Category Archives: Ripped from the Headlines

FYI: A Rape kit is not an abortion procedure

When I saw the news reporting that a Texas state representative had said in “the emergency rooms they have what’s called rape kits, that the woman can get cleaned out…” and compared said rape kits to an abortion procedure, I thought that surely it was a misquote (I also felt sick to my stomach—seriously: “cleaned out?”). Surely, someone did not say that. But apparently someone did: Jodie Laubenberg.

I don’t know if this woman is confused or just stupid (she claims her thoughts came out “muddled” because she was trying to get them out as fast as she could), but I do know this: her words are dangerous.

Likening a sexual assault forensic evidence kit (aka rape kit) to abortion is just downright irresponsible. Not only is it just not true, but also it could potentially deter rape survivors from consenting to a rape kit when they visit the hospital after an attack. And why is that a problem? I’m glad you asked. It’s a problem because rape kits are a key tool in prosecuting rapists successfully.  The evidence culled from rape kits (i.e. DNA) puts criminals behind bars—stops rapists from being able to rape again—gets predators off the streets.  If a woman (particularly a pro-life woman) mistakenly thinks that a rape kit is a type of abortion, she’s more likely to opt out, which means her rapist is likely going to escape justice—and he’ll be back out there, trolling for his next victim.

Her thoughts may have been “muddled” in the process of becoming actual words, but the fact remains: her words were inaccurate and irresponsible…even dangerous.  I only hope that the words spoken to sexual assault victims by doctors, nurses, and advocates outweigh the comments made by Ms. Laubenberg yesterday. It also wouldn’t hurt if she made a public statement admitting and correcting her error…but I won’t hold my breath for that.

Hey! You’ve read my disclaimer, right?

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Filed under My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines

We Are South Carolina; These Are Our Children

When an 11-year-old boy attempts to slit his wrists with a razor blade plucked from a pencil sharpener, it is a cry for help–a very loud, very important cry for help. And for one such boy, it was a cry no one really responded to–his cry was silenced, his pain ignored.

And it happened right here in the great state of South Carolina–at the Boys Home of the South in Belton. The state failed him. The Department of Social Services failed him. The adults at the group home charged with his care failed him, leaving him vulnerable to abuse by putting him what they knew was a potentially dangerous situation.

But finally something is being done about it–because, of course, of a lawsuit and not because someone accepted responsibility for this epic failure and decided to make changes to protect the children of SC because it’s the right thing to do (The Boys Home of the South maintains their internal investigations show no wrong on their part).

That little boy is not alone. There are reports of children in state care who were starved to death, were not getting proper medical care or, in at least one case, were placed back into a home where the child suffered more sexual abuse.

SC leads the country in institutionalizing children. About 24 percent of children in state care remain in group homes or institutions–and the regulations by which they operate are outdated and ineffective (which is how 11-year-old boys get raped in state care). We do not have nearly enough foster parents in this state.

There are children who did not celebrate Father’s Day today because they have no father to honor. South Carolina is their legal guardian. And we, who live here, are South Carolina.

These are our children. And they deserve better than we’ve been giving. These are our children. They are our responsibility. And we need to do better.


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Filed under Child Abuse, Foster Care, My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines, Social Problems

The Smarter Move

Somebody sent me this post this morning: it explains how Florida has passed legislation making developmental education in college voluntary (where previously it was mandatory).

I worry for Florida. But more than that, I worry for us–and hope that we (South Carolina) are not heading in this direction.

Here’s (part of the reason) why:

ACT’s most recently published (2010) What Works in Student Retention (WWISR) data for community colleges rates the following as the top three practices making the greatest contribution to retention:

  1. Mandated placement of students in courses based on test courses
  2. Tutoring
  3. Remedial/developmental coursework (required).

Other research supports this, finding developmental education to be a significant predictor of retention. For example, Highbee, Arendale, and Lundell (2005) point to estimates that two million students would drop out of college every year without the benefit of developmental education.

Still other research tells us this:

  1. Passing developmental writing is a predictor of fall-to-fall retention.
  2. Passing a developmental reading class has been shown to be the greatest predictor of retention.
  3. Passing developmental mathematics courses is an indicator of both fall-to-spring and fall-to-fall retention.

