a fatal shooting at my son's school

jubileejJanuary 24, 2007

My community is still reeling from an early morning stabbing of a 15 yr. old boy by another student at the high school my son attends. They opened up the school over the week-end for people to gather, and there have been 2 candlelight vigils, organized by students.

The victim (from the news reports) sounded like a great kid - sweet and respectful of others. The perp (age 16) had psychological problems and his occasional perturbing one line comments were just passed over by other kids until after the event. He blurted out when police came for him, "I did it, I did it" "I hope he will be OK, I don't want him to die!" He will be tried as an adult.

What a tragedy for both sets of parents. I don't know how the inner cities cope with the more frequent occurance of these things.

A prayer request for all concerned for those of you who pray.

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Oops, I meant a fatal stabbing.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 3:29AM
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I was just reading yesterday's Herald which featured a picture of the 2 boys. My heart is breaking for both families.

I hope there is an investigation into what the school knew & didn't know beforehand (evidently alot of classmates said 'the perp' would make really bizarre & violent comments?). If this young man had an IEP he, more than likely, saw a counselor at school. Did sessions include helping this young man cope with any bullying & teasing he may have experienced? - It was pretty obvious this young man was 'different' and we know what that means in terms of adolescent socialization & integration.

I also wonder if this tragedy had taken place in the inner city, if 'the perps' mental/emotional disabilities would have been focused on so quickly. It seems in a sense folks are validating the killing - people that live in such a good community can't be prone to violence, there has to be some medical issue.

In any event jubileej, I join you in prayer for the family & friends of these two families. My thoughts are with them.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 6:52AM
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Hi Paulines,

The principal has set up a tip line now to make it easier for students to report any out of line comments or behaviors of fellow students in the future. (I just hope it doesn't get abused!)

He is also going to study how to improve security for the program which opporates within the school for psychologically disturbed special needs kids. It really does bother me that 1) the school's manual doesn't mention its existence in the school, and 2) that students with significant behavior disturbed histories could be allowed to roam around the building without personal aides with them.

You raise a good point, that suburbanites are in denial about the basic dark side in all of us, however, I do think that the boy's condition could have played a big role in this - not that Aspbergers kids are more prone to violence, experts say they aren't, but they do have trouble controlling inhibitions and interacting socially in appropriate ways. Being high end, they get less sympathy than other autistic students would, and can end up avoided or shunned.

My own son has stayed true to a friend with the condition, but at times it has not been easy for him. Their friends don't want to be associated with the inappropriate remarks they can make and tend to withdraw. It can be a real vicious self-esteem circle. (Happily, this friend's mom has given him such wonderful input, and taken him to therapies and enrolled him in activities which have boosted his confidence that he has really blossomed into a fine and competent and gracious young man!)

Well, thanks for your prayers and comments. See you Saturday!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 11:20AM
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I read the articles in the Sunday Globe and what jumped out at me was that the family does not live in the same town as the HS. I think they live west of 495. Obviously their town thought he had enough issues to qualify for the HS special ed program in another town.

Pauline, I'm sure people are very glad that it was a one time freak event and not a crime associated with drugs or gangs. Yes, the paper did mention that the special ed program came with a bunch of specialists. Obviously the system failed to detect any issues this kid was having.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 11:25AM
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As the mother of a 5 year old with Asperger's my heart truly breaks for both families. I pray too for the other kids at the school who feel the emotional impact of this tragedy.
We live in a somewhat affluent area, tight knit island community and yesterday older DS was sent home as the high school was closed because of a bomb threat. We all want to know our children are safe when we send them to school and unfortunately that may not be the case.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 11:37AM
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As a mother of a 22-year-old son with Autism I think there is more to this story then is being told. I do not condone violence of any kind (read the spanking post) and raised my Autistic son to deal with problems without doing anything physical.

If he was bullied, and teasing is a form of being bullied, then he was to walk away and go to a teacher and report it. When he was in JR. HS, 3 "normal" boys took his school pack when he was in the bathroom and tossed it into the garbage bin behind the cafeteria after locking him in a dirty stall. He was (still is) terribly germ phobic and everyone knew that. It was after school so he was there for a long time before someone found him. It undid a lot of progress he had made and was emotionally upset many months afterwards and to this day has problems using public restrooms.

The boys were well-liked and popular who got great grades and were on all kinds of sports teams. And they lived in very good neighborhoods. When asked why they did it, they said they thought it would be funny.

