How can teens be so heartless?

The News' coverage of Jamey Rodemeyer's suicide has been exemplary. However, I have a nagging feeling that it has missed the real point of the story. As I read of the students' harassment of Jamey, I am nagged by the persistent questions: who are these children? And why are they so evil? The word evil seems quite appropriate in this context. How could anyone be so heartless, so sadistic as to suggest to another human being that his life is worthless?

Certainly it is worthwhile to know what programs the school district had in place to counter bullying. But ultimately, this is a question of individual responsibility. We are entitled to know who these monsters are and how they came to be so devoid of humanity. Were their parents so obsessed with getting their kids into the "right" college that they lost sight of the need to raise them as decent human beings? Or is there something about the social setting at the high school that fosters sadism?

I've known a number of graduates from the Williamsville high schools, and I've found them to be very nice people. I am frankly baffled by the notion that there is a coterie of students who are so motivated by hatred and prejudice that they could do such a thing. The story is there to be told. There are, apparently, many students who knew of the harassment that Jamey suffered, and are appalled by what happened. Interview those students. Find out what you can about the psyches of these bullies. I don't need to know their names. But I am vitally interested in learning how children at the threshold of adulthood, living a relatively privileged life, can turn out to be so evil.

Joe Gerken Jr.



Let's all try to be tolerant of others

It seems to me that Jamey Rodemeyer was not necessarily gay but was struggling with his sexuality. The problem, as I see it, is that many in society do not seem to recognize the fact that there can be "gentle men," those who are sensitive and caring. You do not have to be "Mr. Macho" to be a real man.

I think we need to teach in our schools and especially at home, the fact that everyone has a right to be who they are, without ridicule. As we all know, the teen years are difficult for boys, as well as girls, while they are struggling to find out who they are.

I pray that we all become more tolerant of each other and realize that whether you are a gentle soul, macho, gay, etc., you have the right to live your life without being hassled, unless you are hassling someone else.

Diane J. Schunke



Bullies need to face serious consequences

The suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer in Amherst really saddens me, mainly because it appears nobody has learned anything. Bullying is a power rush for the bullies. They pick their victims carefully -- generally amongst weaker kids, those who can't fight back or who won't be paid attention to.

The school authorities tell kids to report it, but really, if you testified against a criminal, only to find out he was going to be out on bail in your neighborhood after the authorities gave him a "stern talking to," would you think you were safe? Most of the anti-bullying initiatives are just the school authorities declaring victory and going home. Bullies never stop until they have to face serious consequences. Until that happens, and hatred and bigotry are no longer allowed to masquerade as "faith," we're going to swear "never again," talk a lot, do nothing and it will happen again.

Larry Schultz



Focus on teen suicide, rather than bullying

The tragic suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer unfortunately has become the latest cause cause celebre in the national media spotlight. I say unfortunately because such attention is short lived, produces knee-jerk reactions and often fails to recognize real issues.

At one time, bullying had the connotation of a physical threat or violence. In recent years, it has been redefined as "excessive teasing." While I do not condone either, it is nonetheless a situation that I dare say every child experiences, to varying degrees at one time or another. The vast majority do not turn to suicide as a result.

The fact is Jamey was being treated for emotional problems already. Problems that are typical of teens who commit suicide. Suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death among 10- to 14-year-olds in the United States; 75 percent of those deaths are linked to depression. So while everyone is preoccupied with bullying, the real issue, teen suicide, continues to grow. Rather than putting our energies into trying to legislate human behavior, we would be far better off focusing on why young people find it impossible to deal with life's challenges.

Bob Pfeiffer



Program can help combat intolerance

Lately, bullying has been a hot topic because of recent tragic events. But it has been with us since time began, and we never seem to have an approach to ameliorating its devastating effects. Now there is a program developed by the Southern Poverty Law Center called "Teaching Tolerance." This project aims to combat intolerance to many of the diverse attributes of our human condition. It not only seeks to end bullying, but it aims to teach tolerance of race and other superficial attributes that seem to separate but not necessarily to define us.

