Tag Archives: opinion

Private zoos destroy animal lives

Art by Scarlett Hatton

Story by Gracie Vanover

Now by now I am sure everyone reading this has heard of or watched Tiger King. While I do admit it that it is crazy and funny, it is also a highly toxic situation for all of those animals. These roadside zoos are everywhere around the country. What is even worse is we have a private zoo not even an hour away from here. 

In 1999, Charlestown local Tim Stark opened his private, non-profit zoo called Wildlife in Need.  According to Stark’s website the zoo is “dedicated to the rehabilitation & release of indigenous wildlife & provision of safe harbor to an array of exotic & endangered species.” Which overall seems like a pretty good message, right? But everything is not what it seems. 

On April 13, Stark lost a legal suit removing his wildlife license permanently. According to WHAS11 a USDA juror has ruled that Stark has violated the Animal Welfare Act 120 times between 2012 and 2016. According to the 183-page packet provided by the USDA, Stark has been known to harass federal inspectors and has failed multiple times to provide adequate veterinary care. He now faces over 340,000 dollars and fines but has a chance to appeal.

However, Wildlife in Need is not the only perpetrator. According to Tigers in America there are more than 3,000 roadside or private zoos spanning across 44 different states. That is insane. Not only are these animals suffering but these zoo owners are lying and saying they are well handled.

According to Oklahoma’s court records held against Joe “Exotic” Maldonado-Passage, his roadside zoo was in trouble for breaking the Lacey Act due to making illegal transactions involving tigers. He also euthanized five tigers with no vet present, which violates the Endangered Species Act.

Now I understand that not every person in a corporation is the same. However, when the biggest names like Maldonado-Passage and Stark are getting away with it, are others probably as well? Corporations like PETA would not spend millions of dollars and track tons of legal records if this was not truly an issue.

Regardless of whether these people are taking care of these animals correctly or not they should not own them. They are wild animals for a reason. While I understand they are endangered I also do not believe these roadside zoos should be breeding these animals for financial gain. 

So do your research and look into these places. Avoid giving or visiting these roadside zoos. If you give to them then you are supporting them. Stand up for animal rights because they cannot speak for themselves.

Important roadside zoo links:

Wildlife in Need Fact Sheet

PETA‘s Pseudo-sanctuary List

Indiana’s Connection to Tiger King

Proposed Kentucky bills threaten livelihoods of transgender youth

Story by Christy Avery

Art by Scarlett Hatton

 “Live and let live.”

A hackneyed phrase, maybe. Meaningful all the same.

Upon hearing it, most people would give a nod in agreement, acknowledging the age-old practice of “minding your business.” Most people do it: most people do not care what another has for dinner, or if their favorite color is red instead of blue, or what kind of toilet paper someone else may be desperately stocking up on during the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. Most people generally do not care what someone else’s life looks like. 

Until it comes down to which bathroom someone gets to use, or what sports team they can play on, or whether or not they have the right to receive medical care. 

Then, “let live” takes on a different meaning. 

You can probably tell which direction this is going in by that last paragraph, which is all the more telling that the debate over transgender rights has dragged on for far too long. I will not give a history lesson, because it probably is not needed; year after year, the same arguments over pronouns, biology, and sex versus gender keep people on each side of the issue at each other’s throats — and in doing so, keep the world from solidifying a new outlook. Or at least, letting it go. 

Which is why I was both exasperated but not surprised to recently learn that, in the midst of a global pandemic and the rest of the world’s chaos, mind you, that Kentucky lawmakers proposed a series of bills late last year that if passed by the end of the legislative season, April 15, would limit essential rights of transgender youth in Kentucky schools. 

One of the bills, known as the Kentucky Student Privacy Act, would require students to use only the facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponded with their biological sex, as “allowing students to use restrooms, locker rooms, or showers that are reserved for students of a different biological sex: a). will create a significant potential for disruption of school activities and unsafe conditions, and b). will create potential embarrassment, shame, and psychological injury to students.” 

