Monday, August 27, 2012

Where did we go wrong?

The first thing I read this morning was about a teenager being shot by another student on the first day of school in Baltimore County. I wonder if the victim was excited to head to school today, to see friends he hasn't seen all summer, to start new classes, to try out for a varsity sport and get ready for Homecoming. I even wonder if the shooter knew what he was going to do when he woke up this morning or if he had planned this act all summer. Did he feel bullied or threatened or just wondered what holding a gun would feel like?

Perry Hall High School is like many other high schools across America. It's located in a middle-class community and suffers from overcrowding. It has decent sports teams with an especially impressive baseball program. It boasts academic and art clubs, theater and dance. It was even where the 1987 version of Hairspray was filmed. And now it will forever be marked by a school shooting. The name of the victim has not been released as he is a minor, but I'm sure that he is loved by many people, probably a lot more people than he realizes. Classmates and teachers will worry until his status is released, and all of the parents who have students who attend Perry Hall will sigh in relief when they are able to see and hug their children again.

This was especially sad for me to read as just a few days ago, an honors student in Prince George’s County was killed in her home. I didn't know Amber Stanley, but I'm sure many of her classmates at Charles Herbert Flowers High School felt her absence when they returned to school the next day. After all, school has just started and they are already missing one of their own.

I can't help but remember the loss of one of my tutoring students to a senseless shooting almost two years ago. I often think about what Prince would be like today, how his family would be different, how his friends would be different. A shooting has far more victims than those who feel the impact of the bullet. Even a teen shooter represents a life lost as s/he will more often then not be tried and sentenced as an adult, end up committing suicide or spend the remainder of her/his life under psychiatric care rather then finishing school, getting a job, having a family of her/his own.

Too often we take children for granted. We think of them as future resources or in terms of their potential instead of looking at what they offer and accomplish in our communities today. We lump all teens together and call them lazy or ungrateful, that we adults were a better version of them in our day. In essence, we are teaching them that they do not deserve respect, encouragement or our investment. It's no wonder teens see themselves that way and treat other teens with the same contempt.

I'm not a parent and I no longer work with teens on a daily bases, but when I wake up to a news story like this, I can't help but feel like I have failed. Like we all have failed.

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