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A time to remember for MHS seniors

The ribbons and tree signs are the salute of many in town to the 150th graduating class of Montclair High School on Thursday, June 22.

The Project Graduation gala that begins after graduation requires much effort by many and is worth all the effort expended.

There is much positive fun for the graduates through the evening, but as the time moves into the early hours of the following day, the graduates settle into groups and sign and write in each other’s yearbooks.

It is a time to remember much of the past years as friends and classmates, and is filled with wistful moments. This is a big step for our seniors, saying goodbye to MHS with the daunting and alluring future awaiting.

Thanks for the support of many in the Montclair community toward the cost of this gala undertaken by it.

Looking ahead to the bus parade through our town and then the celebration.

Peter Giuffra

Montclair

Abstinence-only education does not work

“Sex risk avoidance” is NOT comprehensive sexuality education. It is an abstinence-only-until-marriage approach that has been shown over and over not only to be ineffective, but to be harmful to young people. The term “sex risk avoidance” is meant to sound like a common sense, practical approach. Who wouldn’t want their children to avoid risks? But don’t be fooled by the re-branding effort. This is the same ideologically driven effort to promote chastity before marriage, to privilege heterosexual relationships, and to ignore sound evidence about adolescent development and effective approaches to sexual health.

Despite claims by proponents of the SRA-abstinence approach that it teaches about contraception, including condoms, it does so only in the context of failure rates, arguing (incorrectly) that they are ineffective in protecting young people from pregnancy or STIs. This is dangerous.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage/sex risk avoidance programs (like the one recently canceled at Glenfield Middle School) are unethical, harmful, and stigmatizing. Here is a typical example from Wait Training, one of the better-known and most widely used SRA/Abstinence programs: The teacher asks seven student volunteers to stand in a line and gives each student a sign to hold up. The signs read: HPV, Chlamydia, Herpes, HIV/AIDS, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and Virgin. The first volunteer is given a plastic cup and told to spit in it and pass it to the next. This is continued until everyone but the “virgin” has spit in the cup. The teacher then asks the virgin to drink it. When the virgin says “no thanks” to the cup, the teacher says “Now isn’t he smart?” 

Young people deserve better. Denying them accurate information about sex won’t stop them from having sex. It will mean that more and more young people will be having unprotected sex. These programs do not work; they censor life-saving information and promote ignorance when 15- to 24-year-olds account for half of all new sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. Young people have the right to lead healthy lives. Providing them with honest, age-appropriate comprehensive sexual health education that discusses abstinence, condoms and contraception, as well as the whole spectrum of human sexuality, is a key part in helping them take personal responsibility for their health and well-being.

Eva S. Goldfarb, Ph.D.

Montclair

The writer is a professor of public health at Montclair State University.

Township spends too much on insurance

I know I’m one of many who think Montclair taxes are too high, but I fear there are too few who know we pay over $1.1 million annually for our premium with the Garden State Insurance Consortium, which allows our employees to be irresponsible but denies them coverage in case of an accident.

We first became aware of this after our car was totaled by a falling tree as we were driving home one summer evening from a meeting and suddenly the winds whipped up incredibly. We were, miraculously, OK, but we sued Montclair for the $1,700, the car’s book value. We gasped when the township responded with a 25-page lawyer’s statement of why we could be denied payment. How many times $1,700 did that cost? We then discovered that the Consortium will pay any amount to win cases, no matter how minor compared to the cost of contesting it.

A neighbor expressed concern for a township tree between the sidewalk and the curb and begged Montclair to do something about it. Nothing was done, and the tree fell, fortunately into a driveway when no cars were there. However, it did do significant damage to two houses. They sued for damages, but the Consortium made sure they received zero compensation.

My husband then talked with township authorities and asked why Montclair has such a policy. He was told that it is needed to keep the township from being vulnerable if a police officer or garbage or recycling collector is hurt on the job. It seems to me that in such a case they need and deserve help even more than our neighbors and us.

Montclair could also save money by installing solar panels on roofs of municipal buildings and by stopping the use of leaf blowers. However, I strongly believe we should lower taxes by more compassionate and less expensive insurance policies.

PAT KENSCHAFT

Montclair

School district needs much more transparency

This letter is about the staff cuts that were announced recently by the Montclair Public Schools. I called the superintendent’s office last week to ask for a list of the cuts. I made it clear that I was not asking for individual names, only for the positions cut at each school. I was forwarded to the Personnel Office. I explained again why I was calling and I was told that the information I was asking for required an OPRA request. When I pointed out that I was simply asking how my tax money was being spent, I was connected to the voicemail for Ms. LaMonica McIver, director of personnel, where I repeated my request.