I am not defending this terrible crime and my heart goes out to both parents, but like I said before there is more between the lines. We, the public, never get the full story.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 1:48PM
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Umm, I live in a very gritty city, and actually, I don't recall ever reading about student stabbings (or shootings) occurring on any of my city's campuses, at least during school hours. I HAVE, however, read about stabbings in local suburban schools. This is not to say that there aren't fist fights/shoving matches in the city schools and that violence doesn't occur on city streets in a few neighborhoods. I just wanted to defend our maligned inner city schools.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 2:04PM
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I'm sure this boy experienced teasing from his peers, everyone does at some time, but I think the main issue is that this boy had been making comments about weapons & hurting someone ... no one thought this was important enough to report to a teacher/adult.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 4:52PM
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I'm going to chime in with the other parents of children with special needs -- They are often the brunt of so much teasing and bullying, and are generally the least able to cope, emotionally.

You can bet that this attack did not come entirely out of the blue, and odds are good that the student who was stabbed did something that was perceived by the autistic student as terribly hurtful. It could have been as 'stupid prank-like' as what happened to Aptos's son. Or it could have been a long-term campaign of bullying and intimidation that would have had any kid in desparation. But kids with Asperger's Syndrome are no more "psychotic" than any other child.

Yes, the boy probably made 'strange' comments -- but they often don't mean anything. Truly. My own son (with a similar disability) often repeats quotes from TV in bizarrly inappropriate circumstances. Sometimes these mutterings do have real meaning - but for a typical kid to report it would have meant admitting that he/she actually listened to the 'freak' kid (their perception, not mine) and took his comments seriously. Then the teachers or counselors would have had to try to dig into the issues and see what was up. Odds are great that a teen with Asperger's would have had a very difficult time explaining coherently what his emotional problems were.

It's a very, very sad situation. I hope the prosecutors will consider the boy's disability with compassion and understanding when trying him, and not put on a "tough on crime" show for the voting public.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 9:57PM
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Hi again jubileej, I think you've touched on a very important point, also. That being, the perpetrator was very high functioning. Imo, that can be a tough nut when it comes to HS socialization and education. These kids straddle the thin line between 'normal' and disabled, between 'weirdo' and accepted.

Most HS students would never dream of bullying or teasing a CLEARLY disabled person, but there are many that feel that a student who's a bit 'off' is fair game.

Educators/administrators aren't eager to spend their special ed $$$ on 'borderline' kids and many, many times just don't seem able to grasp the importance (yes, a bit of sarcasm there) of prescribing appropriate services carried out by qualified personnel for these kids.

These things coupled with the many times skewed perceptions, impulsiveness and reativity of 'borderline' kids, need to be accessed and addressed by the educational system.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 8:18AM
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Paulines, that is so true. In a pendulum swing away from the high amount of dollars spent by local municipalities on our children with special needs, the "high end" kids got ditched. I had to pay a lot out of pocket and take multiple out-of-town round trips after school to get my son's physical therapy needs met when he was in grade school because he was high end. (Part of why my remodeling went on hold for so long.)

BTW, to others posting here, I hope I didn't manage to do the very thing I would not want to, by commenting upon the perp's Aspberger's. My son's friend with the condition actually ended up becoming a role model that I would point to for my son, because of his deep consideration for other's feelings and his gracious ways. It was a journey for him to get to that point - but he is truly a shining light!

As far as speculation as to whether the murdered boy had done something to provoke this student (and most of us do wonder about these things, I think), God only knows, but I think it highly unlikely, given the profile that has emerged of the victim. He seems like he was a sweet, cheerful,and unassuming boy from all that has been said. The perpetrator has been said to have boasted to a group of students discussing number of "kills" on video games that he had actually tried to kill someone. No one knew what to say to that comment, and passed it off as one of those grandiose inappropriate remarks, which is why an anonymous tip line could be invaluable to collect such patterns.

Well, this is getting long, so I will sign off. Jubilee

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 9:32AM
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My two cents:

Violence happens in all large schools and all kids, whatever their mental health or developmental issues, have the potential for violent or negligent acts that can result in death or damage to themselves or other students. This is not a "urban" vs "suburban" issue and its not even a "good kids" vs "bad kids" issue. Nice kids injure *themselves* all the time, nice kids despair about their b+ grade and kill themselves, nice kids get drunk and drive to endanger. On an even sadder note nice, suburban kids routinely bully and injur other kids, especially outsider, non-white, non-normal, or just plain female kids and its never reported to teachers or parents. How many nice suburban highschool girls have been assaulted or raped by nice, suburban, jocks?And how many of those rapes ever get reported? Violence and secrecy about violence is nothing new, even in nice suburban schools.