When student retention and student success are our goals, it makes you wonder, doesn’t it, whether moving from mandatory to voluntary placement in developmental coursework like Florida is really in students’ best interests…or if revamping developmental education to increase its effectiveness, as we are doing, is really the smarter move.

I’m sure you can guess where I stand on the issue.

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Filed under Community College, Developmental Education, Higher Ed, My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines

Check the Back Seat!

I’m not a parent, so I don’t get it: how do you forget your kid is in the car? Our local news paper reports that child deaths in hot cars are on the rise.  In that article, they interview the Kids and Cars founder ( who knew there was such a thing?). She had this to say:

“The worst thing any parent or caregiver can do is think that this could never happen to them, that they are not capable of inadvertently leaving their child behind. This can and does happen to the most loving, responsible and attentive parents.”

She then provides tips for how you can avoid accidentally leaving your kids in the car while you go to work:

  1. “Put something in the back seat, so you have to open the back door to get it.” (Surprise! Your kid is still in there, too. You forgot to drop him at day care!)
  2. Put a stuffed animal in the child seat when it’s not in use and move it to the front seat when your child is in the car. It will serve as a reminder that the child seat is in use.”

I can see how both of these options might help you remember there’s a tiny human in the backseat of your car.  And I know parents are busy and get frazzled and, thus, forget things.  But things and kids are different. I guess babies fall asleep in the car, so since they’re not making any noise you could forget them. But I don’t know. I check my backseat before I get out of the car at work just to make sure I didn’t forget an umbrella or a bag or something (I have accidentally taken my gym bag in to work because I did that). I feel like I’d be even more paranoid if it could potentially be a child (of course, I’m super paranoid anyway–I check to make sure the car is locked at least 3 times before walking away from it–and to do that, I have to look back through the window at least once). But I don’t know–like I said, I don’t have a kid (so I’m not judging–just saying I do not understand it).

If you do, check your backseat! Because I also cannot imagine what it would be like to be responsible–accident though it may be–for your own child’s death. I’m not sure how one might get over that–ever.


Filed under Ripped from the Headlines

Pretty Sure Rape is a Crime

Last time I checked, rape is a crime. And crimes are reported to and handled by the police and later the court and penal systems. So I’m not really sure why some colleges still think it’s acceptable to handle rape charges internally rather than reporting them to the appropriate authorities. It sort of makes me think they don’t take sexual assault seriously. Which is infuriating. And completely unacceptable.

Colleges have on obligation to provide safe campuses to their students. Part of that obligation involves ensuring that students who violate the law are punished–according to the law. And for the record: the “Student Code of Conduct” is not the law. And a lecture on appropriate student behavior is not an appropriate disciplinary action for a rapist. When colleges downplay sexual assault–for whatever reason– by treating it as anything less than a violent crime, it sends a message to rape victims–including future victims: What happened to you is not serious, and we will not take it seriously. No wonder sexual assaults are under-reported on college campuses.  It takes a lot for a victim to come forward in the first place–many women worry about not being believed.  What these colleges are doing is contributing to and perpetuating rape culture further. And it’s unacceptable.

To be clear, it is unacceptable (nay, disgusting) when…

I could go on, but I think you get my point.  As I’ve said before, rape is rape is rape is still rape. And rape is a brutal crime. A crime punishable by law–a crime that should be handled by our police and courts, not college honor or student conduct boards.

Have you read my disclaimer?

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Filed under Higher Ed, My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines

Hey, Walmart, I’m Not Buying It

This morning I read this article that lists the 14 major North American countries that refused to sign the Bangladesh Factory Safety Accord (Here’s a good visual depiction of the plan if you’d rather.)

Color me disappointed. I’m not really surprised. Certainly not by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart’s broken moral compass has been pointed at “evil” for as long as I can remember. It’s one of a few major reasons I refuse to shop there. 

Sure, many of these companies claim they’ve elected not to sign because they’re working on their own plans. Forgive me if I think that’s a load of you-know-what. (Notably, Gap, at least, has been honest in pointing out they’re not signing because of the possible legal ramifications)

Let’s look at Big Bad Walmart’s plan, for example. Walmart’s plan may seem like it puts forth a good faith effort. I mean who can argue with a plan to “conduct in-depth safety inspections at 100 percent” of the 279 factories it uses in Bangladesh and publicize the results on its Web site? Sounds good to me.

