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Commentary: 2007 columns sparked debate

January 14, 2008

Each January, I like to reflect on a few of the prior year's topics. I am always curious about the people I have written about over the course of the year. I hope you are, too.

In the May 21 issue, I wrote about the plight of Amy Sorrell. Sorrell was an English and journalism teacher at Woodlan Junior-Senior High School in Allen County near Fort Wayne who also advised the school newspaper, The Tomahawk. The Jan. 19, 2007, issue of the Tomahawk contained an article by sophomore Megan Chase advocating tolerance for homosexuals. Chase wrote:

"I can only imagine how hard it would be to come out as homosexual in today's society. I think it is wrong to look down on those people, or to make fun of them, just because they have a different sexuality than you. There is nothing wrong with them or their brain; they're just different than you."

As a result of this episode, Sorrell was suspended for five days without pay, banished from Woodlan Junior-Senior High School, and reassigned to another school in the district. She was not allowed to work with students on the yearbook or newspaper. I expressed sadness about the prejudice that administrators are perpetuating in Allen County. I concluded, "I do know that if this lady is smart, she will leave the East Allen County School System." And she is smart.

I am pleased to report that, this fall, Sorrell began a new job with Keystone Schools of Fort Wayne teaching English and overseeing the yearbook. She landed a job where she will be appreciated, not censored.

Thank you for the spirited dialogue in response to my column about the high school graduation party at the home of Jack Trudeau (June 18). Because he hosted a party where high school students were drinking, Trudeau and his wife, Lisa, were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and furnishing alcohol to a minor. There was also a felony charge of obstruction of justice, which could have led to a sentence of up to three years' imprisonment.

Trudeau had recorded the name of every guest and confiscated all car keys. He did not supply liquor, although he was no doubt aware that some overnight bags contained more than toothbrushes and pajamas. I opined that eliminating lock-down private graduation parties where alcohol is consumed will not stop teen-agers from drinking; it will just put them back behind the wheel.

Trudeau was operating from a time-tested template in a well-intentioned effort to prevent the tragic result of teenage drinking and driving. Authorities in Boone County encouraged that very activity by threatening a custom of creating safe havens that has endured for years.

The matter has been resolved. Upon the payment of a civil fine, all criminal charges have been dismissed. This matter should not have been criminalized in the first place.

I lauded the choice by Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana Supreme Court Justice Randall Shepard and former Gov. Joe Kernan to head a commission on local government reform (Aug. 13). The commission was tasked with examining the state's current system of local government and making recommendations on reforming and reshaping it. I saluted Shepard and Kernan for volunteering to face difficult issues and to set the blueprint for a sound, efficient government in our state. The report, subtitled, "We've got to stop governing like this," was issued last month and sets forth basic steps to streamline the delivery of government services.

There will undoubtedly be resistance as fiefdoms are threatened. For example, the report advocates the elimination of township government and the consolidation of more than half of Indiana's school districts.

I am especially pleased to be writing again for IBJ after a two-year hiatus while working at the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Thank you for reading my columns last year and for responding. I have enjoyed our dialogue.



Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Media Corp., which owns the Indianapolis Business Journal. His column appears every other week. He can be reached at mmaurer@ibj.com.
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