Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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June 12

The Cullman Times on addressing sexual abuse in the church at the Southern Baptist Convention:

Churches have long been a sanctuary from the troubles of the world. They are places of learning, spiritual growth and worship.

But they are also not immune from one of society's enraging issues — sexual abuse.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), representing the nation's largest Protestant denomination, opened its national meeting Tuesday in Birmingham with sexual abuse issues at the top of the agenda. Delegates were expected to adopt new abuse prevention measures and consider a proposal making it easier to expel churches that mishandle abuse cases.

The Rev. J.D. Greear, president of the denomination, said the SBC faced a "defining moment" that would shape the church for generations to come.

Sex abuse already was a high-profile issue at the 2018 national meeting in Dallas, after which Greear formed an advisory group to draft recommendations on how to confront the problem. Pressure on the SBC has intensified in recent months, however, due in part to articles by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News asserting that hundreds of Southern Baptist clergy and staff have been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, including dozens who returned to church duties, while leaving more than 700 victims with little in the way of justice or apologies.

Southern Baptist delegates have come to this year's meeting with the intent of ensuring greater protection for members, which will be challenging. But hopefully, the leaders of the church will be successful.

Sexual abuse allegations have impacted the country in all types of businesses as well as schools. The charges have been a huge embarrassment for many institutions, leading to lawsuits, criminal investigations and damaged reputations.

All places of employment need to have safeguards protecting workers, just as school administrations have an obligation to ensure children are safe.

The church is a tremendous refuge and a source of renewal for millions. Acting firmly and swiftly to eradicate predatory behavior among ministers and staff deserves to be at the top of the agenda as the SBC is doing.

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June 10

The Gadsden Times on recent statistics about wearing a seat belt:

Here's another one you've heard from us before, but it appears our admonitions (and state law) aren't been heeded.

For 28 years — this is nothing new, more than a generation has passed since it was enacted — front-seat passengers in vehicles on Alabama streets and highways have been required to wear seat belts.

That requirement will become broader on Sept. 1, when a bill passed by the Legislature this year requiring back-seat passengers to buckle up as well takes effect. (Gov. Kay Ivey signed it last week.)

We'd like to believe people are displaying good sense and following the law. Some recent numbers published by the Tuscaloosa News give us an uneasy feeling.

The University of Alabama's Center for Advanced Public Safety analyzed the data from 2018 vehicle crashes in the state. It found that nearly half of the people who died in those crashes — 366 of 743 — weren't wearing seat belts.

Check out these other numbers from the survey:

— The probability of dying in a vehicle accident is roughly 50 times higher when you aren't buckled up. The odds of a fatality in a given accident are 1 in 1,000 for seat belt wearers, compared to 1 in 24 for those who don't buckle up.

— A researcher at the Center for Advanced Public Safety said it's "almost impossible" to be ejected from a vehicle if you're wearing a seat belt. The odds of dying are 1 in 5 if you are ejected, and even if you survive the chances are strong that you're going to get maimed.

— Drivers who drink (another no-no) or drive fast and aggressively (ditto) are significantly more likely to drive unrestrained.

— Also, more drivers on rural roads — where the risk of serious crashes is higher because of adjacent wooded areas — fail to buckle up.

This level of non-compliance is unacceptable — and we're fully aware of our lecturing tone, and have no illusions that law enforcement is going to compel full compliance anytime soon. (The penalty for not buckling up is just $25 and while we'd be on board, we doubt there's much of an appetite for strengthening it.)

We know the libertarian, "it's my body, my life and my business" types will never be convinced either. (It would be a simpler world, but not a realistic one, if individuals actually did exist in vacuums where their actions legitimately impacted no one else.)

It's worth another try, though, because we sort of like to keep people (and customers) alive and in one piece.

The advantages of wearing seat belts are indisputable. The negatives are non-existent.

Seat belts save lives, period.

Please buckle up.

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June 7

The Selma Times-Journal on the importance of Pre-K:

Coming from a family who have been educators for many years and being an education reporter, it is not surprising to see the benefits of a Pre-K program over the years.

Every school system I have covered has a Pre-K program offered, and the benefits for it lean more towards preparing young students for their long educational journey that lies ahead of them.

As the Selma City School's First Class Early Learning Program prepares to relocate to Sophia P. Kingston Elementary, there is still time to register for the next school year.

Kenneth A. Dodge a Pritzker Professor of Public Policy at Duke University had an article published on the National Institute for Early Education Research that talked about the term fadeout, which is a term that describes findings from a Tennessee study of the effects of that state's pre-kindergarten program on children's later development.

According to Dodge, children who participated in Tennessee's program demonstrated gains in cognitive skills by the end of the program that were followed by sharp declines when these children entered elementary school.

"Skeptics want to use those 'fadeout' findings to fade out state funding for North Carolina's pre-kindergarten program, called NC Pre-K," Dodge wrote.

Dodge also writes results were the exact opposite when documenting the experiences of children in North Carolina.

"Our new analyses . show that the positive impacts of NC Pre-K and Smart Start continue through grades sixth, seventh and eighth," Dodge wrote. "There is no fadeout. In fact, the impact grows. By eighth-grade . we find positive impacts for every group of children we studied."

In Alabama, the Alabama School Readiness Alliance (ASRA), a statewide, nonprofit coalition advocating for the expansion of high-quality, voluntary Pre-K, released a fact sheet about the importance of a high-quality Pre-K program in Alabama.

"Students who attended the First Class Pre-K program in Alabama are more likely to be proficient in reading and math compared to other students — and this academic advantage persists over time," according to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. "This is the key finding of an ongoing study of Alabama First Class Pre-K conducted by researchers from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, the UAB School of Public Health and the UAB School of Education. This research was funded by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. The early years of school through the third-grade are a critical time in a child's brain development. These early years provide a window for developing a foundation for sustained success. Problems that emerge during the early years are more difficult to address later on. High-quality pre-k programs provide opportunities to address gaps in early child development and to improve school readiness."

Selma City School Superintendent Dr. Avis Williams still encourages enrollment in the First Class program.

These programs are a way to get a jump start on children's education.

It is important to not let these programs fade out.

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