But really–if Walmart were serious about putting an end to the types of sub-par working conditions that cost the lives of over 1100 people last month, it would put its money where its big corporate mouth is. But it won’t. I get it–the King of “Every Day Low Prices” doesn’t want to spend any extra money; that is, after all, why today they buy from suppliers whose goods are produced in Bangladeshi, not American, factories.  But come on, the plan requires retailers to underwrite safety improvements at a cost that would be proportional to its volume of orders. But the maximum cost per year for the next 5 years is $500,000. In 2011, Walmart’s revenues were some $447 billion, and bottom line profit came in at $15.7 billion. $15.7 billion. $500,000 doesn’t even come close to being a drop from the bucket of Walmart’s vast earnings.

But signing on to the Bangladesh Factory Safety plan is about more than the moral obligation to create and maintain safe working conditions–and it’s about more than a financial commitment. It’s also about accountability.  The plan is legally binding and includes sanctions for factories that fail to live up to its standards. Everyone at every level–from garment worker to retailer–has a role and a binding obligation.  It’s a great plan that would change the way the garment industry works–for the better.  Europe gets it–that’s why their major retailers have signed the pact (40 major retailers have signed).  Only 2 major American companies did–PVH (Calvin Klein & Tommy Hillfiger) and (shockingly given its CEO’s morally questionable statements of late) Abercrombie & Fitch.

Those companies are willing to accept responsibility for their role in factory safety–and they’re saying that they’re willing to be held accountable for their actions (or inactions).  Meanwhile, Walmart wants us to believe that its voluntary, self-regulatory, and non-binding plan will “meet or exceed” the goals of the  Bangladesh Factory Safety plan. Because Walmart has a great track record for holding itself accountable ethically and morally behaving unethically and trying (often successfully) to pass the buck when caught (see: Mexico bribery scandal, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit & settlement, the Walmart & Social Capitol studies, Walmart’s use of public subsidies, and on and on and on).

Sorry–I’m  not buying it–no matter the price.

Disclaimer = here.

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Filed under My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines, Social Problems

Denise Richards Makes It Her Problem

I heard on the radio yesterday morning a discussion about Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen–previously but no longer married.  Apparently, custody of Charlie Sheen’s two kids by his current wife, Brooke Mueller, has been temporairly granted to Denise Richards.  She’s not blood-related to them, so the radio discussion focused on that: would you offer to take care of your ex-husband’s kids by another woman indefinitely because she and he couldn’t care for them?

As I’ve said before, biology doesn’t make family. When children are removed from the care of the parents, the first option is always to find a familial placement.  Denise Richards is that option in this case.  Rather than sending those kids to foster care or to live with a distant relative with whom they are unfamiliar, Denise Richards is allowing them the opportunity to live with their two half-siblings and in the same gated community as their father, who can regularly visit them. While Brooke Mueller gets her ducks ina row, Denise Richards has volunteered to take up the mantel of motherhood for these two young children. She has put their best interests first.

Good for her. We need more of that in the world. And less “It’s not my problem; they’re your kids.”

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Filed under Foster Care, My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines, Social Problems

Let Common Sense Have Fair Play

Thomas Jefferson once said, “I can never fear that things will go far wrong where common sense has fair play.”

Sadly, in the case of Kiera Wilmot, common sense has yet been given fair play; and as a result, things are going very, very wrong.

Look, I get that we’re all freaked out by the increasing violence in our society at large and particularly within our schools. We want to protect our children. And so we’ve stepped-up security at schools, tightened the rules, and increased the consequences. We are resolute in our quest for safety.

But clearly, we’ve also become inflexible. And maybe, just maybe, our reactions have grown a little teeny, tiny bit exaggerated. After all, here is a young woman, a budding scientist, an exemplary student by all reports, who was cuffed, arrested, and expelled from school for what, by all accounts, appears to be an experiment gone wrong. She’s been charged with two felonies. Felonies. Her life will forever be changed unless we give common sense fair play here.