The concern makes sense. Nobody wants to be seen in a state of undress. But its relevance here is questionable. The concern of decency, especially in a school setting, is why there are not cameras in facilities, and why there are separate bathroom and shower stalls. Which brings us to another logical point: a person’s genitalia, whether or not it “matches” with their chosen gender, cannot be seen through a locked door. And when it comes to locker rooms, cisgender people do not always want to undress out in the open, either; I never felt comfortable doing so until my senior year. That, however, does not rid me of the fact that I, like many others, am lucky: the way I feel about my gender matches my body, and therefore I am welcomed in the appropriate spaces. I can walk into the girls’ restroom or locker room and go about my business unquestioned.

Although many seem to believe otherwise, transgender people just want to do the same. They use the restroom and shower just like everyone else. What is underneath their towel or behind the door is private, and unlikely to be seen anyway. So as understandable as it is to want privacy, it is not black-and-white; there are solutions that span beyond locking innocent people out. Schools could provide more unisex, gender-neutral bathrooms, or, if nothing else, request that a transgender student use a stall within the locker room that corresponds to their gender. And if a cisgender person feels uncomfortable at the mere presence of a transgender student? They could do what they have had the opportunity to do all along: mind their own business or find another way to do it. 

It can be that simple to not cause a riot. So one wonders where the “psychological trauma” comes in. 

 That brings us right back around to Kentucky lawmakers. House Bill 321, introduced simultaneously with the Student Privacy Act, aims to prohibit medical professionals from performing procedures or prescribing medications to transgender youth. Rep. Savannah Maddox backs the bill, writing on her Facebook page last fall that “I am a strong advocate for parents’ rights–but it is not the right of a parent to permanently alter a child’s gender or identity, even when based upon certain behaviors or the perceptions of a child’s mind which has not yet had time to fully develop.” 

There appears to be some confusion here: if it is not even the right of a parent to decide what their child gets to do, how is it the right of a lawmaker to decide? 

One could argue that Maddox is simply doing her job: trying to protect citizens. I would argue that she is protecting nobody at all, especially not with misinformation. While the process of transitioning is certainly a big one, it is not taken lightly, and the medical providers lawmakers threaten to punish with a Class D felony–which holds a sentence of up to five years–work closely with families to ensure a slow transition, one that can be adjusted if done early enough. Puberty blockers, for example, are typically used to “allow these families the opportunity to hit a pause button… until we know that it is either the right or the wrong direction for their particular child,” said Dr. Rob Garofolo in an interview to FRONTLINE

The “certain behaviors” and “perceptions” cited as reasons to block medical treatment can be explored during this time. But that’s only if the parent — and the child — is given the right to do so. It’s only after many years of a child affirming their gender socially and medically that they are able to begin the process of reassignment surgery or hormones if desired. A typical concern, as Maddox wrote, is that parents are likely to somehow push their children into further changes, or that if a minor does choose themselves, they will regret it.

But the desire to physically embody how one feels about themselves does not begin or end with a birthday, and regret is uncommon: in a 2015 study by the U.S. National Center for Transgender Equality, only 8 percent of nearly 28,000 people expressed a sense of regret after transitioning. 

The real risk is that, in ignoring the phrase “let live,” lawmakers are quite literally putting lives in danger. In grumbling about a child’s mind not yet being developed, Maddox forgets that nearly every medical source out there asserts that the brain is not fully developed until age 25. Making minors wait until they are 18 to receive hormone therapy or surgery adds years onto the mental health issues that are caused by dysphoria: in a study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2014, it was found that transgender youth have a “twofold to threefold” increased risk of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. In another study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 50 percent of trans boys, 41 percent of nonbinary teens and 30 percent of trans girls had attempted suicide in their lifetime. 

Transgender healthcare can be irreversible in some aspects. But then again, are tattoos not the same? Same with piercings, in a sense? Teens choose to get those with relatively little uproar. But yet, when a child wants to confirm who they are, we fret and fuss and complicate the deliberate and often slow choices that are, frankly, none of our business at all. 

