Who deserves praise and criticism this week in Northern Utah?

Monday , February 26, 2018 - 4:30 AM


THUMBS UP: To President Russell M. Nelson, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for his pragmatic comments about access to firearms in the United States.

“Well, God allows us to have our agency and men have passed laws that allow guns to go to people who shouldn’t have them,” Nelson is quoted as saying in Las Vegas earlier this month.

His message wasn’t to suggest “ban all firearms” but he also didn’t convey that “we should do nothing.” And that’s how the vast majority of everyday, non-politician Americans feel, too.

Sometimes change comes when we admit that humans — and our laws, or even our Bill of Rights — may be imperfect. When we do that, we open ourselves to learning from our mistakes and we can try to change for the better.

THUMBS UP: To the Fremont girls basketball team for winning the 6A state title.

The Silver Wolves (23-2) capped off an impressive season by beating Bingham 61-47 to earn the trophy. It was their first state victory since 2014.

High school sports serve a lot of purposes: to teach teamwork, discipline, responsibility, camaraderie, leadership — the list goes on. Perhaps above all, it’s coping with loss and understanding what it takes to earn success. Fremont didn’t just win a title, each member in her own way is preparing for success off the hardwood too.

THUMBS UP: To people like Laura Peters, special programs case manager at Weber Housing Authority, and Andi Beadles, executive director of the agency.

They, among lots of other things, work with homeless people who want or need to get off the streets.

It’s a thankless job. And often an unsuccessful one. It’s not for the thin-skinned or the pessimistic.

But every once in a while, a person comes along and provides some hope.

Doug “Boy Scout” Harding just marked the 2-year anniversary of having a roof over his head after more than three decades hopping trains and living outside. He’s flawed and a little wily at times — but he might be dead if it wasn’t for Peters and Beadles and federal programs like Shelter Plus Care, aimed at helping chronically homeless with disabilities.

Some may take a cynical approach to this work as a waste of taxpayer dollars or a lost cause. But if we all took that frame of mind, the world would be a considerably worse place.

THUMBS DOWN: To Utah school districts that go to great lengths to document incidents of harassment and bullying, but don’t bring race or ethnicity into the reporting process.

Most schools record the frequency of a long list of offenses including weapons, insubordination, drugs, foul language, truancy and all kinds of harassment, from physical, verbal and sexual assaults to persistent bullying.

But no one seems to be talking about how often those transgressions involve or are motivated by race or ethnicity.

At this rate, Northern Utah school districts are averaging one report a month of such abuse, from yelling racial slurs to chanting “build a wall!” at high school sporting events.

Most recently, a 17-year-old black student at Layton High School was suspended from school and banned from going to prom after punching a white student who allegedly called him a “n-----” during a February dance.

So often, school officials use a white student’s racist language or actions as a “learning opportunity” — a letter is sent home to parents and there’s some kind of sensitivity training or required reading.

But rarely is the focus on making the victim feel safe, appreciated and valued in his or her school. We’re so worried about not “ruining a young person’s life” for a mistake or misjudgment that we don’t consider the message that’s (not) sent to a person of color who must continue to walk those halls.

Perhaps not measuring what motivates bullying/harassment is why there so far hasn’t been a more appropriate response to these regular incidents.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.