It’s as if down in Polk County, critical thinking has evaporated. And common sense has been shoved in a corner.

Still it’s not too late. And that’s why I’ve just signed this petition. I invite you to join me and the 66,000+ (at time of this writing) people who are asking Florida State Attorney General Jerry Hill to let common sense have fair play before things go too far wrong.

Remember: This is just my opinion as pointed out in the disclaimer for this site.


Filed under My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines, Social Problems

Dear SC,

Let me get this straight: You’re going to ban laser pointers–make them illegal for young people to purchase or have in their possession, but you’re simultaneously considering legislation that would allow South Carolina gun owners to openly carry their weapons in public without a permit or prior training.

Really? Laser pointers are more of a threat than irresponsible and uneducated gun owners walking around with their guns in public? This is the message you’re sending–despite the fact that instances like this keep happening all over the state. Y’all: we rank 18th in the nation in child deaths by gun, and a recent study found that “South Carolinians rank poorly in gun security…ranked in the top 10 nationally for households reporting loaded and unlocked firearms.” No worries–encouraging responsible gun ownership is probably not nearly as important as ensuring dangerous laser pointers stay out of the hands of minors–who, thanks to a revision suggested by Brian White of Anderson, can still legally buy laser scopes for guns–just not those little pointers people use to play with their cats. 

Seriously. The mind boggles. Meanwhile, there’s a good chance we’re going to send to Washington a man who, as our governor, abandoned our state, disappearing for 6 days to rendezvous with his mistress in Argentina, turning off his state and personal phones and telling no one where he was going–leaving no one in charge of the affairs of this state. He’s totally trustworthy.

You are my home. I love you, but sometimes you just make me want to scream. Seriously.



PS: Have you read my disclaimer?

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Filed under My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines, Social Problems

My Students & Korea

A majority of my traditional students (those who are 18 and have come straight into college from high school) have no idea what’s happening with North Korea or why they should care. They seem oblivious to the threat—unable to understand why we would even consider this small country half a world away a threat.

I have listened to my students—even when they think I can’t hear (which is surprisingly quite often as they seem to assume there’s an invisible wall between them and me), and I have struggled to understand their seeming complacency or apathy or ignorance as regards North Korea.

As I thought about it some more, it occurred to me that in their lifetimes, America has always been the one and only superpower. The USSR dissolved before they were born—I don’t think they’ve ever seen a map or globe with a picture of it as it was. I imagine that it is difficult for them to grasp the idea of a country equally or perhaps more powerful than our own, for them to conceive of a world in which WWIII could break out at any moment—and the United States of America would be annihilated. Sure, they’ve had history classes. But for them, we’ve only ever been at war in the Middle east; it’s always been about the “war on terror” and never about competing political and/or economic ideologies. They were born after the Cold War ended. And while they seem to possess some knowledge of WWII, the term “Korean War” gets blank stares.

I wondered aloud to my husband if this might be in part because they are so generationally removed from it. My grandfather fought in the Korean War. Their grandparents were too young for that. My husband pointed out that he had no grandparents discussing their time in the Korean War with him and he still knows about it (Notably, my husband is now an amateur expert on North Korea, having watched every available documentary on the subject).

I also hear them throw around the words communist and socialist in ways that clearly show they have no concept of what those terms really mean. I’ll hear them repeat things they’ve heard from others, suggesting America is becoming a Socialist state. And I want to blame their education. After all, if I ask them to differentiate between those two terms, I get incomplete, confused, or inaccurate answers. If I ask them if they mean Marxist-Leninism, I get more blank stares. But I also recognize that again they have no context.

These young people may not be familiar with the tensions felt during the Cold War. But they should note the tensions increasing between North and South Korea. We all should. Because North Korea is our problem, too. The relations between North and South Korea are our problem, too. You may argue that we should stay out of the affairs of other countries, but we entered into a military alliance with South Korea in 1953. South Korea honored that alliance by helping us (quite substantially) during the Vietnam War. And we renewed our pledge to that alliance in 2009. That’s why North Korea is our problem. That’s why we should care.



Filed under Community College, Higher Ed, Ripped from the Headlines, Social Problems, Teaching & Learning