Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Epic Fail

The other morning when I was getting ready for work a story on the “Today Show” caught my ear. A 15-year-old girl named Josie Lou Ratley had been attacked by a friend of a friend over a text message and had been beaten so badly by him that doctors had placed her in a medically-induced coma.

Apparently the attacker, also 15, had become enraged over text messages in which Josie made a disparaging remark about his brother, who committed suicide five months ago. He was so enraged, that the high school student, who had never met Josie before, went to her middle school after telling his friends was going to “snap her neck.” When he arrived at the school, his girlfriend pointed Josie out and then she stood there and watched as the boy kicked and stomped on Josie’s head with steel-toed boots.

Do you remember that boy who was set on fire by his “friends” after a dispute about a video game a few months ago? Come to find out, the boy attends the same Florida middle school as Josie. Normally this would led me to think, “What the hell is going on in Florida?” But this issue hits much, much closer to home.

Just last week the daughter of my best friend was attacked after classes at the middle school that she, my oldest son and my nephew attend in our small, sleepy Midwestern town. Jessica’s attacker – a boy in her grade she had never had any contact with – punched her so hard on the side of her head that her earring became embedded in her ear and had to be surgically removed the next day.

In light of went down in Florida, you might jump to the conclusion that Jessica got off easy. But the bottom line in all three incidents is the same: A student should be able to go to school and receive an education without fear of being attacked. Pre-teens and young teenagers should NOT be treating each other this way.

Middle schoolers have been horrible to each other since the beginning of time. The rush of hormones combined with the ability to put words together in new and more hurtful ways can only lead to problems. Maybe one of our biggest failures as a society is that we’ve brushed off middle school bullying as “kids being kids”. But just because pre-teens and young teens have traditionally been terrible to each other doesn’t mean we should accept it as a fact.

I know it’s just not done to “blame the victim” but Josie was completely wrong to play the dead brother card. There’s probably nothing in the world that could have hurt the boy more. But hurt feelings are a world away from disfigured ears, burned skin and closed-head injuries. What’s changed that’s making these students commit such horrific crimes toward each other?

When I expressed shock that a boy would attack a girl in our storybook little village, my husband laughed. “There are turds everywhere,” he told me, and he’s right. No matter where you go you’re bound to find a group of bottom feeders – whether it’s a small Midwestern town or Beverly Hills.

If we could somehow weed out this sludge from our schools things might be better, but in the words of the sheriff investigating the case in Florida, “We can’t arrest our way out of a problem, we have to start early.”

He couldn’t be more right. Young children are generally taught “the golden rule” – treat other people the way you would want to be treated. The simplest way to turn an innocent child into an empathetic teenager is to continually hammer home that same principle. The most important thing you can teach your children is common human decency.

So what’s the solution? Should we replace math class with morals class? As soon as “character building” is uttered by school districts, adults generally go a little crazy. “That’s the job of the parents,” they cry. But the terrible truth is that for these kids – these horrible miscreants who would stomp another child’s head, or light their classmate on fire, or stand by ambivalently while someone is critically injured – the parents just aren’t doing their job. The “golden rule” is missing from these kids’ lives.

It’s easy to point fingers, but in these situations I truly have a hard time blaming anyone else. Once you bring a child into the world, your number one priority from that second on is to make sure that baby turns into a decent human being.

For the most part it’s not a terribly hard task. And here’s an easy way of gauging how well you’re doing: If your kid ends up on the morning news for repeatedly stomping someone's head, YOU HAVE FAILED.


Brianne said...

How upsetting! Saying this disgusts me would be an understatement. It terrifies me! What's sad is that the children of the parents who are not failing, OUR children, will be the one's to suffer from other parents failure.

Makes me want to lock my kids in the house and never leave!!

Oh, and I totally think that there should be a morals class. Obviously it's one of the many things that this country has lost along the way.

Yankee Girl said...

This makes me want to turn into a violent person against those idiot parents, but like you said and I believe, violence is not the answer.

It makes me sick that things like this are happening. And I cannot believe that people would actually do these things OR stand by and watch. Something really needs to be done. It's sad and scary and I feel like it will never end.

You are right. Those parents have failed. They have failed at being decent human beings, they have failed at parenting, and if they say they never saw this coming or that their Johnny is normally such a good kid, then they have failed at knowing their child.

Great post.

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Law Momma said...

It terrifies me to think of sending my sweet little boy to school these days. I just don't understand why this keeps happening but SOMETHING has to be done.

Great post.

Linda said...

I 100% agree. Where are their %&*@ parents?!?! I have been blessed enough to have my kids in private school through the 8th grade. And I TALK to my kids and know what they are doing and who they are with. Not that they are perfect. But I know they would not be stomping on some kid somewhere! Thanks for sharing!

Annie @ astonesthrowfrominsanity said...

Amen sister! You hit the nail on the head!

mrs. parker said...

Such a good post- it makes me want to stand up and cheer!!

My second daughter (i am your opposite- 4 daughters and no pets, lol) is dealing with bullies now- it hasn't gotten physical but how obnoxious these young children- they're 12 can be - is SO unsettling. they can't have gotten this way with a loving support system athome that is for sure!!

Heather said...

Cyndi... Well said.

Rebekah said...


JenJen said...

Fantastic post. Gosh I love visiting your blog.

Wanna know something scary? I went to pick up my four-year old from preschool on Monday. As the teacher turned to hand me the sign-out board, a witnessed a little boy literally bitch-slap the little girl he was playing with. It wasn't one of those average toddler smacks....he hauled off and beat her in the face like Charlie Sheen. It was horrific. I screamed only seconds before the little girl did.

This kid couln't have possibly known how to hit like that since birth. My daughter came home from school yesterday (Wednesday) with marks on her arm and bruises on her legs. Apparently this boy attacked her.

You stated we, as parents, should be teaching our kids at a young age how to treat other people. I hate to say it, but on my military post, the parents sinmply aren't doing that. Four-year olds shouldn't know how to beat people like domestic abusers. It's horrible. More light needs to be placed on bullies and children with violent behavior. Your post is a wonderful example of such awareness.

Amy said...

Ya know, I have been through this with one of my own children, and the school districts like to cover up the bully problem as if it doesn't exist!! My son was bruised, tripped, slapped, verbally abused you name it and nothing was done to the child causing the abuse. After 3 years of this, I waited until he did something again and made a police report and filed charges. In a matter of 15 minutes I had everyone from security at the middle school, to members of the Board of Education calling me.

The fact is that no one will make sure that your child is safe except you the parent!!

Text messaging is a BAD BAD BAD thing and causes more trouble than can possibly be imagined. It can go to levels that none of us parents really want to child can really get into some trouble with those phones, and text messages. They can destroy their collage careers....

By the way, In order to get the bully to stop, after almost 7 years of it... he pushed my son to far one day and my 200 lb high school son (with perfect behavior) PUNCHED him one time in the face and lets just say the kid never did it again.

There are those horrible kids that pray on the nice kids assuming that they are weak. When actually the bullies are the weak ones and sometimes just need a lesson or two to understand.

Lanita Moss said...

We had our daughter in an upper middle class suburban elementary school where I was shocked at how mean the girls were to each other. I kept saying that 3rd grade is the new 6th. We moved out to a small rural town and the 11 year olds act like normal 11 year olds...not 16 year olds. The school also has a no tolerance bullying policy...I was impressed. I am so glad we moved out of suburbia.

Great post!


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