Letters from Academy School

Stop the bullying

Personally, I think that homophobia/homophobic bullying needs to stop. People need to be treated equally. The definition of "homophobia" is "The irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals."

I chose this topic because there has been a lot of hate and disrespect towards homosexuals. There is a lot of homophobic discrimination at my school and outside of school. There have been mean comments to homosexuals at my school; kids have been saying that it is stupid, and not OK.

I care about this topic because lots of people are treated very badly for just liking the same gender! In some religions it is a "sin" or a "bad thing" to believe in being gay or gay marriage.

Why should you care about this topic? Well let's say that you, your child or your best friend is getting beaten up because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. They are beaten every day for those reasons. Coming home with a black eye, busted lip, and bloody nose. What would you do? How would you react? How would it affect them, yourself, and the environment around everyone?

Kids and students get called names that are not at all nice towards them or their sexuality. Students at school constantly are called names for liking the same gender. According to the Violence Prevention Works, "As many as 93 percent of teenagers hear derogatory words about their sexual orientation at least once in a while, with more than half of teens surveyed hearing such words in the school and in the community." 93 percent is a lot of kids who hear those nasty words.

For being a part of the LGBT community you might get beaten up. I believe that people should be protected by others if they are getting beaten up based on their sexuality. "Nine out of 10 LGBT teens have reported being bullying at school within the past year because of their sexual orientation. According to the most recent gay bullying statistics out of the those numbers, almost half have reported being physically harassed followed by another quarter who reported actually being physically assaulted."

Some people that are against being gay, they might say "Being gay is a choice!" I think that being gay isn't a choice; it was how you were born or how you express yourself. Because of this, 28 percent of kids feel forced to drop out of school all together.

Nearly a fifth of students are physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation and over a tenth because of their gender expression. I believe that you are born the way you are; you shouldn't be criticized because of how you were born.

"It's not right and it will never be right! It defies nature's law!" I think that being gay is perfectly fine, and it's right, people should be treated equally. About two-thirds of LGBT students reported being sexually harassed in school within the past year.

People think that homophobic bullying isn't a big deal anymore so people don't worry about it, but it is. So how you can help with people who deal with this problem every day is go to The Trevor Project and donate or you can volunteer. This will help The Trevor Project to host a safe place to turn in times of crisis. It is dedicated to recruiting qualified volunteers to give life-saving, life-affirming support to the LGBTQ youth. You go to the "get involved" folder and click on the "volunteer or donate." If you get bullied or have someone getting bullied about their sexual orientation, contact The Trevor Project or if you are scared to take care of your bullying problem The Trevor Project is right for you. Being a part of the LGBT community or if you get bullied because of your sexual orientation or about your gender expression is not right. Contact someone or tell someone!

Cassidy Majer

Suffering the consequences

The low minimum wage In the U.S. has been a problem for many years, and some people don't even know it. The main reason I chose this topic is because I feel that people aren't getting paid fairly and aren't getting the money they deserve for all the hard work they do. It continues to impact people. Over the years people suffer the consequences of minimum wage, such as going hungry, not being able to provide for kids, or not being able to pay rent. The reason you should care about minimum wage is because one day your kids will grow up and need to buy things to survive, and if their job does not pay them fairly, they won't be able to buy those things they need like food,clothes or a house.

I think that people should get paid enough to provide for a family. According to thinkprogress.org, "15 percent of the country continues to live below the federal poverty line." That means that out of every 100 people, 15 of them are experiencing poor housing conditions and may not have enough food or clean clothes. Think Progress also says that "45 percent of the country is unable to afford their basic needs." That means that 45 percent of the people in our country cannot provide for themselves or their kids.

If we raise the minimum wage, working people can get the things they need to have a better life, and then their kids would have things they need to survive. Think Progress also says that "If we raise the wage to $10.10 an hour or higher, we could lift about 4.6 million people out of poverty." This means that less people would be hungry, and people will be able to get the things they need to rise above the poverty line.

I don't think that it is right that people do not get paid fairly. "15 percent of families earn somewhere between $11,000 and 20,000 a year. The government says that you need $23,050 to not go below the poverty line." This means that 15 percent are at least $3,050 short of that amount and are living below the poverty line. This means that 15 out of every 100 people can't get their basic needs met .

People who disagree with me are saying that increasing the minimum wage would result in job loss. They are wrong because if you raise the minimum wage, then workers will be able to buy things they need, and businesses make more money, allowing them to pay their workers more. People are also saying that it would hurt low-skilled workers because there would be more competition for jobs. It would not hurt low-skilled workers because they would have enough money to go back to school or take classes to make themselves better skilled. The third thing being said is, it would result in higher prices for customers. Yes, but it is worth it because it would lower the country's stress level and people would be happier because they don't have to worry about money all the time. Less people would be living in poverty. Currently, A person working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would earn $14,000 pre-tax. People working at the minimum wage do not get paid enough to get the things they need.

