Who deserves praise and criticism this week in Northern Utah?

Monday , March 19, 2018 - 4:30 AM

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Each week Standard-Examiner editors hash out issues large and small and take a thumbs-up, thumbs-down stance in Monday’s editorials. Here’s what we recommend this week for praise and criticism:

THUMBS UP: To the life and legacy of Ruby Price, who was reportedly the first black teacher in Utah. Ruby died Saturday at age 102.

Price, known widely as “Grandma Ruby,” left behind a trailblazing list of public service that goes on longer than we have space for, including first black Mother of the Year, first president of the Ogden branch of the NAACP and Davis County Republican Party chairwoman. She was a teacher for decades, too.

But even more impressive was her universal reputation as a kind person.

Her Facebook profile, which she maintained until just before her death, often featured posts sharing positivity and wishes of love and happiness for her friends.

“You have to be like Jesus Christ, really,” Price said on her 100th birthday. “You have to be tolerant, patient, trying to understand the other point of view.”

THUMBS DOWN: To the Utah Sheriffs’ Association for its open disdain for doing the right thing.

Last month, the association made public most of its operating standards. The move came after a deluge of public reports about horrific deaths in the jails and demands for improvement from deceased inmates’ loved ones and civil rights groups. In 2016, Utah led the nation in per capita inmate deaths.

The sheriffs’ association represents Utah’s 29 elected county sheriffs.

“The debate is this: do we do just the base minimum requirements as required by the Constitution and the laws?” the association said in a statement accompanying release of the jail standards. “Or do we go above and beyond and do more than required by the standard? In the court of the public opinion we must go beyond what is required.”

The emphasis of striving to achieve only the bare minimum of what the Constitution requires shows a terrifying disregard for the value of human life, and for the measure in the Bill of Rights that protects Americans from cruel and unusual punishment.

“Jails and prisons are not meant to be a vacation,” the sheriffs’ association’s wrote in the same statement. “However, they are someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, father, mother, etc., and are human beings who deserve to be treated as a human being and not as an animal.”

While few would say a jail say should be a “vacation.” There are many stories of inmates suffering from treatable illnesses for hours — sometimes days or months — without proper care. They died slow, inexcusably painful deaths, which is treatment that would be unacceptable for an animal, much less a human.

When elected officials aren’t carrying out their jobs above the bare minimum, the public has a right to know why. They have a right to be angry and they have a right to demand change. The contempt for which the association has fulfilled its duties, as made clear in its published statement, is nothing short of reprehensible.

THUMBS UP: To the Ogden School Board for deciding to wait another year before closing any elementary schools.

Declining enrollment, teacher shortages, aging buildings and funding problems are all issues the district is trying to deal with. It’s no one’s idea of fun to close a community elementary school, but it’s clear there’s little other choice.

Thinking through the decision and thoroughly exploring what each closure would do to teachers, busing and student success is a big responsibility — it would be wrong to make a hurried choice.

It isn’t pleasant to close a neighborhood elementary school. But if it must come to pass, it should be a careful and measured decision.

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