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<b>Restorative justice</b>

EDITOR: As a volunteer at the REACH Charter School in Sebastopol, which has a social emotional curriculum encouraging self — awareness and social responsibility, I have been a witness to what really happens when learning trumps punishment. Children at a school that has the ability to implement restorative justice learn to speak honestly and take responsibility for mistakes. All involved have the opportunity to be heard and every one listens to the thoughts and feelings of others involved.

It takes work. A seventh-grader explained it this way: "It was easier to just get detention. Now you have to think about what you have done." That thinking includes how behavior affects others, including those immediately involved: family, the school and the community at large.

This process works with very young children with minor playground arguments, with serious bullying behavior and with even more serious infractions. There is a downside to having the expectation that mistakes can be learning opportunities; that is that it might not be the case in the next school or with adults who have the power to silence or ignore or who believe that punishment works. Restorative justice takes a community.

MELISSA VANDEVEER

Sebastopol

<b>Active seniors</b>

EDITOR: I agree with Rabon Seip ("Aging isn't all bad," Letters, Sunday) that your April 6 article "Aging and alone" reinforced the stereotypical useless and non-productive image or our senior years. The article talked about depression due to isolation among elders, many of whom, including me, have lost our spouses.

It need not be dismal at all. The Council on Aging here in Sonoma County has programs that allow one to stay busy and active, and it is healthy and fun. The council's services and connections are available to all of us, and they sponsor the Senior Games in which seniors participate in a variety of activities, in a friendly competition.

I began volunteering in the community right after I retired. Any number of nonprofits would value your help. Check out the Volunteer Center to find a fit for you.

In addition, there are numerous groups that anyone, seniors included, can participate in, including garden and political clubs, knitting and quilting groups and many others. There is no reason for a senior to be relegated to sadness and depression as they age — at least not here in Sonoma County. I know.

PENNY WOLFSOHN

Santa Rosa

<b>Carmina's tale</b>

EDITOR: Carmina Salcido's life experience is beyond what any of us can imagine ("Carmina's struggle," Monday). But having survived her early horrors, she surely can be successful now in getting her life on track. The separation from her young child is sad and traumatic for her, but it is far better that she focus on fully completing her reunification plan with the help of her social worker, her attorney and the helping professionals she is working with. As a retired child welfare worker, supervisor and manager, I can attest to the double tragedy of re-uniting a parent and child too soon only to have the parent fail again and need to remove the youngster a second time.

SALLY C. EVANS

Cloverdale

<b>Breaking a bargain</b>

EDITOR: The reality is that President Barack Obama and the Democrats abandoned extending unemployment benefits in December when they agreed with Republicans on a two-year budget deal.

So right after the president signed off on the spending bill in January, the Democrats wanted to break the new budget and add the extension of unemployment benefits. House Speaker John Boehner said come up with cash cuts from the new budget to bring back unemployment benefits. He was met with the traditional accounting cuts that would potentially occur sometime in the future but never do.

If extending the unemployment benefits were that important to Obama and the Democrats, it should have been done before the budget deal was agreed upon.

ANDREW SMITH

Santa Rosa

<b>Suddenly spring</b>

EDITOR: Has anyone besides me noticed that we may be having the most beautiful spring in years? The California poppies are spectacular. How often do we get to use the word "lush" when we talk about our environment?

My theory is that all the plants got desperate when the winter was so dry. Then, when it rained in February and March, they all said, "Quick, bloom. Now."

I'm thinking we should probably really enjoy it while it lasts, because it probably won't last long!

MARIAN McDONALD

Sebastopol