To help raise the minimum wage you can go to www.nelp.com. (National employment law project). NELP is an organization that for more than 45 years, has sought to ensure that America upholds for all workers her promise of opportunity and economic security through work. NELP also fights for policies to create good jobs, expand access to work, and strengthen protections and support for low-wage workers and the unemployed. You can donate to NELP or help on their campaigns by going to the top of the www.nelp.com home page to the far right corner and click on donate.

Laura Baird

Video violence is wrong

I think that violent video games affect children, teenagers and some adults. For example, killing in video games and shooting in video games can lead to people thinking that killing is OK. I have seen times when neighbors and my brother play violent video games and they try to kill people in the games. I believe that behavior involving virtual force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone is wrong. You should care because violent video games affect people negatively and they begin to think this is normal.

I believe that video games are affecting a lot of people. "Studies show people who played violent video games for 35 minutes showed less self-control and cheated more than people who played on a non violent video game." This means that playing violent video games could possibly make you cheat more and have less control.

I believe violent video games make kids more aggressive. "Studies shows that three out of five children who play violent video games become more aggressive." This means 60 percent of kids who play violent video games have a more aggressive personality than those who don't.

What I believe is that violent video games affect children as they grow. "Studies show violent video games affect children's development." This could change their mental development at a very young age.

Some people think playing video games will help them to heal from depression, anxiety, neurological injuries and brain traumas. I think that playing violent video games can make things like brain trauma worse. "Depression, anxiety, neurological injuries and brain traumas rose 19 percent for people who played two hours a day." This means depression, anxiety, neurological injuries and brain traumas is constantly rising through violent video games.

Some people say violent video games are not a problem, however there hasn't been enough research to prove that. "90 percent of kids play video games 85 play violent video games." This shows that there are so many people that play video games (many of which are violent), we cannot decide whether video games are a problem yet or not, based on the information we have right now.

Some people think that video games are stress relievers. I think that when you lose at a video games, they can also create stress. According to The American Psychological Association,"Violent video games can create high blood pressure." This shows that violent video games are a way for kids to gain stress.

I have found some things you can do to help. You can monitor your kid's video games and be careful about what's violent for you and what's not. Another thing you can do is help your kids pick video games that you both like (meaning they like it and you don't think it's too violent). This would help because it would keep your kids from being affected by video game violence. So as you can see, when kids play violent video games they not only affect them but also the adults.

Fiona Perez-Razzaque

Going overboard

I am writing to you about an urgent situation. That situation is our country's current stance on government surveillance and privacy rights. Government surveillance is the act of the government spying on you. Privacy rights are your rights of not having people know everything you're doing. I have seen many news reports on TV of new information and scandals about government spying, and I've always thought of it as wrong. People should have their phone calls and internet activity private, but they aren't privatized at all. I think it's outrageous. Privacy should be a basic right for all, and it isn't something people have anymore.

I believe that the American government has gone overboard with tracking it's citizens for anti-terrorism efforts. I paraphrased information I found from the organization, Common Dreams. They said that the National Security Agency, or NSA, tracks us in many ways, such as (get ready, there are a lot of numbers here), collecting hundreds of millions of our communications like emails and phone calls daily, keeping approximately 1.5 billion government and private sector records of U.S citizens, and files of the fingerprints of 62,000,000 Americans. The FBI keeps 10,000,000 DNA profiles on us, and illegally monitors the vehicles of 3,000 unsuspecting people. This means the U.S. government collects millions of records on us in many different ways.

Another belief about government surveillance that I have is that you, I, and very many others in this country do not like, or appreciate being tracked by our central government. George Gao wrote on Pew Research Center, "A majority of Americans (54 percent) disapprove of the government's collection of telephone and internet data for anti-terrorism efforts, while 42 percent approve of the program," and, "Most say it is important to control who can get their information (93 percent), as well as what information about them is collected (90 percent). But only 9 percent say they have a lot of control over how much information is collected about them," These facts mean that more than half of all Americans disapprove of the government tracking our phones or internet usage. Also, it shows that more than nine out of 10 U.S. citizens think it's important to have control of their privacy, but less than 10 percent think they have the control.

I also believe that internet spying is considered by the NSA a huge part of their surveillance program, but also is a part that is greatly disputed by the recipients of it. "In a poll conducted in December 2013 by the Washington Post, 66 percent of Americans were concerned 'about the collection and use of (their) personal information by the National Security Agency,'" states an article written by Mark Jaycox on the Electronic Frontier Foundation web page. He also says, "In another national poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, 74 percent of respondents said the NSA's spying intrudes on their privacy rights." This means that two out of three Americans dislike the collection of their online information, and almost three-quarters of us think it violates our basic rights of privacy.