This case made me think about something else, though. To my mind violent acts by a determined psychotic individual, and violence in general in large groups of kids, can't be entirely done away with. But any particular instance of violence by a teenager who is not determined could probably have been deterred or delayed until the sparking incident blew over. What deterrence requires is some serious structural attention to the setting of violence in advance. In this case my feeling is that if there is no history of violence in the school and no history of violence between other kids and this new kid the issue is one of induction. I don't think that schools have the time, money, or ability to truly induct and educate all their students into expected civil behavior. I noticed instantly that the first thing that was reported is that the school doesn't have metal detectors. I don't think metal detectors deter anything anyway but I think a more important gate keeping function is for schools to realize that new students are very vulnerable and their vulnerability makes them potentially dangerous.

A school is a "total institution" like a prison. What that means is that the institution surrounds and controls the individual, setting the terms for interaction (For good or ill) and that for the individual the institution presents an overwhelming monolithic force. Prisons, for good reasons, have systems for inducting new prisoners into the prison: letting them ease slowly into the new rules, special rooms, floors, work assignments etc... I"m not saying any of that works in prisons, but at least they have a recognizable model in which newcomers aren't just left to flounder. In my experience of large schools they totally lack a serious community building, integrative model for new students and families. They don't work hard enough to mainstream new kids: to make sure they feel secure, to civilize them (if necessary) to help them understand the norms of their new environment and they don't work hard enough to make the old students responsible for the welfare of the new students. If the older students/regular students had been part of an official welcoming committee the whole snitching on the new student thing wouldn't be an issue--they would have been working with the new student as well as with the faculty as a kind of team.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 1:55AM
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Hi abfab!

Let's see, aren't you on our New England gathering list? Anyway, you raise a good point about assimilation of newcomers, no matter what program they are in.

My heart used to ache when I was a nurse's aide at an understaffed nursing home. How I longed to acclimate the new patients, but they were just shown their rooms and left to their own devices, though I think there have been many excellent reforms since those days.

I went to a meeting regarding the situation tonite, but am too sleepy now to continue posting. Hope to see you Sat.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 3:56AM
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Hey jubileej,

I think I will be at the gathering--if my *&^%$ blessed family can handle a few hours without mommy holding their hands. Daughter 1 down with cough and cold, husband down with something mysterious for three weeks, and daughter 2 finishing up a course of strep. We have a little friend overnighting tonight, and my twin seven year old nieces coming on saturday night. I figured that sneaking out in the middle of the morning to boston was just the ticket. Actually, I planned to jump out th ewindow a few days ago but being on the ground floor figured it wouldn't really help.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 7:45AM
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Ha Ha! Go for it girl! Bundle up and make a dash! I myself had best throw something in the crockpot for my 4:30 meeting and "get on down the road".

See ya :-)

    Bookmark   January 27, 2007 at 10:03AM
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I feel like an idiot. I didn't realize you were the julie I'd been talking to on this thread when I saw you at the lunch! I think I'm missing some brain part that allows you to play those logic games they use in the LSATS--you know the ones that go "There are three bouquets of flowers. Two have red flowers and one has white flowers..." I felt the same way at the lunch. I couldn't summon up the names of posters, their kitchens, or the threads I'd encountered them on at all. I'm sorry we didn't get to sit at the same end of the table, I had so much I wanted to talk to you about. Well, maybe next time. When I'm back in my house I'm determined to host a get together in my new kitchen but maybe that is like saying "when my ship comes in" or "when I win the lottery." I hope I get to see you again in real life.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 10:47AM
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julie - I have to echo what abfab said. It was only when I went to post about the get together that I realized you have posted about the school shooting. I know at the lunch when you said the town you were from I subliminally did a double take but didn't quite go conscious about it - there was definitely something tugging at the back of my mind, but the conversation went on to something else.

What a tragedy on all sides. I would have liked to talk to you in person about it, but this forum doesn't seem to be the place for me to discuss. Maybe at the next gathering. I hope the meetings, etc. are helping and you and your neighbors and especially those families closely involved are doing some healing.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 10:13AM
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Hi K and E! (I don't recall if you have shared your first names as I have on this forum, so I'll leave it at intitials for now.)

I, too, very much want to get back together! Sorry I had to leave early, as it sounded like you guys continued to have a grand time afterward. I, too, was sorry I never got around to reviewing everyone's threads prior to the meeting. It didn't matter, though - we had a great time together.

Actually, when I first arrived and we were waiting at the door, the subject came up briefly among the first 4 of us. If you want to e-mail me, feel free. And if your "ship does come in - know how that goes" that would be way cool to see your kitchen!


    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 11:18AM
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