25 August 2012

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac

As Tropical Storm - soon to be Hurricane - Isaac makes its way across the Straits of Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico on its northwestward course, by now you are taking the necessary precautions to keep you as well as your property safe. If your county's emergency management officials issue bulletins such as evacuations, and you live in an area that is subject to an evacuation, please follow their advice so that you can stay safe.

Links to Tampa/St. Petersburg area media outlets for more information on Isaac including school closures and road closures if need be:

Bay News 9
WTSP - 10 News
WFLA - Newschannel 8
WFTS - ABC Action News
St. Petersburg Times

If you think that a hurricane sitting out there in the Gulf of Mexico coming close to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area is no big deal, think again. We Tampa/St. Petersburg residents remember - not from Katrina in 2005 (which hit New Orleans), Charley in 2004 or even Andrew in 1992 (which hit Miami) - but from a hurricane out in the Gulf of Mexico over Labor Day weekend in 1985 by the name of Hurricane Elena. While Hurricane Elena didn't do a direct hit, it did plenty of damage to the beach communities.

Even from a tropical storm or a hurricane sitting out there in the Gulf of Mexico on our doorstep, it is still very important to take the necessary precautions in order to stay safe. Just ask the people of Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte when Hurricane Charley was churning out there in the Gulf of Mexico setting its direct hit sights on the Tampa/St. Petersburg area; in a dramatic move which baffled weather forecasters, Hurricane Charley changed course and set its direct hit sights on the Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte area. After Hurricane Charley hit, we were reminded by images on television of the damage that Charley inflicted, not to mention the needless loss of life.

Again, I cannot over-emphasize this enough: Please take Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac seriously, especially if you live in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. If your county officials order evacuation and you live in an area affected by evacuation orders, please take their advice and head for higher ground - I don't care if it's a friend's or relative's house, a hotel or motel or even a public shelter - your own personal safety comes first.

A house can be replaced.
A condo or townhome can be replaced.
But a human life cannot be replaced!

Please be safe out there!

10 August 2012

Back to School and Your Parental Rights

Just around the corner, school will be back in session for the 2012-2013 school year in most school districts of the Tampa/St. Petersburg metropolitan area. For Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Polk and Manatee counties school gets underway on Monday, 20 August 2012 while Hillsborough county gets underway on Tuesday, 21 August 2012. As a parent, you're more than likely getting your children ready for the new school year.

However, one school district is already back in session as we speak: Citrus County (located about an hour and a half drive north on the Suncoast Parkway (FL Toll 589); its cities include Inverness, Crystal River and Lecanto), whose school district - by virtue of being a high performing school district - gets to legally flout the Florida law mandating that school cannot begin no earlier than two weeks before Labor Day by starting classes on 8 August 2012.

Why can the Citrus County School District get away with starting school so early? It's all in the name of the all-so-important super high stakes FCAT test, which all public school education in Florida is nothing more than drill and practice - teach the test mentality sort of. Our legislators in Tallahassee need to repeal that part of the law letting those so-called "high performing school districts" start school too early and disrupt summer vacations for students at the same time; all school districts in Florida should start school no earlier than two weeks before Labor Day, no ifs, ands, buts or awards for academic excellence.

As you and your children get prepared for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year, I came across a video out there on YouTube that was produced by ParentalRights.org about the invasion of your parental rights by governmental agencies including public schools. Of particular interest is a part of the video where the children come home from school with books in their hand; as the mother goes through the books the mother finds a book which is disturbing. Both the mother and the father go to the school and discuss the issue with the school principal only to be met with fierce resistance and - eventually - the father being arrested by police for excercising his rights as a parent.