Medical providers — and parents, for that matter — should not be punished for simply doing their jobs, to help and support those in their care. Making it illegal to do so demonstrates a belief that parents and doctors are incompetent, and shows that the experiences of transgender youth apparently are not valid enough. Even if all that trans youth want is to exist safely and happily within this world, to make choices that everyone may not agree with, but that harm no one. And, most importantly, keep them existing. 

“Live and let live.” To lawmakers, it seems to be one or the other. 

I hope on April 15, they will make the right choice. 


Links to bills: 




Columnist speaks out against close-mindedness

Story by Madelyn Smith

I am sitting in class, working on my assignment, watching the minutes pass by. I hear small talk, mostly mundane topics like sports and weekend plans. Then I hear a name, Greta Thunberg. It is a name I had heard online here and there; she is a 16-year-old climate change activist from Stockholm, Sweden. Though I was not fully informed of her entire plan, I was educated on her end goals, her beliefs. 

The teacher interjects the conversation with his opinion: “She’s only what — 14? I’m not going to listen to a child tell me how to live my life. I’ve already lived most of mine; she has barely any experience to be talking to adults like that.” 

That is the problem — he has lived his life and we have yet to live our own, it only makes sense that a young girl like Thunberg is so concerned about our Earth and the time we have left on it.

I silently disagree and wish to say my point aloud, but the bell rings, time to go to my next class, and my opinion won’t be voiced, until now.

As the younger generation, we’ve always been told to stay silent on “adult” topics, told to be seen and not heard, but now more than ever we need the voices of the future to speak out. 

A further example as to what I am talking about is a girl by the name of Jaclyn Corin. Corin was one of the organizers of the March For Our Lives demonstration in Washington and a leader of the Never Again MSD activist movement. Corin was a victim of gun violence, in a school shooting a close friend of hers as well as classmate of hers were killed. This occurrence pushed her to speak out, and many who disagreed or did not take her seriously blamed her age. When she led the March For Our Lives demonstration she was 17 years old, and despite the simple fact that she had lived the experience she was trying to prevent, people still dismissed her saying she didn’t know what she was talking about. 

I myself and many others have tried to voice our opinions on certain topics to adults and have been flat out told that we are wrong or misinformed. People always tend to assume just because we are younger means that we are automatically naive and unaware of important topics and current events. As a student journalist I have learned how to research and quote reputable sources so what’s so different when I am using those skills to prove my point to an adult? Is it instantly deemed unreliable just because it is heard from a “child?” 

Our generation is very well known for speaking our minds on whatever topic is relevant at the time, whether that it is gun control, LGBTQ+ rights and equality, censorship, climate change, politics, and so much more. 

Seeing people from this generation speak up about this is very inspiring to younger individuals who wish to make a change. Thunberg and Corin both possess true bravery and willingness to show their views to others who do not want to listen. Their tender ages of 16 and 17 did not stop them from speaking about an issue they felt passionate about. Age shouldn’t be a factor, whether you are 12 or 18-years-old, you have the right to an opinion, that is the beauty of the first amendment. And with that, we will become the voices of tomorrow, and the future to come, if only we were listened to.


We respect your sport, so why can you not respect ours?

Photo by Kate Zuverink

Story by Olivia Schroeder

Picture the scene of 29 high school cheerleaders dangerously lifting bodies into the air on one leg with one girl in the back, getting ready to perform a skill that could paralyze her for life. That girl was my friend Madison Spanopoulos on August 19, 2019, and it was one of the scariest days of her life. 

Keep that picture in your mind, but now we should talk about something else. I have accepted that I will never know or understand why most people believe that cheerleading is not a sport. I have been a competitive cheerleader since I was seven years old and have completely fallen in love with it. Although cheer will forever have my heart, as all things do, cheerleading also comes with a few down sides. 

To name a few, constantly being injured is a weekly occurrence, hearing people make hurtful comments such as  “Cheerleaders are weak” or that “Cheer is not a sport” does hurt a lot. Most athletes have put their whole life into this sport and others, such as Madison, have even risked their lives. 

