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                Michelle in the Newspaper :    Use words properly & respectfully - Your words matter                       

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Published on October 23, 2001, Page 01B, Duluth News-Tribune (MN)

Duluth News Tribune

Duluth district to review pesticide policies -

Mother says parents lack proper notification before applications

Duluth public school administrators have agreed to review district pesticide policies, joining a growing movement nationwide.

The decision comes after a complaint lodged by Michelle Simon, a parent who believes the district didn't properly explain its pesticide policies as required by the

Parents' Right-to-Know Act of 2000.

State law requires parents to be told they can review a schedule of pesticide applications at each school. Further, they have the right to be notified before applications.

Appearing before the district-wide PTA Council Oct. 3, Simon said the district's right-to-know letter, distributed to parents in September, was intermixed with other mailings

and provided inadequate notification of parental rights.

"I called about 40 parents, and the vast majority didn't recall seeing it,'' she said. "None of those parents knew you could spray a pesticide in the classroom, and none were too

happy about it.''

Simon said the district should rewrite and redistribute the notification. Members of the council, who represent PTAs across Duluth, suggested district administrators should go a

step further and consider adopting an integrated pest management policy. An IPM would outline strategies to apply the least-hazardous pesticides available, incorporate precision

treatment strategies and adopt alternative pest-control practices such as improved sanitation and caulking.

The Duluth School District's policy is to apply pesticides when schools are closed, said Kerry Leider, district director of facilities management. Until recently, he said, few

parents have complained.

"Before the law existed, our district took action to provide notification,'' he said. "We recognized that some people have concerns, whether founded or not.''

Simon said pesticides including chlorpyrifos are being used in school buildings. Better known by the trade name Dursban, the pesticide is facing a phased-in EPA ban.

Such chemicals aggravate health conditions such as asthma, she said. Leider said insects such as ants and wasps are targeted.

The use of pesticides in schools was reviewed by the National PTA in 1992. The group approved a position statement calling for state and local regulation and encouraged

the adoption of IPM statements.

Minnesota school districts are not required to have IPM plans. Proposed federally last year, the legislation was approved by the Senate but stalled in the House.

Federal regulators, however, are helping districts to implement voluntary IPM plans.

"The EPA is a strong advocate,'' said Don Baumgartner, the agency's regional IPM coordinator. Last year, the EPA funded a Minnesota program to help districts develop

pesticide plans.  "The concept has really taken off in the past few years,'' said Jeanne Ciborowski, Minnesota Department of Agriculture IPM coordinator. "People are

becoming more environmentally aware.''

The district has not yet set a timeline to review its policy. ------------------------------------------------------------------------

RON BROCHU writes about education issues. He can be reached weekdays  at (218) 723-5340, (800) 456-8282 or by e-mail at

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    Published on January 18, 1998, Page 01A, Duluth News-Tribune (MN) Duluth News-Tribune (MN)



Duluth News Tribune



BY   Linda Hanson/News-Tribune staff writer
January 18, 1998

People learn values by example, by seeing others live them in their everyday life.

In every community, there are shining examples of people who go about their lives without fanfare, living by their values. They work hard, take care of their families, help their neighbors and friends and do their part as volunteers.

The Duluth News-Tribune plans to use the Values 1st effort as an opportunity to highlight people who live their values, so the rest of us can be inspired and learn from them.


Suggestions on living the value of nonviolence:

*Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

*Be forgiving of others' faults and shortcomings.

*Never hit or yell at someone.

*Talk it out.


*Learn when to negotiate.

*Take time out when you're angry.

*Be respectful of yourself and others.

*Learn about someone who stood for nonviolence.

*Learn critical viewing skills for watching movies and television.

*Learn what your religious tradition teaches about nonviolence.

*Walk away.

Source: Values 1st

Illustration: PHOTO:
No. 1 by Bob King/News-Tribune; No. 2 by Josh Meltzer/News-Tribune

Caption: 1.
Harbor View Homes Youth Director Toni Thorstad comforts Sade Perkins, who was hit by someone on her school bus on her way home. Thorstad heard Perkins was upset when she got off the bus and sat down with her to find out what was wrong and try to resolve the crisis. Thorstad works with Harbor View residents to help keep the kids there safe and free from violence.
Caption: 2. Michelle Simon (center) plays with her son, Trevor, 6, and stepdaughter, Taylor, 5, while making a fort out of sticks.   Friday night is play night for Simon and her husband, Dale Guthrie, and the children. The couple monitors what their children watch on television and at the movie theater so they aren't exposed to violence and disrespectful behavior.

