updated 02/10/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/10/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

Our cover story on the murder of 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey (PEOPLE, Jan. 20) brought harsh criticism of beauty pageants for children, which some readers described as a tolerated form of child abuse.

Why are we in such a rush to push our girls into adult roles that they are not ready for? Perhaps JonBenét's participation in pageants didn't lead to her murder, but who can look at a picture of a 6-year-old dressed up as a Las Vegas showgirl without a sick feeling?
MARY SHELTON, Riverside, Calif.

There is a Jessica's Law to stop child pilots and a Megan's Law to stop child predators, so how about a JonBenét's Law saying no beauty pageants under the age of 16, when the contestants are old enough to understand what they are doing?
MARY GROFF, San Francisco

The Ramseys have suffered a tremendous loss, and their exploitation by the media is a disgrace. Isn't it about time we focused on finding the killer, instead of judging and tearing apart the family in their terrible time of need?
JOHN CAIN, Guilford, Conn.

I still suffer today from my mother's obsessive need to display me when I was 3½. I was well into adulthood before I realized how terrified and exposed I had felt. Parading children provocatively and thrusting them into adult sexuality has every bit as much impact as child molestation.

Shirley Temple was chubby. She didn't have any seductive smirks, she didn't wear adult makeup or earrings, her dance routines had no bump and grind, and she wore little-girl dresses. In any Little Miss pageant today, Shirley Temple would have bombed.
Park City, Utah

As the mother of a well-adjusted and poised 20-year-old daughter who, in 1983, at the age of 6, held the title Little Miss North Dakota, I'm very saddened by the emphasis on JonBenét Ramsey's pageant activities and the second-guessing of Patsy Ramsey's motivation in encouraging them. JonBenét wasn't murdered because she played dress-up. If that were the case, no little girl who performs in dance, gymnastics or baton recitals while costumed in leotards and frills would be safe. Pageant participation is not the villain, and looking for explanations beyond the fact that a depraved human being committed an act of violence on an innocent child is unfair and unproductive.
KERRI THORESON, Post Falls, Idaho

I am concerned about the media insinuating that her family might somehow be involved with JonBenét's death. Hiring a lawyer does not imply guilt; it simply means the Ramseys learned the lesson of Richard Jewell.
MARIE NELSON, Wichita, Kans.

I do not want to seem insensitive, but I resent the fact that JonBenét's death has received so much media coverage simply because she had rich parents and was afforded the opportunity of being a "little beauty." What about all the poor and "average-looking" children who have been viciously murdered? Do their deaths not warrant investigative scrutiny? I am dismayed that we live in a society where income, physical beauty and social status so strongly influence our reaction to a heinous crime.
RAMON CUEN, Tempe, Ariz.

As a pilot, I know Ron Middlekauff and Michael Kidd risked their lives, a $2 million helicopter and their jobs to save a dog they didn't even know. Their actions reinforce why I remain optimistic on the future of mankind. For every person who does serious wrong, there are many more like Ron and Michael.
DANNY W. POTE, Plano, Texas

Never have I been embarrassed to be Mexican-American—until I read how Oscar De La Hoya was treated in East L.A. at the Mexican Independence Day parade. Where is it written if Hispanics strive for a better life, they're forgetting their roots? Where is it written they must live in barrios all their lives? Why is it if we try to get ahead, we think we're "white?" I'm a manager in a large corporation and wouldn't be there today if I had the attitude those people have.
MARGO GARCIA, Santa Clara, Calif.

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