The recent announcement of the closing of three low-enrollment Akron Public Schools left out an important detail regarding the closing of Barrett Academy in South Akron.

Barrett was built in 1972, with one wing entirely dedicated to services expressly designed for the educational, physical and social needs of preschool and elementary children with low-incidence disability, severe physical handicaps and medically fragile status.

An entire wing of this building was built specifically to provide for students with low-incidence special needs (less than 1 percent of the entire population of Akron).

The wing includes: an adapted playground with swings that accommodate wheelchairs; a nursing office that includes a full bathroom, shower and privacy curtains; a physical and occupational therapy room with a full kitchen, full bath with shower, washer and tub, washer, dryer and custom storage for equipment; and 13 classrooms with outside exit doors to get disabled children out safely in case of fire or other emergency.

These classrooms are also equipped with bathrooms that have handicap bars and changing facilities. There is a feeding program that accommodates the needs of children who are tube-fed or have to have specially prepared meals.

Two nurses are on staff to provide tube feeding, medication administration and guidance to teachers who have children in their classrooms whose medical needs include uncontrolled seizures, brain tumors and terminal conditions.

The administration, teachers, therapists, nurses, assistants and support personnel at Barrett are highly qualified and experienced.

The children who attend Barrett Academy as their neighborhood school develop a special understanding of individual differences that most children never encounter. There are many programs in place at Barrett Academy that help all children gain a compassionate understanding and connection to each other.

These services cannot be replicated in any of the school buildings, new or old, in Akron. “Low-incidence” special needs conditions are just that: There are not many children born with handicapping conditions that require the level of specialized services and education that Barrett Academy has the ability to offer.

In fact, “low incidence” also means that children from surrounding districts in need of this level of specialized educational services are transported to Barrett, at no cost to Akron taxpayers.

Barrett is a very special place. The education of the least able of all of our students happens at Barrett. It is not an old building, and its closure should be carefully evaluated in light of the special services that it delivers.

Christine Hill

Intervention specialist

Barrett Academy


Sheriff understands ?mental illness

I really could not believe the Feb. 16 letter from Todd Tompkins responding to how Sheriff Drew Alexander is keeping violent people with mental illness out of his jail (“Jail for violent offenders”).

It’s uneducated people like Tomkins who keep the stigma associated with mental illness going strong. Apparently, everyone in his family is “sane.”

I hope it stays that way. Until Tomkins or someone in his family has lived with mental illness, and it is an illness, he can’t appreciate, and apparently doesn’t want to, what the sheriff is doing.

I have a child who was born completely normal, but by age 19 developed mental illness. He didn’t ask for this. This happens at any given time in life and can certainly happen to anyone in a family.

Let’s hope it doesn’t. I commend Sheriff Alexander for realizing that mental illness is an illness and that the people who have it need medications. Hence, violent people with mental illness are either off their medications or the medications aren’t working, and the patients need to be treated in a hospital, just like people with physical illnesses need to be treated.

The first step is to get them treated, on the right medications. Then they need to take some responsibility for their actions.

Tompkins’ lack of knowledge about the “raging lunatic,” as he refers to people with untreated mental illness, is profound.

I have been to the emergency room plenty of times with my son when he was off his medications. He wasn’t violent.

I have witnessed “raging lunatics” come in, and the security personnel at all the Akron area hospitals have handled them quite well. It might take a few of them, but they know how to calm a person who is off his or her medications.

I have never ever felt at risk at any of the four hospitals to which I have been. The people are trained to calm the mentally ill, and they do. Tompkins’ safety isn’t and wouldn’t be at risk.

His viewpoint is solely from someone who doesn’t know a thing about mental illness. Why doesn’t he educate himself before he writes?

By the way, one in five people in Summit County has a mental illness. Tompkins better prepare himself the next time he walks out the door.

Crystal Taylor


Reversals of thought

In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Dred Scott, a human being, was not a person, but property. In 2011, the court ruled that a corporation, an institution, was a person, not property.

In 1960, Republicans warned that the election of John F. Kennedy would allow the pope to dictate U.S. policy. In 2012, Republicans are willing to allow Catholic bishops to dictate U.S. health-care policy.

Are we progressing or regressing?

Joni Capes


Defined by ?the heartbeat

I am writing in response to Jane Grover’s Feb. 17 letter, “Stand for women’s rights.” Women can choose not to become pregnant, but should not be allowed to choose to kill a human being. When there is a heartbeat, there is life.

If the personhood amendment is passed, it will give a definitive answer to all as to where to draw the line. We should not be forced to become mothers, but we should never kill our children.

Today, with so many safe-sex options, any woman can choose not to get pregnant. A baby is not an inconvenience. A baby is a person.

Marilyn Crenshaw