Letters to the Editor

Article stained Heller's reputation

The tone of your article regarding Joel Heller and his alleged offenses at Little Butte Elementary implied he was guilty even after he was found innocent in all three separate investigations last year: police, district attorney, the Eagle Point School District and the Oregon Teachers Standards and Practices Commission.

You practiced cheap sensational journalism at the expense of a valued member of our community. We have taught for a combined 62 years in this valley, and we understand the need to monitor and investigate thoroughly all allegations involving children and teachers, but we also know that after one has been cleared by three separate investigations, that should mean something.

We have known Joel Heller for 35 years, both personally and professionally. He is a man of integrity and decency. Your article alone has unjustly stained his reputation in this community.

Kim and Bill Gabriel


Ashland needs a homeless shelter

I just moved to exquisite Ashland three weeks ago and was reminded of the huge homeless population in this fine city.

My suggestion is to either renovate an existing building or build one for the homeless. The building would be similar to a youth hostel. Volunteers would help those find direction and counsel them. The project would be based on donations.

Many of the homeless have developed psychiatric problems. When I traveled through Europe many a year ago, I would stay at inexpensive youth hostels, with three bunk beds and usually a small breakfast in the morning. This could and would better serve the homeless, especially during autumn and winter when the weather can be brutally cold.

Jeff Kassman


No good can come from abuse lawsuit

A fact of life in this country is that anyone can sue anyone. Many suits are dismissed or are unsuccessful, but when a featured news story names a male teacher accused in a suit of molesting young girls, irreparable damage has already been done. His reputation will never recover, no matter what the outcome and regardless of previous detailed investigations by three independent institutions exonerating him.

Hair-trigger issues make news, and while you wouldn't typically report on rulings that showed no wrong-doing, you were quick to showcase the attorney's allegations without evaluating the evidence. The evidence has, in fact, already been thoroughly analyzed, and it soundly contradicts the allegations.

Sadly, the probable outcomes are that the school district will likely settle for an undisclosed amount in order to avoid further publicity and legal expense, the teacher will forever be considered guilty despite all the evidence to the contrary, Mr. Peterson will smugly walk away with half of the settlement and no accountability for the harm his successful strategy has caused, and the girls will be permanently damaged, not by anything done to them by the teacher, but by having learned the soul-deadening lesson that the truth does not matter.

Sandy Wand


Universities should not be for sale

This week the Oregon Education Investment Board will be voting to sponsor the governor's proposed methods of restructuring post-secondary education in the state of Oregon. The new Department of Post-Secondary Education is a proposal with some merit — centralizing administration, reducing costs by sharing services, and having one state agency make sure our colleges and universities serve a public mission.

However, another included proposal is more troubling for the students of Oregon. The governor and the OEIB are likely to support institutional boards for the University of Oregon and Portland State University. The boards as proposed will be unelected, unlike the boards that serve community colleges and their local communities. These new boards represent a separation of our public universities from the people they serve, the people of Oregon. The OEIB has been pretty explicit about the fact that these boards would mean the pursuit of private dollars, dollars from large and powerful donors who seek control over these institutions of learning. While I am greatly thankful for philanthropy, it should not come at the expense of the needs of Oregon.

Our universities should not be for sale and the method of their governance should reflect that. Public universities must serve a public mission, not those of the wealthy and powerful. The governor's proposal for a central agency to manage the people's interest in education is a good idea that the Legislature should adopt. The Legislature should reject unnecessary layers of bureaucracy that will help further privatize our public universities and result in tuition hikes that will price out low and middle income families.

Jazmin Roque, SOU student and member of the state Higher Education Coordinating Commission


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