Now we will return to that previous scene. As Madison began to take her first running step, everyone was cheering her on loudly and encouraging her to do well, but as soon as she jumped to flip, everything went downhill. She flew high into the air, but panicked and came crashing to the hard floor, landing on her back. That day, I watched my friend’s eyes roll to the back of her head, and I watched her get carried out by a stretcher as tears rolled down my face. 

Thankfully, Madison woke up with only a concussion, but when she came back to school, people were not supportive of her. Students started to say that just because someone got hurt, it still does not mean it was hard work. 

Cheerleaders, specifically our team, have worked incredibly hard to get where we are today, putting in countless hours of work each week throughout the year. The sport is not just reciting chants for our school. There is a whole other side that is more serious and dangerous. We practice for five to six days a week and, yes, it is tough, but we love every minute of it. When we hear people saying that the activities we do are easy and that it is not a sport, it affects us because the passion that we have worked so hard towards our whole lives for is being disrespected. We have suffered broken bones, torn muscles, back problems, head issues and many of us, even surgeries because of the amount of work we put in. 

Nobody will know how dangerous cheerleading is, or what it consists of until they have experienced it for themselves. We respect your sport. Now, why can you not respect ours?


Donald Trump’s impeachment opens doors to the future

E2707E44-3183-4E52-B550-10A7E0C2E1F5Art by Scarlett Hatton

Story by Morgan Walker

When President Donald Trump became the third United States President to be impeached, a new door to the future opened. Vice President Mike Pence becoming president of the United States is a new possibility for our country, but it is not a possibility that anyone should want. Impeachment never should have happened.

Trump was impeached under two articles: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The impeachment trial happened because of our alliance with Ukraine; Trump was accused of withholding almost $400 million, which was already approved by Congress, in order to pressure Ukraine’s president into investigating his rival in the 2020 election, Joe Biden. Later, the U.S. told Ukraine our troops were coming to aid them on the front lines, when they really were not. Trump gave these orders without the approval of Congress.

The next step after impeachment is to possibly remove Trump from office, which is up to the Senate. The Senate has two options; convict Trump and remove him from office or to acquit him/relieve him of this crime. The Senate will most likely acquit his crime, because the majority is Republican and they also mainly support Trump in his presidency.

This is best, though, because if Trump is convicted, Pence will automatically become president and that is not something anyone should want.

“If the president is found guilty, he is removed from office and the vice president is sworn-in as president,” according to Atlanta News Now.

If Trump is acquitted he will run in the 2020 election, but he will most likely lose as many other candidates are favorable and he has the reputation of being an impeached president.

It is scary to think that Pence is so close to becoming our president. He is seemingly much more politically intelligent compared to Trump, and would be able to come up with more solid plans that could be a lot scarier than what Trump has done. Trump has been mainly focused on the building of the wall on the Mexican-American border and deporting illegal immigrants rather than other big projects. Pence will not focus his energy on just one thing, and those results could be much bigger and more complex.

Pence has a lot of controversial beliefs: he does not believe in abortion and he did not want the government to fund Planned Parenthood, for example. So, if Pence were to be elected, some people in our country may lose the right to have safe and legal abortions. It is also known that he does not support LGBTQ rights. During his congressional campaign in 2000 he said, “Congress should oppose any effort to gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage.”

The LGBTQ community has worked hard to get these basic rights, but if we have a president that is passionately against it, they could easily lose those rights again.

To give a familiar example, recently on the app TikTok teenagers have made a meme joking about Pence’s conversion camps (Pence openly supports conversion therapy). This is something he could possibly do as president. In the archived version of Pence’s website it says, “Resources should be directed to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” This was written when he was addressing the Ryan White Care Act, which provides federal funding for HIV and AIDS. When Pence’s spokesman Marc Lotter was asked about this, he denied what it sounds like—conversion therapy— but refused to explain exactly which organizations he was talking about, which makes it seem like therapy is, in fact, what he meant.

Many of these outcomes could be prevented, but now it is just behind one door that may or may not remain closed. President Mike Pence is a scary future.