Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The recent shootings at Chardon High School in Ohio....

This news has hit me especially hard given that my half sister (the good one) and my half bro both went there and graduated not so long ago as well as because I've walked those halls and almost was a student there myself years ago. Equally disturbing to me though are those who are crying for the (suspected) shooter - 17 year old T.J. Lane - to be put to death for his crimes before he's even been tried and found guilty. 

This isn't some monster we're talking about here, it's a 17 year old CHILD who, according to reports, was bullied relentlessly at school and was an outcast and a loner. As if that wasn't bad enough, his home life was in total shambles too. His dad has a rap sheet a mile long for charges including spousal abuse - T.J. apparently witnessed his dad beat his mom on many occasions - as well as attempted murder. I don't feel it's such a stretch to believe his dad probably abused T.J. as well given that the boy was removed from his family home and placed with his grandparents who he was currently residing with at the time of his arrest. Then we also find out that T.J. had been posting cryptic poems and messages on Facebook shortly before allegedly opening fire in Chardon's cafeteria a few days ago.

Of COURSE my heart weeps for the victims of this tragedy as well as for their families and friends but I also feel so badly for the kid accused of this crime. YES, what he did was so very, very wrong and YES he needs to be held accountable and punished in some way. But I just can't help but feel that sending this kid away to prison for life or, worse, putting him to death just is NOT the answer. Would it not be far better to put him into a place where he can serve out his punishment (if found guilty) and ALSO get the psychological help he so obviously seems to need?

So many involved in this have said, "We never saw this coming." Really? I find that hard to believe given the reports that this kid's appearance and behavior did a sudden 180, that the school KNEW there were issues at home and that he'd begun acting out to the point that they'd put him into a special program for kids with behavior problems and that several people had seen his cryptic (and eventually prophetic) posts on Facebook that alluded to the chaos going on inside of this poor kid. More to the point though, how many times have we seen this same scenario play out before and yet, in each instance, the same statement is made that no one ever saw this coming.

Just my opinion but I feel we, as a nation, SERIOUSLY need to crack down HARD on the issue of bullying. Simply stating that your school has a "zero tolerance" policy isn't enough. Do they honestly think that getting in trouble - IF caught - is enough to discourage these bullies from picking on their victims? It isn't. Just a few weeks ago I was walking my son into school and witnessed two kids picking on another kid. There were teachers standing a few feet away and, for the record, this school also has a zero tolerance policy and yet, bullying obviously still occurs. I made sure to report what I'd seen and followed up to make sure the issue had been handled but the point I'm trying to make here is that simply having a policy in place doesn't work. We need to do more. I think that if it takes having metal detectors in all our schools and police officers standing watch in every hallway, then that is what we need to do. 

Of course I also think that the solution starts at home. We as parents need to get involved. We need to have good communication with our kids, we need to be in touch with what's going on in their lives and teach them - by example - how to be kind, caring, empathetic people. We need to teach them that doing anything to cause another pain or discomfort is wrong, particularly when done in the name of "fun" or "laughs". I cannot tell you how many times I've heard parents say, when told about bullying, that "that's just how kids are" or who advise "just ignore it". I've also heard many say that it's "not their business" when they witness someone being abused or bullied. I couldn't disagree more.

Bottom line, bullying IS a real issue and can have devastating effects. Unless we start taking a stand against bullying and abuse and start getting involved and speaking out, tragedies like this will continue to occur.

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