposed to once your child is past the gates of the closed neverworld of public school. And you have reason to be.

Turn on Bay News 9. Or 10 News (WTSP-TV). Or ABC Action News (WFTS-TV). or even NewsChannel 8 (WFLA-TV). Or pick up a copy of the St. Petersburg Times and/or Tampa Tribune in the morning. We are seeing this headline more and more often: School teacher arrested on child pornography charges.

Here is most recent proof, according to this article over at 10 News (WTSP-TV): Kathleen High School principal Cecil McClellan among 89 arrested in Polk County prostitution bust. A well respected high school principal is now facing not only serious charges of prostitution, now his career may be the end of the line depending on how things play out in the courts. By the way, Lakeland is a city situated between Tampa and Orlando on Interstate 4.

Kudos to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd for keeping Polk County safe.

Add to that the recent arrest of a teacher's aide at Nina Harris Exceptional Education Center in Pinellas Park, and that is good reason for you as a parent to be concerned. As I said in my previous blog entry, God knows what your child is being subjected to once your child passes through the gates of the closed neverworld of public school: Bullying? Child Abuse? Physical abuse? Sexual abuse? Emotional abuse? The subject of a teacher's negative comment on the teacher's own Facebook page?

On a personal note, I don't have any children of my own but I have a nephew that has recently graduated from college that I am proud of.

In fact, Bay News 9 has put together a page of your rights as a parent when it comes to your child's education in public school. A couple of them, according to the Bay News 9 article, are as follows:

1. You, as a parent, have a right to look over your child's school records and see test results, teacher comments and any disciplinary action taken against your child. In the Pinellas County School District, you can log in to Parent Connect and see much of this information on your child; access requires a login which you can get from any school upon presentation of a government issued photo ID.

2. If your child's school is a Title I school - a school that receives federal funds for low income children to help them succeed in school - federal law requires that you as a parent be involved in programs and decisions that affect your child. Your child's school principal will tell you if the school is a Title I school.

If anything, just remember this as a parent: Neither your child's school principal nor the school district does not own your children, period. You play an important role in your child's education and your child's teachers are there to help implement that role. Parents, it is your children.

Here is a link to the ParentalRights.org website with plenty of information on the subject of your rights as a parent when they are in the closed neverworld of public school. There's also a 36-minute movie produced by ParentalRights.org, Overruled, which is highly recommended viewing (in fact, you can find that video embedded into my previous blog entry).