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GUEST EDITORIAL: After 35 years, longtime columnist writing last piece for The News-Sentinel

Bob Rinearson

This is most likely the last guest column I will ever write for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.

This comes after nearly three and a half decades of putting my insights and opinions on paper and submitting them to the News-Sentinel. For most of that time it was still the afternoon newspaper whose common sense and conservative values help to balance the leanings of that other publication.

Starting out, I wrote primarily from my experiences of working in the juvenile division of the Department of Correction with young males who had been adjudicated from all across Indiana for crimes they had committed in their communities. I often wrote from a perspective that stood against what was popular opinion and pseudo-psychology, the kind of stuff that would be accepted by the mainstream media, and those figures seeking a name for themselves.

The first piece I ever wrote for the NS was an article that straightforwardly stated “Kids Do Lie”. For those who might remember, those were the days when numerous “child experts” were claiming that children were incapable of lying. Of course I actually worked with children who had learned to lie at very early ages, and did so often in order to get themselves out of trouble.

In the late eighties, something happened in Fort Wayne that reflected a trend that was evolving all across the United States. Organized criminal street gangs were recruiting young males and involving them in everything from murder to drug sales. At the time in Fort Wayne, the gangs we were seeing were either directly connected or inspired by the Chicago street gangs including Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords and the Latin Kings.

I made something of a name for myself because early on I had witnessed the gang involvement of youth who were incarcerated. Because of what I’d learned, I wrote about it. In dealing with kids as young as 12 who were dealing crack cocaine on the streets of Fort Wayne, I wrote about that as well. And as I worked with kids who were the victims of failed parents, unorthodox influences and sexual predators, that also I put into words. I also wrote about law enforcement, abortion and faith. I even wrote about cow flatulence once.

In 1996, Fort Wayne Community Schools announced the creation of a conflict mediation program. I applied and found myself picked as a finalist. However, as others were hired and positions filled at the various schools, I had not received a call. Until one afternoon the phone rang and the secretary for the deputy superintendent asked if I could come to the fourth floor of the Grile Building the next Sunday afternoon. I said I could and arrived to meet with him and the principal of one of the six high schools that existed in the district at the time.

The principal made it clear that I had was being considered for the mediator’s position. But then asked if I would be willing to give up my public talks as well as stop writing the guest columns. As it was explained, because I wrote extensively about gangs and juvenile criminal behavior, they felt if I was to be hired my writings might reflect negatively on the school.

My reply was quick. I couldn’t do that. As I gave my response I knew that I was probably forfeiting a professional opportunity to expand my reach to young people. Fortunately, I received a call the next day that the principal wanted to hire me, believing my experience with at-risk youth would be an asset. When I left that position to accept the position as FWCS Transportation Supervisor of Safety and Student Management four years later, I was told that I had proved my worth. To this day I remain very beholding to those who had confidence in me.

I continued to draw upon my experiences to write those guest columns that appeared semi-regularly in the News-Sentinel. In a piece that was published on Nov. 21, 1990, I wrote “We can be tough, but we can also be fair. We can chew a kid out, but we must also be able to listen. We must be structured and at the same time be able to provide flexibility when called for. We must not be intimidated or afraid to make decisions that may cause personal pain or sorrow, as long as we also provide avenues for success.”

Over the years, I was fortunate to have received kind words, calls or letters from people who had read my pieces. But there were also those who respectfully disagreed with my positions. And of course there were the trolls who had no problem tagging me with just about any type of insult imaginable. But I’m a conservative and I understand it goes with the territory.

I am immeasurably appreciative to everyone who ever worked at the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel over the years. And in particular, to Kevin Leininger and Leo Morris.

And I will continue to write at bobrinearson.com/What About Bob. As Ernest Hemingway once said “Once writing has become your major vice and your greatest pleasure, only death can stop it.”