Toni Thorstad's quest to teach kids to live in peace is personal, inspired by those who reached out to help her when violence left her isolated and battered.

Bill Johnson's peace table in his Lakeside classroom is part of his belief that teaching children conflict-resolution skills is as important as teaching them math and reading.

``If you don't have peace in the individual, how can you have peace in the larger community?'' Johnson asks.

A group called Values 1st has surveyed the Duluth area to find out the community's core values. Each month it is highlighting one value; January's value is nonviolence.

Values 1st includes educators and those working to prevent violence. The group hopes that by focusing on one value a month, people will become more intentional about that value and look for ways to live it in their everyday lives.

The News-Tribune asked readers to nominate people who live the value of nonviolence. Judging by the nominations, the Northland is rich with people who promote nonviolence in both their private lives and professions.

One person is Thorstad, the youth director at Harbor View Homes who works to keep kids safe in their neighborhood. Another is Johnson, a third-grade teacher at St. Michael's Lakeside Catholic School who teaches children to resolve conflicts peacefully.

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities planned throughout the country on Monday, many people are reflecting on what the civil rights leader stood for. Under King's leadership, nonviolent resistance was used to protest discrimination and advance the cause of civil rights. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

There are numerous examples throughout history where nonviolence has worked to bring about political and social change, said Beth Bartlett, an associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. She teaches a class called ``The Theory and Practice of Nonviolence.''

While Gandhi used nonviolent direct action to help free India from British control, another Indian could be considered the mother of the ``tree-hugger'' movement, Bartlett pointed out.

About 250 years ago, government officials wanted to cut down a grove of sacred trees for fuel. They were met by a village woman named Amrita Devi who wrapped herself around a tree. Workers cut through her and she was killed. Hundreds of others did the same and also were killed. A local leader was so incensed by the killings that he too declared the grove sacred so no one was allowed to touch the trees. It was the start of the Chipko movement, which lives on in India.

One American writer on nonviolence, Sara Ruddick, developed her approach through parenting.

``She says that where she has to focus on nonviolent conflict every day is with her kids,'' Bartlett said. ``That also has ramifications in the larger world, in how we deal with kids and how we deal with each other.''


Michelle Simon, a Duluth psychologist, strongly believes in promoting nonviolence within families. It's something she knows about through her professional work but it's also what she tries to live with her own family.

``The people you can do something about are within your touch,'' Simon said. ``... If you can practice your values, your children will learn what's right and wrong.''

Parents need to be aware that violence can be as simple as disrespectful words like ``shut up,'' she said. Hitting is also unacceptable, she stressed.

``It's crucial to start with kids, so they don't become desensitized to violence,'' Simon said.

For example, when parents see violence on television, they need to show their emotions and talk to their children about it. Parents also need to monitor television shows because a program with a G-rating may still be inappropriate or scary for a child, Simon said.

And she strongly recommends that parents install a parental control on their computer so children don't have access to inappropriate material on the Internet.

For Simon, religion is the cornerstone of the values she tries to live. Religion helped her overcome the longstanding pain that violence inflicted.

When she was 18, she was attacked by a stranger who stabbed and beat her before she was able to fight him off. The trauma affected her for years.

Now she's using her insight to help children, families and the community. In addition to her work at St. Luke's Mental Health Clinic, she also has a private practice and plans to work with divorcing parents who go through mediation. Her goal is to help them keep their children's best interests in mind as they work out their differences. Even when there isn't physical violence, the conflict that children are exposed to can deeply hurt them, she said.

Simon believes people need to speak up when they see violence or disrespect.

When she sees a parent shaking a preschooler in a store, Simon approaches the parent and comments that it looks like he or she is having a tough time. That opens the door for the parent to listen, she said. Scolding or telling a parent what to do usually doesn't do any good, she said.

