Editorial Roundup: Nebraska

Omaha World-Herald. April 8, 2021.

Editorial: Sex education promotes respect, helps protect vulnerable children

The Nebraska State Board of Education is considering adding instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation to the state health standards, which school districts will have the option to adopt. It’s no surprise the proposal is controversial. But it’s also no surprise that issues involving sexuality should come up in discussions of appropriate 21st-century education.

Helping young people develop a responsible understanding of sexuality is a sound goal for our society, especially since children today are only a mouse click away from pornographic images. It’s far better to have a responsible instructional approach, within one’s family and in school, than to leave young minds at the mercy of the internet.

Omaha Public Schools took sound action on that score several years ago by adopting a revamped sex education curriculum.

A key need, in particular, is to protect children struggling with their sexual identity from prejudice and harassment. For centuries, societies have forced men and women of nontraditional sexual orientation to hide their true selves or else face stigmatizing, discrimination and harassment. Only in the past few generations have countries, including our own, begun striving to free themselves of such injustice.

But great prejudice against such individuals remains, and the pain can be especially great for children whose sexual identity is still forming.

As an associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center notes in a Midlands Voices essay today, such young people are at considerably greater risk of being bullied, having suicidal thoughts and attempting suicide. Suicide, indeed, is the second-leading cause of death for young people in Nebraska and Iowa.

It’s irresponsible for adults to shrug off children’s cruel or unthinking remarks against — let alone harassment of — vulnerable children as merely “Kids will be kids” or “That’s just part of life.” A morally sound society will work to protect children from such harm.

A key way to achieve that is through education. This is why specialists consulted by the Nebraska State Board of Education recommend a set of instructional proposals on sexuality and sexual orientation as part of a larger set of health-oriented curriculum.

Abbi Swatsworth, executive director of OutNebraska, says the board’s draft standards are “lifesaving.” OutNebraska works to support Nebraskans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.

Sex education proposals often involve disagreement, of course. Parents’ values in such matters differ sharply, and some parents reject the idea that schools should play a role in such instruction. Legitimate questions arise about what precisely should be taught at what grade level, and about how effective some school staff would be in addressing such sensitive matters. The board faces a complex task in deciding such specifics as it weighs sincerely held concerns — but it’s important to remember that districts will have discretion in whether and how to implement the policy.

As the debate continues, Nebraska must not lose sight of the need for the next generation to understand the complexity of modern society — and to reject any way of thinking that makes a child vulnerable to harassment and prejudice.

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Lincoln Journal Star. April 9, 2021.

Editorial: McConaughy proposals offer benefits for lake over long term

Last March, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved a plan aimed at reducing rowdy partiers at overcrowded beaches at Lake McConaughy by limiting the number of campsites, increasing their cost, banning alcohol consumption on the state property and ramping up law enforcement at the lake near Ogallala.

Then came the coronavirus, a park shutdown and operations at limited capacity through the summer and fall, eliminating the need for and implementation of the plan that was created after decades of complaints about the parties and crowding at Nebraska’s No. 2 tourist attraction.

So the plan will be implemented this year, and, as they did a year ago, Ogallala-area business owners are raising concerns that the restrictions will dramatically reduce the number of visitors.

Some fear that decline could be as much as 75% from the 1.8 million to 1.9 million people of pre-pandemic years. That’s an exaggerated figure.

But cutting the number of campsites to 1,500, 1,000 of them on the beaches that line the 22-mile long reservoir, requiring pre-registration for the campsites, increasing the cost of camping from $12 a day to $25 a day on weekends and boosting enforcement will unquestionably reduce the numbers at the lake.

The plan, as the business owners rightfully have pointed out, is likely to come as a surprise to many of those driving in from Colorado, who, understandably haven’t paid attention to the changes coming at the lake.

That possibility, and the related entanglements of thousands of disappointed people turning up at Lake McConaughy with no place to camp and no chance to party, makes it incumbent on the Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska Tourism Commission to get the word out to Coloradans about the changes as soon as possible.

Then the plan should be allowed to go forward, working, we hope for the benefit of park visitors and, in the long run, area businesses as well.

The Nebraska Legislature is now considering a plan to provide more money for law enforcement and physical improvements at Lake McConaughy that would, in time, likely allow more visitors and campsites.

Venango Sen. Dan Hughes’ LB336 would increase the price of the annual state park sticker fee for nonresidents from $45 to $60, or twice what is charged to Nebraskans, with some of the additional revenue to be directed to the lake. That’s a plan that should go forward as well.

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Kearney Hub. April 7, 2021.

Editorial: Ricketts: C’mon, folks, get your shots

Nebraskans are proud of their governor. On Saturday Pete Ricketts received his first COVID-19 vaccination. Timing for the shot was good because COVID-19 hospitalizations are slowly increasing, possibly because coronavirus variants have entered Nebraska. The variants are more aggressive so the percentage of people who become ill may be higher than with the virus we experienced one year ago.

The governor used the occasion of his first shot as an opportunity to spread some health and safety news.

Rickets has done a good job of communicating during the pandemic. He has kept Nebraskans informed about the virus and never has hesitated to share issues of concern. That trait was again on display on Monday — two days after his shot — when Ricketts reported on his vaccination. He said the shot gave him a little soreness where the needle entered, but nothing more.

Monday’s news conference was an opportunity for Ricketts to urge more Nebraskans to get in line for their vaccinations. “Please, folks, sign up to get the vaccine. This is the way we work our way through the pandemic.”

He assured Nebraskans that the vaccine is “safe and effective.”

We in the Kearney area can be proud that our Two Rivers Public Health Department has administered 51,220 vaccination shots and is among the state’s leaders with 71.6% of its senior population fully immunized. That’s the age group that is most likely to become sick with the virus, so it’s a relief that so many have had their shots.

Seventy-five percent of Nebraska seniors have been vaccinated, the governor said. Age 65 and older is the group that is considered at a high risk of death or hospitalization as a result of contracting the virus.

Although hospitalizations are increasing for the first time in 18 weeks, the 132 COVID-19 patients hospitalized now represent fewer than 3% of hospital capacity in the state.

Ricketts hailed the increasing supply of vaccine flowing into the state monthly with 27,600 doses from Johnson & Johnson, 25,740 from Pfizer and 19,200 from Moderna arriving now.

Vaccinations for COVID-19 are progressing, with 27.2% of people age 16 or older — 20,674 people — now fully vaccinated in Two Rivers’ seven-county area.

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