We probably ask too much of our educators already, but incorporating the "Teaching Tolerance" project into our schools could be an effective means of combating more than just bullying.

George J. Cotroneo



State errs in dropping vision test for drivers

Unbelieveable! With the latest epidemic of people driving into buildings, or the numerous people who turn in front of motorcyclists, or all the accidents where the sun gets the blame, New York State, in its desire to make a buck, is sacrificing the safety of its citizens.

I'm referring to the fact that the Department of Motor Vehicles is no longer requiring vision eye tests of drivers who renew their licenses. The apparent hope here is that people will be more likely to renew online, whereby New York State gets the renewal money, instead of the individual counties, where the eye tests were performed.

I call it unbelieveable because in this "nanny state culture" of micromanaging people's lives, which New York State leads the world in doing, it is eliminating one of the most valuable and needed tests the people expect and deserve. Somebody in authority has really done all the citizens of New York a disservice with this moronic decision. I just can't see it.

Rick Lange



Plan to erect barriers doesn't go far enough

Amherst's recently proposed "solution" to stop vehicles from crashing into restaurants, etc., is not a solution at all. It applies to new construction only, so it will take decades before most sites are covered.

But making the requirement retroactive could harm some businesses in these economic times. And we have too many regulations as it is.

So my hope is that many businesses will proactively install some type of protection on their own, because it is the right thing to do. This is not just Amherst's problem, it applies everywhere.

Mike Barsottelli



Michalski is an asset to WNY legal system

The difficulty with assessing judges based solely on appellate reversals is that it can result in a misleading and harmful picture of our judiciary. The number of reversals a judge has over a period of time may be statistically meaningless in relation to the hundreds or even thousands of rulings he correctly and properly decides over that same period. The reality is that we generally have a strong judiciary in Western New York. This letter, however, is for Judge John Michalski, who was pictured in the article.

I do not practice any criminal law, or even litigation, which is why I feel I can write this letter. My counterparts who do practice in those areas consider Michalski to be one of the finest Supreme Court judges we have.

We have a saying, "Show me a lawyer who has never lost a case and I will show you a lawyer who does not try hard cases." It is not so different with judges. Strong judges who hear a lot of cases and handle difficult matters will have reversals. Michalski, who is a relatively new judge, carries a heavy load and handles challenging matters. He makes hundreds of correct decisions every week.

I have never appeared, nor do I ever expect to appear, in Michalski's courtroom. But I know him personally. Intelligence, compassion and commitment to fairness and justice are the measure of a judge. Michalski has all of those attributes. He is an asset to our community and our legal system. His considerable capabilities deserve recognition.

Jonathan H. Gardner

Partner, Kavinoky Cook



Taxing millionaires is not class warfare

Finally, someone else has said exactly what I have been thinking lately. The News editorial, "Fairness isn't class warfare," is just what I have been waiting for someone to say. I'm tired of hearing the Republicans say that taxing millionaires would be class warfare. Class warfare was declared long ago against poor and middle-class Americans under the theory that it would stimulate the economy. How long do we have to wait? Poor and middle-class Americans are unemployed and they want jobs.

Millionaires want more money and lower taxes. They will not give us the money, the government has to take it. They do not want to create jobs. They have jobs. Who will vote for Republicans who will not compromise on deficit reduction and tax fairness? I hope that poor and middle-class Americans send Republicans home without a job. I also suggest a Third World country monitor our next presidential election to ensure the result is not fraudulent.

Angelo P. Cellini



More staffing needed at our county jails

Was an audit really needed to see more staffing is needed for the correctional facility and Holding Center? Anyone could see that with $10 million in overtime, more new hires are needed. I'm sure that tired officers had nothing to do with the high suicide rates at the Holding Center. We all know that after 12 to 16 hours on the job, some items might get overlooked, but I guess Tim Howard and Chris Collins might not understand. I wonder, when was the last time they were required to work 12- to 16-hour days?

Craig Bloom