``We need, as a community, not to tolerate violence when it's happening in front of us,'' she said.

All content © 1998- Duluth News-Tribune (MN)Duluth News-Tribune (MN



Published February 13 2009  By: Michelle Simon , Duluth News Tribune

Duluth News Tribune

Local view: Many kids need vitamins

The News Tribune’s Feb. 3 front page may have left headline-only readers with the wrong conclusions about the need for children to take vitamins (“Kids taking vitamins?  It could be pointless.”).

I agreed that if parents are able to take or make the time to prepare non-processed meals that represent the proper balance of food groups, on a routine basis, for their children, there may be no reason to also give them multivitamins.  However, when this is not the case — when children fall subject to mostly processed food or fast food (also known as artificial food) or food that is not fresh but canned, frozen or from a vending machine — on a more-often-than-not basis, for goodness sake, they should be allowed a Plan B in the nutrition zone and given multivitamins.

I absolutely agreed that the three vitamins displayed in the photo with the front-page story are generally considered worthless in the world of “good” vitamin choices. Parents must do their homework and get food-grade vitamins that use a delivery system documented to saturate and deliver at a cellular level.  Vitamins should not be relied upon for total nutrition, but they can be allowed as a   Plan B.     Children are worth it! They need to be set up physically for the success they deserve.

No one’s body will produce micronutrients — namely vitamins, minerals and essential elements — on its own. Bodies need real — yes, real — food. Or they need supplementation to receive micronutrients, which are needed for normal metabolism, body functioning, good mental health and alertness, resistance to infection and digestion. Consistently providing vitamins also helps produce blood cells, genetic material, hormones and chemicals in the nervous system.

Do kids deserve this benefit of the doubt by supplying a simple multivitamin? I hope so.

Right now, all our society has delivered to kids is fast food ads, sugar hype and an epidemic of obesity-producing, non-food and non-nutritious items that do not set them up for any sort of good health or long-term success.  Of course, it’s up to parents to make decisions on behalf of their children.

Michelle Simon of Duluth is a licensed psychologist for Simon & Guthrie, a psychological consulting and arbitration firm. Her work focuses on children.

  Make healthy choices:

Health tips for the new year!

(Hermantown Star, Dec 18-22, 2008)



   Keep Business Positive

Published January 06 2009 Duluth News Tribune

Duluth News Tribune

   Angie's List makes Duluth debut

By: Patrick Garmoe, Duluth News Tribune

Angie’s List, which bills itself as the nation’s largest provider of ratings and reviews of local businesses, is adding Duluth to the more than 200 markets it covers.

The Web site allows individuals to post comments about local businesses in more than 425 categories, which members can then use when looking for a plumber, doctor or hair stylist, for example.“We want to be the place residents in Duluth turn to for advice on who to hire and who to avoid,” founder Angie Hicks said in a written statement.

In the reports, members describe their projects and whether they’d hire the companies again, and grade them. To generate reviews and build Duluth’s database, the Indianapolis-based company is offering free memberships for this year by going to or calling (888) 888-5478. The company’s services also are available over the phone.After the company has enough users in the Northland, probably late this year, the monthly rate will be $3, said Betsy Whitmore, an Angie’s List spokeswoman. 

Potential users voiced mixed opinions on the value of the service. Those most supportive tend to be people new to an area who don’t have a network of friends to make referrals. “It’s no better than your phonebook,” said Michelle Simon, a co-owner of both Guthrie Plumbing and Heating of Duluth and the Offices of Simon & Guthrie, which does family court arbitration and psychological consulting. Simon said because users tend not to post positive comments, online rating sites are often filled with comments by disgruntled people.  Whitmore countered that, saying the company has mechanisms to keep people from stacking the deck either for or against particular businesses.

The company also allows businesses with good ratings to advertise on its Web site and monthly magazine.  Though the names of the users are not posted, members can’t anonymously post complaints into Angie’s List.  When a company receives a bad rating, Angie’s List staff members contact both the individual and the company to try to reach a resolution.  If the issue is resolved, the negative rating won’t be posted, Whitmore said.  Simon said she finds good help for her home repair needs by asking for proof of a company’s liability insurance, proper licensures and references.

“If they can’t show you that, kick them out,” she said.