Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

October 25, 2012

Letter: Lyons permission slip idea wrongheaded

Editor, Townsman:

As a North Andover school committee member and a parent, I am deeply concerned by a piece of legislation supported by State Representative Jim Lyons. Lyons’ legislation, House Bill 1060, would raise obstacles to any student seeking counseling in our schools by requiring them to first obtain a permission slip from a parent.

North Andover schools have, sadly, borne witness to student suicides. In our efforts to understand and hopefully prevent these tragedies, one thing is clear – the window of prevention can be brief. Can you imagine a desperate youngster seeking help, only to be sent away with a form to sign?

Difficult days at school run the gamut of a lost homework assignment to the debilitating hammer of persistent bullying. Our gay students are 90 percent more likely to be the victims of bullying, and they are also two to three times more likely to take their own lives. It is a painful reality that not every gay student comes from an open and understanding household. If those same students struggling with their sexual identity can’t hope to find support at school, then where should they turn?

North Andover parents, teachers and students have worked hard to create a respectful, safe and caring environment in our schools. Our guidance offices often serve as temporary safe havens – time spent with a caring adult that results in a student back in class and back on track. I simply cannot understand inserting a piece of bureaucracy, bureaucracy that comes with a price tag incidentally, in the way of our student’s wellbeing.

I urge voters to send a message to Jim Lyons on Nov. 6 and reject his misguided priorities.

Chris Allen

North Andover

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