Students voice opinions in letters to the editor

— Eighth-graders at Dutchtown Middle School used 21st century technology to create documents that many believe are archaic and out of date.

In the process of writing letters to the editor on their thoughts on teen curfews and gun control, many of the students learned how to create persuasive arguments based in logic and fact, teacher Jolie Roussel said.

In early January, as part of a unit on persuasive writing, Roussel asked her students to research information about teen curfews and gun control and write letters to the editors on both sides of the issues.

The assignment came just days after a fight broke out at a Baton Rouge mall where dozens of teens were gathered, she said. The gun control debate, she said, was also front and center in the news after the Newtown, Conn., shootings.

Students could pick either issue, but they had to write about differing opinions, she said.

While most of the students initially researched teen curfews, in the end, most wrote about gun control.

The assignment was designed to have the students focus on authentic publishing so they “would be writing for a purpose.”

She said students need to understand how to write professionally and “in a real life situation.

Editorial letter-writing, she said, filled the bill.

The students used their lap tops to search the Internet and shared their thoughts with each other on the school’s message board system.

“But, they had to write in complete sentences and use correct punctuation,” she said. “They couldn’t write the way they normally do on social media.”

While letter-writing was an uncommon practice for most of the students, Tara Stuntz, 14, said she likes to write letters to relatives.

Writing a letter to the editor, however, was a new experience for the student, and one she spent hours working on.

She researched several websites to learn about the teen curfews in Louisiana and other states, she said. She learned several facts that she was unaware of, she said.

In the end, Tara decided she supported teen curfew laws.

“First, a curfew would reduce minors driving at night and the number of drunk-driving incidents,” she said in her letter. “Another reason for curfews is that it will reduce the number of vandalisms.

“Giving minors a curfew help the parents to have parental control. Finally, it reduces the parents’ stress and provides minors the opportunity to get more sleep when being at home on time,” the letter continues. “I believe that minors should be given a curfew but still have freedom.”

Brenna G. Leglue’s letter dealt with her opposition to strict gun control.

“Americans have been able to own guns since 1789. Even our founding fathers wanted us to have guns to make us feel secure,” Brenna, 14, said. “Some people have misused this right but not all American should have this right taken away. It’s not every single American’s fault that some people decided they need to get attention by taking the lives of others,” her letter states.

Brenna, a hunter, said “animal populations would increase immensely and would over-populate the state” if guns were outlawed.

Alexandra Acheson, 14, also wrote against taking away a person’s right to own a gun.

“Gun control is not a good idea,” Andrea wrote. “Taking away our guns, our protection against wrongdoers only makes us weak. Even if the government takes our guns, people who want to do harm or commit crimes will find a way to get hold of a gun. Taking guns away from law-abiding citizens will only bring forth an uprising, not peace. Our nation’s crime rates will rise.”

Bradlee Wall, 13, wrote in favor of gun control.

“I am for gun control because I believe that people should not be allowed to have guns without some type of license or permit based up a gun safety training class because gun control is a huge problem in the United States right not,” her letter states. “Before anyone enters a school, I think that person should be searched ... because of past situations.”

Roussel said her students were not shy about sharing their thoughts on the issues.

“There’s always going to be debate,” Brenna said, adding that she feels better prepared to make a logical, persuasive point thanks to the assignment.