I want you to take a look at this video and see for yourself:

When I watched this video just recently, the part where the children bring home a disturbing book from school reminds me of what goes on over at Virgil Mills Elementary School in Palmetto (which is not far from the southern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75's Exit 228). For those of you that want to know why, here's a backgrounder:

When parents come to pick up their children from school, parents are forced to wait an inordinate amount of time before actually picking up their child. Why? It is the result of a policy imposed by Virgil Mills' principal, Mike Rio, claiming that it is in the name of safety. Parents are prohibited from even getting out of their car and setting foot on campus even though the parents do not enter the secured part of the campus (what I mean by the secured part of the campus is where you have to go to the school office and show your ID and sign in before you are allowed past the gates, especially if you are there to have a conference with your child's teachers). What makes this policy so tyrannical is that if you as a parent picking up your child attending Virgil Mills Elementary and you even step one foot on that campus, there is a Manatee County Sheriff's Deputy stationed on campus, given strict instructions by Virgil Mills principal Mike Rio to declare the parent a second class citizen by having a trespass warning issued banning the parent from campus for at least six months.

You can read more about this erosion of parental rights right over at my blog entry on Your Parental Rights are Under Attack from October 2011. Here's Bay News 9's coverage on parents waiting an hour to pick up their children from Virgil Mills Elementary.

In Florida, trespass warnings are convictions for trespassing without the benefit of due process and trial. Besides, trespass warnings are an easy way to turn a law abiding citizen into a criminal without the expense of incarceration and trial.

God knows what your children are being exposed to once your child enters the closed world of public school? Bullying? Child abuse? Sexual abuse? Emotional abuse? Your child's teachers making insulting (or even racially offensive) remarks about your child on Facebook? After all, once your child enters the secured part of the school campus it is like leaving the United States and entering into a country where human rights and civil liberties are disrespected such as the closed neverworld of North Korea, for example.

More alarmingly, you turn on Bay News 9, 10 News (WTSP-TV), ABC Action News (WFTS-TV) or even Newschannel 8 (WFLA-TV) only to find a shocking news story, sometimes introduced as breaking news: School employee arrested on a sex related offense, such as sexual abuse of children or (worse) possession of child pornography and held in the county jail on no bond. Makes you worry every day about your child in school, right?

Want proof? Here's a recent story on Bay News 9 which should have you as a parent concerned once your child enters the closed neverworld of a public school campus: A teacher's aide in St. Petersburg got arrested on child pornography charges. The teacher's aide, according to the story, worked at Nina Harris Exceptional Student Education Center in Pinellas Park.

After all, Nina Harris Exceptional Student Education Center is one of many schools for the Pinellas County School District's special needs students, serving all grade levels. A public school is one thing, but when you are working with special needs students, that's another. After all, parents put their faith and confidence in the faculty, administration and staff knowing that their child is getting the education he or she needs in order to become a productive member of society.

Alarmingly, this is one of many incidents where a person in a position of trust over a minor child gets arrested on a serious sex related offense. Every time I turn on Bay News 9, WTSP 10 News, NewsChannel 8 (WFLA-TV) or ABC Action News (WFTS-TV) or go over to their websites this is becoming more of an epidemic. The same thing if I pick up a copy of the St. Petersburg Times or go over to their website at TampaBay.com: Teacher arrested on child pornography possession charge.

Even though the St. Petersburg Times is now the mis-named Tampa Bay Times, Florida's Best Newspaper will continue to be referred to as the St. Petersburg Times in my book.

Unfortunately, Florida's public school campuses are closed campuses. Or, as I should say, closed prison states like North Korea? All in the name of student safety. From the way Mike Rio runs things at Virgil Mills Elementary in Palmetto, it's no parents allowed or you will be punished swiftly and severely with a trespass warning (or, much worse, an actual arrest for trespassing) if you even think about setting one foot on campus, even to pick up your children.

Again, I urge you to watch the YouTube video produced by ParentalRights.org and see for yourself. God knows what your children are being exposed to in public school!

Links for more information:

The ParentalRights.org web site - great information on how you, as a parent of your child, can stand up for your rights as a parent without undue interference from government agencies such as your public school district.

Website for the Overruled movie along with more information.

As you get your children ready for the 2012-2013 school year, remember this: Your county school district does not own your children, period. You, as a parent, set an example for your children.