Violence, bullying and relationships are all related. I wonder what would happen if there were some strategic problem solving skills in the schools that could stem conflict that actually worked. I wonder if there would still be so much violence. There have always been fights at schools but students are resorting to tactics that are landing them in jail or worse, prison for years.
I put a lot of this on parents, especially those who promote the use of violence to solve problems or constantly blame others for their child’s behavior.
I thought the best person to ask about “drama” would be my daughter who recently transitioned from middle school to high school. Luckily for me, she is doing well. I knew that I had given her the tools to be successful. I knew that she was not a bully and if she was, I would have addressed it quickly.
The stories that she tells me about fighting all have to do with drama. A lot of young people do not realize that bad behavior on television, is still bad behavior. You cannot get away with half of the things that others do while adding “drama” for the ratings. Reality television is not real.
I was at the movies recently, I saw four young women that looked like middle schoolers. Two of the middle schoolers sat in seats higher than the other two.
I unfortunately was sitting in between the pairs of girls. The girls in front of me were giggling at every joke and seemed to be minding their business. The pair on top were snickering and making comments about the two sitting in front of me.
I started to glare at the girls behind me, who had no problem disrupting the entire theatre. I was thinking this is not the time or the place to start a fight. They seemed to simmer down a bit. However, about three quarters of the way through the movie one of the girls from the top came bounding down the steps and began spewing profanity at the girls in front of me. I do not know what went on before that but I could care less, she was in a public place. The other girl from the above stayed seated. The two girls below stayed seated.
I was concerned that they were going to all get up and brawl in the bathroom or the hallway.
However, the main troublemaker came back, spewed some more profanity, bounded up the steps and went back to her seat. It was relatively quiet for a while.
The amount of aggression that the girl who went out the theatre was palpable. I enjoyed the movie and when the credits started to roll the two girls on top left before the lights were turned on. The two girls in front of me tentatively rose from their seats and disappeared around the corner.
For about an hour, I wondered what might have happened. I wondered how do you stop girls from fighting each other? Young people are becoming more and more vicious.
In April, 17-year-old, Ta’Jae Warner was beat in the head until she was unconscious in Brooklyn, New York. She was attacked after walking her 12-year-old brother to the store. She was in a coma on life support, she died after being taken of life support. Sarina Agard-Forde, 18, is now being charged with a felony and misdemeanor assault after the attack, according to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. This was a tragic occurrence. I prayed there would not be another murder like this. However, my prayers were not answered.
While still reeling from Ta’Jae’s death, a month later another teenage died as a result of a brutal attack.
Below is a statement from the Delaware Department of Justice on criminal charges associated with the death of Amy Joyner-Francis from Wilmington, Delaware:
Monday, May 9th, 2016, the Department of Justice prosecutors and a Wilmington Police Department detective met with the mother and older brother of Amy Joyner-Francis to discuss with them the charges that would be brought against three Howard High School students in connection with the incident that led to the death of Amy Joyner-Francis on April 21, 2016.
The individuals responsible for Amy Joyner-Francis’s death are minors, but they must be held accountable for their actions. DOJ’s goal in making a charging decision was to ensure that those persons responsible for Amy’s death are held responsible to the maximum degree permissible by Delaware law.
In reviewing all of the evidence gathered to date, there were two facts about the case that were significant in determining the charges that could be brought. First, the Medical Examiner’s office has ruled that Amy’s cause of death was sudden cardiac death due to large atrial septal defect with a contributing factor of physical and emotional stress due to physical assault. The autopsy did not detect any internal injuries or significant blunt force injuries. In layman’s terms, the Medical Examiner determined that Amy died from a cardiac incident that she was vulnerable to because of a pre-existing heart condition, but the cardiac incident would not have occurred if she had not been assaulted.
The second fact that was significant in making a charging decision is that all of the evidence indicates that although three girls were involved in planning a confrontation with Amy on April 21, only one girl – Trinity Carr – actually hit Amy. Therefore, the charges against two of the three girls involved in the incident do not involve actually striking Amy.
Based on these facts and other facts gathered from the investigation, Trinity Carr (age 16) was charged earlier today with Criminally Negligent Homicide. Criminally Negligent Homicide is punishable by up to eight years in prison. DOJ will also seek permission from Family Court to have Trinity Carr declared non-amenable to Family Court proceedings because of the severity of her offense, and tried as an adult in the Superior Court.
The other two girls, Zion Snow and Chakeira Wright, were charged with criminal conspiracy in connection with the incident in the Howard High bathroom. Delaware law does not allow for a charge of conspiracy to commit negligent homicide. Therefore, Snow and Wright were charged with third degree criminal conspiracy, which is the highest level of criminal conspiracy allowed by law given the facts of this case. Third degree criminal conspiracy is punishable by up to one year in prison. Because neither Snow nor Wright have any prior juvenile arrests or convictions, and because they did not physically assault Amy, they will be tried as juveniles in Family Court.
Keeping Kids Safe
Keepschoolssafe.org lists some facts on teen fighting:
Why do some teens fight?
When junior and senior high students around the nation were asked to identify the causes of the most recent fights they had witnessed, most frequent responses were:
Someone insulted someone else or treated them disrespectfully (54 percent).
There was an ongoing feud or disagreement (44 percent).
Someone was hit, pushed, shoved, or bumped (42 percent).
Someone spread rumors or said things about someone else (40 percent).
Someone could not control his or her anger (39 percent).
Other people were watching or encouraging the fight (34 percent).
Someone who likes to fight a lot was involved (26 percent).
Someone didn't want to look like a loser (21 percent).
There was an argument over a boyfriend or girlfriend (19 percent).
Someone wanted to keep a reputation or get a name (17 percent).5
24 hours a day
Conflicts and violence are now being video taped. As parents, we think that schools should be a safe place for our children.
Before 24-hour media, cell phones and the internet, fighting was considered as some rite of passage. There are also video cameras everywhere now. Even if there is not one on school grounds, the gas station across the street may have them. It is no longer always he said she said or solely by witness. Now the trophy video your friend shot or the video bystanders shot is getting individuals arrested.
Then the role of the school, parental liability, the role of law enforcement and more importantly the duty of teachers to intervene in school fights must be taken into consideration.
The “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls” mentality needs to be corrected in order to protect other students from acts of violence. More and more children are being killed or seriously injured as a result. We as parents need to teach our children that there are better ways to spend their lives than in prison for life.
No matter where you live, school violence seems to have become more prevalent. Parents become more vigilant. We are child’s first teacher. Our children need guidance. We need to pay attention. Counselors and teachers be mindful of those who seem to cause more problems.
One of my reasons for writing and printed one of the longest letters that I have written, is because this could happen anywhere. When using terms like “criminal conspiracy” and “tried as an adult”, it becomes a very serious issue.
My heart goes out to all of the families involved. Either way there is going to be a loss. Either way should have gone another way but it did not. I am not sure if people have become blind to indicators of bad behavior or if they just think it is “child’s play”.
No matter what position we are in, children need love and care coupled with encouragement. The rewards will be less violence and better performance. I am not saying that it will work for all children but we must start somewhere. They need to be busy with sports, reading, studying or other extra curricular activities in their life. If it is not from their parents, open your heart to encourage and praise. Schools need to hire more with more training in social work and psychology. Children should feel comfortable going to school. We can all take part in making a difference.
This column was printed in the May 15, 2016 - May 28, 2016 edition.