Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earl Wagner: Good kids and school officials, “You’ve got to be kiddin‘”

  Well, it’s been a long time since you have read any of my musings, but I am glad that the editors have given me the opportunity to again contribute some of my work to the Capital City Free Press. What a fast-paced year - it seems like only yesterday we celebrated the beginning of 2010. As for myself, I have had to overcome a few medical issues but thanks to God’s grace I’m still here.

  I’m not one known to be at a loss for words but there have been so many events occurring worthy of commentary that I have had a difficult time making decision on the matters. But as I recollect my thoughts and look at some of the issues in the news I am beginning to see a common thread being evidenced in some of the irrational, unkind and inhumane behavior that some adult members of our society have committed or facilitated against their neighbor(s), and worse, such behavior is looked upon as being acceptable by the community. Time and again, not a word of condemnation comes from the community, but when bad consequences become the result of such negative behavior both the community and those involved suddenly emulate those three famous anthropoids: “see no evil," “speak no evil,” and “hear no evil.”

  Case in point: I was shocked beyond belief when I heard the story of the young teenage girl who was bullied by schoolmates to the point of committing suicide. What made her story even more shocking was the fact that the school officials were fully aware of the situation and claimed there was nothing they could do or have done to prevent the bullying from escalating to the point that a young girl hung herself in order to stop the mental and physical distress. Various news stories, cable news reports and magazine articles give us a portrait of the cascade of taunts and bullying suffered by Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old student at South Hadley High in Massachusetts. What made this story more appalling was the fact that that Phoebe’s mother had informed school officials about the seriousness of the bullying prior to Phoebe’s act of suicide, and they apparently did nothing about it. Even more sickening was after Phoebe’s death, school officials shouted loud enough for all to hear that there was nothing they could have done about the bullying.

  Say what? Excuse me? Aren’t you supposed to be in charge? How can these school officials go home and sleep well at night? It’s been quite awhile since I was in high school, but in those days school officials had clout. Sure there were incidents of bullying but none of those escalated to this level. And I guarantee you if a parent came to our principal in regards to a situation like Phoebe’s, he would have stopped it 'real quick and in a hurry.' (The man was a retired army general, and he did not play.)

  To make matters worse, many defenders of these bullies continue to say how good these kids were. Good?  One of the definitions for ‘good’ is having desirable or positive qualities such as being honorable, just and right. Well, unless I’ve become illiterate in the last few minutes, all the behavior, words and actions of these bullies paint them far from being good. Which I guess brings me to my next observation: why is that when upper middle class kids get into trouble they are always “good kids?” Do they all live in Lake Wobegon?

  Let’s be real, folks, these kids were “the clique” and well-established at the school. Phoebe was pretty, new and a threat to their romantic relationships. So to put “Irish Phoebe” in her place, they bullied her to a point where she could not stand the torture anymore. So once her mother could not protect her and the school officials refused to protect her, Phoebe hung herself in a small stairwell in her home. Yet, even after Phoebe’s death some students have posted remarks online celebrating her demise. Geez, I wonder where these kids learned such behavior?

  All I can say is rest in peace, Phoebe, and may justice be served.

  About the author: Earl S. Wagner is a retired Air Force captain, ordained minister, and director of the Wagner Family Scholarship Fund.

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