Free condoms

I applaud Mayor Nutter, Dr. Donald F. Schwartz, the deputy mayor for health and opportunity, and School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., for their New Year's gift to the city's high school students: Making free condoms available in high schools is a crucial step in helping to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases ("City's smart response to teen health crisis," Thursday). A truly amazing outcome would be if suburban school districts and health departments decided to emulate this program.

Every high school in our region has sexually active adolescents who are risking their health and their future. Free condoms are not the the only answer, but they are a linchpin in a successful public-health effort to reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.

We should support the visionaries in Philadelphia and fervently hope that their counterparts throughout the region are watching and learning.

Sarah Grambs, Wayne, grambs@live.com

Need for unions

As a union member for 36 years, I read with amusement the op-eds by columnists George Will ("Mich. unions' losing gamble," Dec. 16) and Charles Krauthammer ("Unions vs. reality," Dec. 17). Both used Michigan's passage of right-to-work legislation as an opportunity to signal the final knockout of collective bargaining.

I cannot possibly answer the endless nonsense cited by these two journalists as to why we no longer need unions, but instead I point to the deaths of 112 garment workers in a factory fire in Bangladesh last month. Their story encompasses the evil and tragic results when multinationals utilize a "greed is good" agenda and labor unions are undermined in their efforts to advocate justice for those powerless to do so themselves.

Paul Mercurio, Lafayette Hill

Trips vs. needs

In reading the Local News section of Dec. 21, I noticed the juxtaposition of two articles: "Corbett defends free trips" and "Shelter and food needs soaring." In the first article, Gov. Corbett defends his acceptance of "multiple trips within Pennsylvania and to Rhode Island" from a major campaign donor, saying, "I did not violate policy."

The latter article describes the alarming increase in food and shelter requests in Philadelphia, with many of these needs going unmet. The article says these needs were exacerbated by "Gov. Corbett's decision to cut General Assistance benefits."

Could not our governor have urged his wealthy benefactors to donate their money to support food banks and homeless shelters instead of trips for him? While I am not accusing the governor of any illegality, I do find him guilty of impropriety in his judgment and insensitivity toward the people whom he was elected to serve.

Howard Brouda, Havertown, howard@brouda.com

On their honor

The article "On their honor on campus" (Dec. 20), which shows how a few local colleges administer examinations without a proctor, but rely on a student honor code, may seem like a virtuous move. Student honor codes, academic integrity pledges, and "sign offs" on individual tests or assignments that "this is my work" are commendable.

However, faculty and college officials abrogate their responsibility to ensure authenticity of a student's assessment by stepping out of the room. Academic integrity is the responsibility of all. Faculty have a responsibility to ensure that students have met course responsibilities and standards during the entire teaching/learning process.

This lack of oversight, unfortunately, leaves the students' final exam, and possibly final grade, reasonably suspect. If students need to be on their honor during exams, then faculty need to be on guard as well.

Stefano San Gioacomo, Philadelphia, runswim@comcast.net

Child's death

Lost in the horrific aftermath of Newtown, Conn., is the death of Dashawn Harris right here ("Details emerge in child's killing," Dec. 20). He was systematically beaten to death with a belt and fists as he struggled to pronounce a word to his "home schooler's" satisfaction. Five years old. A death equally repugnant to that of the innocents in Connecticut, perhaps even more so due to the pain inflicted over time.

Try to imagine the confusion of a 5-year-old. Why is this happening to me? Why are the people I love doing this to me? I trust that his "parents" will go away forever.

The entire country is engaged in discussions specific to restricting access to guns. Is it time to have discussions as to who should or should not be able to have children?

John W. Jones, Solebury Township

Cruel cuts

I am so happy that you have recognized the shortsightedness of the state's austerity moves ("Move made to save funds will cost the state more," Dec. 22).

Calcutta House, which provides housing and other supportive services to homeless men and women with HIV/AIDS, lost more than $300,000 of state Department of Public Welfare funds starting last June. Calcutta House had been receiving these funds for 10 years.

The "saving" of $300,000 may ultimately cost the state more than $2.5 million, in excess of eight times the amount of the grant. This grant represents a significant percentage of Calcutta's annual budget, and its loss may force Calcutta House to close before spring if a solution is not found.

Joseph T. Drennan, Devon, jtd10144@gmail.com