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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 15, 2008 at 11:40 AM

Tony Wroten investigation

Ineffective and inefficient

The Seattle Public Schools’ case against Tony Wroten has four huge problems: First, the district needs to learn something about statistics. The rule states that four nights of seven must be spent in the district. It does not say that four of every seven random days must be spent in the district. If exactly three out of seven of all nights over an extended period are spent out of district, randomly distributed, a child will spend two or fewer nights out of seven in the district about a quarter of the time [“Garfield students march to protest Tony Wroten’s dismissal,” High School Sports, Dec. 13].

Second, due process was totally denied. A district lawyer acted as judge, jury and executioner. Nights away from home are not random. If, as I have heard alleged, Tony’s mother was out of town on business for some of the time period in question, or if Tony, like most teenagers, had a number of sleepovers, in or out of district, or if Tony lent his car, the case has a problem. The school district convicted without asking the questions.

Third, the “dew” evidence is suspect. A well-heated car parked late will have less dew than the surrounding cars. Finally, the persecution is hardly random. Of the 2,000 students at Garfield High School, how many were investigated? Sounds like profiling.

Whoever is responsible for this travesty needs to be held accountable, whether appointed or elected. This rogue persecution has two victims: a teenage boy who was jerked out of school without due process and the Seattle school community.

How is the district served by spending far more than it costs to educate a student on persecuting him while also doing millions in public-relations damage? The district needs to spend its scarce resources on education, not self-destruction.

— Randy Cerf, Seattle

Smarter than a fifth grader

There has been an avalanche of commentary regarding the now infamous dew-marks portion of the Tony Wroten investigation.

While we can debate whether or not the investigation should have been conducted, we cannot refute the science. The formation of dew is based on scientific principles. Dew is formed based on the temperature of surfaces. We learned this in the fifth grade.

The investigator used a rudimentary, science-based technique for checking whether or not the car was parked in that location for the entire evening. No one can argue that the car was not there for the entire evening.

The fatal flaw in the investigation was that the respondent was never interviewed. It may not change the outcome, but it is a fundamental element of a thorough, complete investigation.

Study after study shows that Americans are lagging the world in math and science. Based on the commentary I’m reading and hearing about the “absurdity” of the dew-marks portion of the investigation, we now know the answer to “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?”

— John Hebert, Bothell

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