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Column: Opinion roundup

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EDITOR’S NOTE—Today, the Daily Journal presents a sampling of editorials from around the state.

‌Teacher evaluations offer hope, worry

The Herald-Times, Bloomington

For better or worse, depending which side of the argument you’re on, state-mandated teacher evaluations that affect pay and employment are in place for the first time this school year.

Bloomfield, in central Greene County, is one of a handful of early-bird school districts across Indiana that started evaluations a year ago, providing an advance check on the evaluation process itself.

One finding, according to Bloomfield educators, is that it has become clear it will move school principals out of the front office and into the classroom.

That can only be good.

The time commitment itself — each teacher must have six classroom evaluations — two of at least 40 minutes and four shorter ones — will keep evaluators running.

But it also will bring teachers and administrators together in a way that was rare under the old system.

Too often, teachers are left to be lonely captains of their own little ships, where the best are strong sailors, where others manage to stay afloat and where those most in need of support and guidance flounder.

Of course, there are serious concerns with teacher evaluations. Pay raises are dependent on evaluations, which fall into four slots from solid to needing correction.

Teachers in only the top two slots are eligible for raises. Beginning teachers whose evaluations are at the bottom rung can be fired.

Guidelines must be followed, but anyone operating in the real world knows that guidelines don’t — by themselves — guarantee fairness. And testing, which many educators and parents say provides only a one-dimensional view of successful teaching, also comes into play. Evaluation standards must be meticulously fair and their application absolutely consistent — a daunting challenge.

There has to be real commitment from all parties if this is to improve the education of every child, not just those from comfortable neighborhoods or those who have opted out of the public schools.

‌Scouts’ files prove secrecy is not an option

Journal & Courier, Lafayette

In the long shadow of what was finally uncovered about sexual abuse of children in the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State, it’s amazing that we’re still talking about trying to bury institutional proof of molestation.

But that’s what was happening with the Boy Scouts of America, which fought to keep under wraps files that discussed complaints and how they were handled decades ago. In the light, the cases give a troubling hint about why the nonprofit organization would have preferred to let them fade from memory.

Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Boy Scouts to release more than 1,200 files on suspected molesters who were part of the Boy Scouts from the early 1960s to 1985. The list is compounded by hundreds more, gathered earlier by attorneys and The Los Angeles Times, covering the late 1940s to 2005.

The list includes cases from across the country, including five in Greater Lafayette.

Kelly Clark, a Portland, Ore., attorney who won a 2010 case on behalf of a plaintiff who was molested in the 1980s, correctly summed it up: “Child abuse thrives in secrecy, and secret systems are where it breeds.”

Wayne Perry, national president of the Boy Scouts, didn’t run from the fact that things were handled poorly by the organization. “There have been instances where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong.” And he apologized for the inaction, for not going to police and not coming clean immediately.

By now, can’t we come to an understanding that organizations have measures in place that leave absolutely no question that when allegations of sexual abuse are made, police are called in?

Children’s lives are bigger than any institution. We saw that in the Penn State football program. We’re seeing it again in the Boy Scouts’ history.

‌Safety top priority in stage rules issue

The Tribune, Seymour

Some folks around Indiana are concerned that state officials might be overreacting to the Indiana State Fair tragedy, especially if smaller events would be forced to adopt unnecessary and expensive safeguards that are certainly appropriate for large venues.

Of particular concerns are events such as county fairs or smaller community events in which elaborate stage settings are not required.

New emergency regulations adopted by the state in the wake of the August 2011 tragedy at the Indiana State Fair in which seven people were killed and dozens injured when a stage set up for the band Sugarland collapsed in unexpectedly high winds have prompted the concerns.

Those initial rules were established under a “better to be safe than sorry” mind-set, which was certainly understandable owing to the extent of the state fair tragedy.

Now state legislators and Indiana Fire Marshal Jim Greeson are taking harder looks not only at the rules that were quickly adopted but at the comprehensive manner in which both large and small events are staged.

Some officials are wisely looking beyond what the state can do and exploring steps that might lead to an international set of guidelines.

That would certainly be a bonus for the companies that set up stages at venues across the country and even the world, not to mention the entertainers who will use those stages.

To have a hodgepodge of regulations that varies from state to state and country to country serves to increase the costs of staging the events (which can dictate the cost of tickets) and to create situations in which mistakes can be made.

This is one of those decisions that will require time and cooperation. It must not become a turf issue.

Safety is much more important than that.

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