I really don’t understand why this information requires an OPRA. When a position opens up, the district announces it publicly, why are cuts any different? Again, I’m not asking for names, just the positions.

I realize that Superintendent Barbara Pinsak is new to the district. I would remind her that this district has been through too much bad behavior the past seven years, MEA computers bugged, money wasted and money hidden, etc. There is not a high degree of trust in the Central Office at this point and she should not assume that there is automatic good will. We need more transparency, not less. Also, having the staff process OPRA requests seems like a waste of labor when they could be doing actual productive work. Hiding the staff cuts behind OPRA is not OK.

JIM PRICE

Montclair

Use common sense when dealing with stray cats

In the May 25 Town Square opinion piece “Feline Dilemma,” Sandy Sorkin, an officer of the Montclair Bird Club, makes inaccurate assumptions to stoke unwarranted fear of what has become a best practice for the care of community cats and human public health.

Yes, outdoor cats lack of human socialization makes them typically, but not always, poor candidates for adoption. But the author’s unspoken solution to trap and kill outdoor cats because they might someday face terrible fates is cruel and based on unsubstantiated fear, rather than necessity. Common sense, scientific evidence and our own humane values all point to another solution: TNVR (Trap, spay/neuter, vaccinate and return) them to their natural habitats.

The author is either unaware of or ignores the facts. The last NJ human rabies case from a cat was in 1975. According to unbiased sources, the biggest threat to birds is man, not cats. Strong fears about toxoplasmosis from cats are not supported by science. The CDC no longer advises immunodeficient people and pregnant women to avoid cats and instead encourages safety precautions to follow when handling them. There’s no scientific basis for a causal relationship between toxoplasma infection and schizophrenia or changes in human psychology. A major study published only last February in the journal Psychological Medicine reports “no evidence of an association between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms.” An article in this month’s Scientific American article reports “Cat ownership doesn’t seem to truly increase one’s risk of psychosis.”

TNVR, unlike previous trap and kill methods, is proven to protect public health and reduce cat overpopulation.

A compassionate and fact-based understanding of outdoor cats is affirmed in the national “Million Cat Challenge,” a campaign created through a partnership of Maddie’s Fund, the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at UC Davis, the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida and the ASPCA. In it TNVR is identified as one of five key life-saving initiatives to reduce and someday end cat euthanasia.

I helped form Communities Promoting Animal Welfare NJ to continue the past work of private groups in Montclair to control cat overpopulation through TNVR, as well as offer surrender prevention assistance to owners who face challenges keeping their pets.

This life-saving work relies on broad community support and awareness, and the truth is this: Residents need not fear their feline neighbors if we continue having open, fact-based discussions, encouraging owners to spay and neuter their pets and keep them indoors and supporting, not condemning, all effective measures to save cat lives, wherever they call home.

KAREN SHINEVAR

Montclair

The writer is a member of Communities Promoting Animal Welfare NJ (CPAW NJ).

No cause for hysteria over feral cats

While our society falls apart at the seams, Sandy Sorkin, who apparently has done no research and interviewed no experts, has hysterics about outdoor cats and toxoplasmosis (May 25 Town Square,“A feline dilemma: what to do with feral cats?”). Sorkin could have checked the Mayo Clinic website to see that cats are not the only or most likely source of toxoplasmosis infection; you can get it from meat, unwashed fruit, contaminated cutlery, or unpasteurized dairy products.

The author might have interviewed local practitioners of TNVR to learn that outdoor cats are trapped, neutered, vaccinated and, when possible, adopted. Many outdoor cats are discarded pets. Most of my indoor cats have come to me from the outdoors and after a vet checkup and treatment, are happy to have a new home. I tried to adopt the three feral cats I feed each morning, but they were terrified. Humans usually don’t have to worry about feral cats, because the cats are afraid of humans and tend to avoid them. When these shy cats get sick, we trap and bring them to a vet, where they get surgery, medication and booster vaccines.

Unlike Sorkin, I am not afraid of cats. Animals in general don’t scare me. What really scares me is the hysteria, arrogance, false information and hate spread in our society by ignorant people who claim to be journalists.

STEPHANIE WOOD

Montclair

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