I am aware that there is another side of this topic, or else the NSA wouldn't even be tracking us. Some Americans think that you would want to know who the U.S.A. called the phone numbers of terrorists, and determine if the calls were innocent or not. I believe this to be part of the truth, but not all of it. I think if you found phone calls that did stop a terrorist attack, it would be valuable. However, the NSA doesn't just track several phone calls to terrorist phone numbers, but tracks hundreds upon millions of phone calls. Also, an article on the Washington Post states that, "Researchers at the New America Foundation found that the program provided evidence to initiate only one case, involving a San Diego cabdriver, Basaaly Moalin, who was convicted of sending money to a terrorist group in Somalia. Three co-conspirators were also convicted. The cases involved no threat of attack against the United States." This means that this program, which has been looking at our communications to prevent terrorism, has only prevented a single terrorist attack, one that would have not even directly affected America.

Other people say that the NSA is the core of national intelligence, and attempts to control or limit their activities would be detrimental to U.S. security. I disagree, however. I think the CIA, rather than the NSA, is the core of national intelligence (after all, it is called the Central Intelligence Agency), and reigning it in could save us hundreds of millions of dollars that could be spent on education, military funds, technological advancement, and so many other useful things that can be used for security purposes. I paraphrased information from the Washington Post, and they remarked that the NSA spent $10.8 billion in 2013 on its surveillance programs, including $1.5 billion on data analysis, $1.6 billion on data processing and exploitation, $2.5 billion on data collection, and $5.2 billion for management facilities. This means that the NSA spent almost $11 million dollars on their program to collect emails, phone calls, texts, and other communications for the prevention of terrorism, which has been a giant bust, only blocking one terrorist attack. I think it would have been better spent on something else.

Some say that without being able to monitor the phone calls and internet activities of suspected terrorists, there would be no good way to protect us from the terrorists, as spying is the only good way to protect the American citizens. I disagree, however. I think that there are many other effective ways to control terrorism, such as better and more thorough background checks to get dangerous weapons in the first place, and surveillance is an ineffective way to prevent terrorism. Medea Benjamin wrote through CommonDreams, "If you look at the Rand Corporation's study of the demise of 268 terrorist groups, 43 percent dissolved by joining the political process, 40 percent from better policing, and only 7 percent through military action." This shows that there are two effective terrorism stopping methods, and NSA spying is not one of them.

Government surveillance is something that many of us Americans don't appreciate, and it's not right, it's unconstitutional, and it needs to stop. We can help to fight for this cause. One thing we can do is go online and find a website on google called https://standagainstspying.org. If you scroll about two-thirds down the homepage, there is a list of many organizations that we can donate to online or in person, and they will use the money to work towards bettering the government surveillance situation. We can also vote on election day for the presidential candidate who we think has the best stand on the government surveillance situation. I like Bernie Sanders plan personally, but it's up to you. Hopefully you have learned something from reading this article, and maybe we, together, can change the government surveillance and privacy situation for the better. Thank you for your consideration!

Malachi Tomolonis

Less gun control, not more

It has come to my attention that there is too much gun control, I think there should be more gun rights. Here is some information that I think will persuade you to think I'm right. The meaning of gun rights is the entitlement of individuals to own and carry guns. I chose this topic because I own a gun and I hunt . I think that's a legal right that any free man or woman should have. I care about this topic because there are men and women out there who hunt with guns to get food and if we take guns away they could starve. Also it's a legal right called the right to bear arms. You should care because what if you were outside in your backyard maybe gardening or taking out the trash and, a big bear comes along and, tries to attack and, you don't have a gun, you're defenseless.

The majority of gun owners own guns for self protection. A national survey finds that half of gun owners volunteer that the main reason they own guns is for protection. This means one of two gun owners own guns for protection and, gun owners do not own guns to shoot people.

Another thing is owning a gun makes people feel safer. Statistics show that 80 percent or 8 out of 10 female gun owners said owning a gun makes them feel safer. This shows that women own guns too. I included this because people think the reason men own guns is because they're aggressive, but men and women both own guns. This proves that guns are not just for people that are violent.

The last fact I will give you is according to the FBI: "Out of 11,961 murders performed within the U.S. in 2014, 660 were committed unarmed. 1,567 were committed with knives and only 248 murders were known to have been committed using rifles of any type." Statistics shows that there are less murders with guns than with a knife or without any weapons.

I think people fear that more guns would mean more crime. I can tell you that won't happen. According to the Washington Post, every time people are allowed a law to carry firearms there has been less crime. Some people think that guns mean an increase of violence. But, I found that it's safer when people don't ban guns. Other people think that there will be more mass shootings . Places that do ban guns have seen more crime.

If you want to help people have gun rights, you can go to www.crime research.org/donate/ and it will walk you through the rest. Or, you could type http://www.sanders.senate.gov/contract. Then find contact after, find assistance request form. This would help because then they could change or make new laws. I think people should have more gun rights. Many people will thank you. Just like I thank you.

Dayton Earle III


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