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Community Forum: Schools undermining what? Check the facts
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Thomas Walker submitted a letter ("Wisdom of the elders undermined by schools," Wednesday). In this collection of logistic fallacies and statistical errors, he is upset because a majority of Gainesville High School students voted for Barack Obama.

With this information, along with the false statistic that only 1 percent of Hall County voted for Obama, Walker has concluded that there is a liberal agenda within Gainesville city schools to undermine the beliefs of conservative adults in Gainesville. He goes on to claim that liberals have introduced sex education and removed morality from our schools, the result of which has been increased teen pregnancy and STD rates.

To be sure, he notes that Obama, who has yet to take office, is somehow the most liberal president ever elected and with him we'll get more of the same. I guess he's saying a vote for Obama is a vote for immorality, STDs and pregnant teens.

I get very upset by false accusations against anyone. Sadly, teachers who are doing their best to educate our future, are a target here, too.

I'd like to challenge his statements with verifiable facts instead of stuff he heard from some guy by the water cooler at work. First, 1 percent of Hall County did not vote for Obama, 24 percent of Hall residents voted for Obama. Look it up on the Secretary of State's Web site.

Roughly two-thirds of Gainesville High School students belong to demographic groups that largely voted for Obama. It stands to reason that a large proportion of these students were, in fact, voting for the candidate on their elders' advice. Where is the evidence of a leftist plot to create Obama voters? Please show me proof of the organization of leftist teachers within Gainesville schools corrupting our youth with immoral liberal ideology. Without such proof, how dare such an accusation be made!

Now let's look at teen pregnancy and STD rates, which Mr. Walker insists have gone up do to liberalism. According to the Centers for Disease Control, both began to drop dramatically in the 90s during the Clinton years; 2004-2005 showed record low teen pregnancies with STD rates falling in like fashion. Since then, there has been a slight bump upward, but reaching nowhere near previous levels.
Interestingly enough, this bump does coincide with the Bush presidency, No Child Left Behind and abstinence-only education. In addition, Republican voting "Red States" have higher rates of teen pregnancy than "Blue States."

With this paltry and circumstantial evidence, you don't see me blaming George W. Bush, the Republican Party or a rightist conspiracy of teachers of corrupting our youth, encouraging teen pregnancy and STDs. Of course not; that would be insane and it would not be in the spirit of open discourse and democracy. If I did such a thing, I'd simply be trying to prey upon peoples' fears and encourage them to take mental shortcuts to get to the conclusions I wanted them to.

As an American, I'll have no part of that.

Brandon Givens

Tax board still under good ol' boy system
A special called meeting was held Dec. 29 by the Hall County Board of Tax Assessors to vote whether to continue the contract with Chief Tax Appraiser Mike Henderson. Assessors Terrell Gaines, Bill Vaughan and Bobby Hulsey voted to keep Henderson on the job even after they knew he committed a misdemeanor and violated civil service rules by giving his department employees their birthdays off, and lied about it.

Henderson also drove a county vehicle to a second job he had with the city of Gainesville on numerous occasions in violation of his employment contract.

From 2006-2008, Henderson claimed homestead exemption on land and a mobile home he owned but did not occupy. Georgia Code 48-5-51 states: "It shall be unlawful for any person to make a false or fraudulent claim for homestead exemption. Any person who violates this code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be taxed at double the tax otherwise to be paid."

Henderson is in charge of administering the homestead exemption law to Hall County citizens but did not follow it himself. After discovery on Nov. 4, Henderson and board Chairman Gaines attempted to cover it up by partially paying back the county for three years of illegal exemptions.

Evidently Gaines, Vaughan and Hulsey see nothing wrong with Henderson admittedly committing a misdemeanor crime by claiming an illegal exemption for numerous years as their disciplinary action consisted of simply issuing a letter of reprimand, which is nothing more than a "slap on the wrist."

County Administrator Charley Nix retained the accounting firm of Bates Carter & Co. to investigate, at a cost of $3,000 to Hall County taxpayers. It revealed what would take a sixth-grader 45 minutes to accomplish. Bates Cater & Co. concluded its investigation by saying " we do not express an opinion on any of the accounts or items referred to above." Now ain't that nice!

I applaud the actions of Whit Powell and Victoria Cook, new members of the tax board, for their efforts in trying to terminate Henderson and clean up this office. These two new members have illustrated their dedication to serve the citizens of Hall County and should be commended for their service.

Powell and Cook simply followed Henderson's contract agreement which states, "If the employee has engaged in unprofessional and improper practice and breach of public trust, including, but not limited to acts of personal gain, the assessors shall be entitled to terminate the employee immediately."

I agree with the statement made by Commissioner Ashley Bell that the vote to reprimand Henderson, rather than terminate, is "just another way of the good ol' boy system perpetuating itself." I am especially pleased with Bell's comment that he will continue to look into the Tax Assessors Board as he takes office.

Hall County citizens should be outraged to have people in our local government who have so little scruples or morals.

Paul S. Barnes
Flowery Branch

Schools should seek other budget fixes
I am so upset about this: more students in the classroom to try and cut money. This is not the answer. The answer is to make sure our citizens are getting the best education.

If we omitted all of the programs that cater to non-English speaking students, we would have the extra funds needed to offset the debt that Georgia has. My child cannot even bring books home from school because of lack of funding. I overheard one of her friends admit to stealing a science book so she can study; that broke my heart.

Enough is enough! I am going to do all I can to bring awareness to this issue. Everyone who holds a public office must start standing up for the citizens of America. If the ones in office won't, then they will be replaced. One voice can spread to a lot of voters.

Cheryl Bush

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