In our view: Cheers & Jeers

Schools serving more nutritious meals; immunization rates must be improved

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Cheers: To local schools for following new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for school lunches. The new rules call for calorie, fat and sodium limits for school meals, plus more variety of fruits and vegetables. Each meal must have one-half cup of fruits or vegetables on the tray, and students must be offered more whole-grain foods. Milk must be low-fat or nonfat.The upgraded meal guidelines are the product of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that was championed by first lady Michelle Obama.

Jeers: To inconsiderate parents who send their children back to school without proper vaccination records. State law allows vaccine exemptions, but state health officials point to the worst whooping cough outbreak in more than half a century as ample reason to vaccinate your children. This year, 3,911 cases of whooping cough have been confirmed in Washington state, compared with 387 cases during the same period last year.

As Clark County Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick explains about the immunization issue, "It's important because these are vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines prevent diseases that kill children." Last school year, 5.6 percent of students statewide had vaccine exemptions, down from 5.8 percent a year earlier. Clark County exemption rates dropped to 5.9 percent last school year, down from 6.1 percent in 2010-2011.

Before vaccines, half a million cases of measles and 16,000 cases of paralytic polio occurred each year in the U.S. Those diseases are rare today, thanks to vaccines.

Parents of uninsured or underinsured children should not feel discouraged. Clark County Public Health and Kaiser Permanente are offering free whooping cough immunizations for those groups from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at Kaiser Permanente's Cascade Park Medical Office, 12607 Mill Plain Blvd.

Cheers: To the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for its continued emphasis on prevention of bullying in schools. This marks the second school year that OSPI has required every public school district to have a person designated as a primary contact, the first line in prevention and resolving cases of bullying. A compliance officer also can step in to help resolve cases. OSPI is not just stopping there, though. The state agency also has a working group examining anti-bullying curriculum, training and other programs to help school districts.

Jeers: To the self-styled speculators who are all too eager to explain how, why and by whom the fire was started last weekend at the Thunderbird on the River hotel in Jantzen Beach. Almost two dozen experts from Portland Fire & Rescue and the National Response Team of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are taking the much wiser approach: waiting to see where modern science takes them. It will take days to sort through the rubble of the first five-alarm structure fire in the region in 13 years. And it will take many more days to determine a cause and possibly a motive. All of the non-experts are just blowing smoke and hot air.

Cheers: To 2,241 people who joined hands Monday on the Interstate 5 Bridge to celebrate independence from drug additions. The 11th Annual Hands Across the Bridge event included at least 870 recovering addicts who reported almost 4,000 years of being clean. When sobriety takes hold, benefits transcend individuals and families; all of society shares the fruits of victory.