Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another troubled teenager shatters hopes, dreams, lives

Some random thoughts (subject to change) in the immediate aftermath of the Chardon High shooting that claimed the lives of three students and left two others wounded:

–Young people who attempt to solve their problems by such violent means with a potential for massacre almost always seem to be members of dysfunctional families and are themselves victims of abuse. At this writing, we know the shooter, T.J. Lane, was a quiet loner with divorced parents and whose father was convicted of felonious assault. In the next days and weeks, we will know more about the young man’s obviously troubled life and what led him to his infamous attack on Chardon students.

–I think we’ll find out that T.J. Lane left clues – plenty of them – but no one seemed to notice or didn’t take them seriously. All of us have to do a better job identifying troubled young people. And that means parents have to be parents to their kids, not their friends.

–Our young people are our first line of defense against such tragedies. We have to get through to them to pay attention to their classmates’ postings on social media and those off-the-cuff statements that seem to carry a sinister, evil tone. For goodness sakes, they need to say something to someone in authority.

–With schools facing significant budget cuts because of the dire state of Ohio’s finances, the jobs of administrators, guidance counselors, nurses, custodians and, yes, teachers are on the line as districts tighten their belts. At the same time, our schools are being asked to assume more parental responsibility, including policing students’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, while spending enormous energy on the Ohio Graduation Tests. Chardon Superintendent Joseph Bergant said all that means little if we can’t provide a safe environment for our children. He’s right, of course.

–Our districts’ staff members immediately and unselfishly transform themselves into heroes in the face of danger. Many districts have teams of “first responders” who react in emergencies. I’m not sure about Chardon, but assistant football coach Frank Hall, who chased the gunman from the school, and teacher Joseph Ricci, who tended to a wounded student, belong on such a team. I think it’s safe to say that neither are overpaid educators.

–Having spent time as a substitute teacher in classrooms in New Philadelphia and Dover, the job of “teacher” is not an easy one. I have a renewed respect for teachers and the job they do day in and day out. And yet parents continue to criticize the teachers rather than give their kids a good swift kick in their butts when it’s needed. Don’t deny that fact. I’ve seen the angry posts on Facebook from parents who think a particular teacher has done his/her kid wrong.

–Remember the father who filmed himself pumping his daughter’s laptop computer full of bullets to teach her a lesson? Well, if there was a lesson to be learned it had something to do with not respecting a firearm and that frivolous gunplay is fairly stupid. It was the wrong message to send to young people in a number of ways. I apologize for bringing this up again. I just can’t get over that guy. I wonder if T.J. Lane saw the video.
–I do feel for the parents whose children were in Chardon High when T.J. Lane started firing his gun. I can only imagine the terror parents felt not knowing whether their child was a victim. Losing a child is every parent’s fear and it stays a lifetime. A couple of hours after the shooting, Superintendent Bergant advised parents to hug their children. I thought that was pretty good advice, although I think most parents did that without the prodding.

–Several media outlets pointed out that deaths from guns is way down in the nation’s schools since the early ’90s because of security steps taken by school districts and law enforcement. Somehow, I don’t find solace in that fact. I think three deaths – such as that of Chardon’s Daniel Parmertor, Russell King Jr. and Demetrius Hewlin who were felled by T.J. Lane bullets – are three too many.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter (dfarrell_dover).

No comments: