Thursday, October 15, 2009

Playground Bullies have Morphed into our Worst Nightmare

Michael Brewer, a 15 year old boy from Deerfield Beach, Florida, was purposely set on fire by several classmates between 13 and 15 years old. When classmates tried to steel his father's bike from him, he didn't threaten the kids, he didn't spread viral, internet rumors about them, Michael Brewer responded in an appropriate manner, filing a report with the police. He 'followed the rules' of society. Sadly, Michael's mature response to having his property threatened was the catalyst to his being in an incubated and painful state in a hopsital bed. Every school has had the challenge of dealing with 'bullies.' Kids who can't express their feelings verbally and resorted to pushing and shoving in line or pushing down a kid on the playground when they lost the game. Or the lunchroom bully, someone who didn't have as much as others, and vents their frustrations and jelousy by taking food from those less vocal. Watching the evening news, could make a parent nostalgic for those days; when a parent's worst fear was their child would miss the bus, or a schoolmate behave hurtfully towards their child. Five teenage boys, the youngest barely a teen at 13, targeted Michael; they called him a snitch. These boys plotted, planned and attacked Michael by dousing Michael with rubbing alcohol and setingt him on fire! If this horrific scene was that of a movie, it would be labled at a minimum, 'PG-13' or probably 'R' for violence. These ratings established to protect our youth from being exposed to such violence. Only in this case, it's the 13 to 15 year olds executing this firestorm of violence. In the flick of a match how many lives ended? Probably too many to count. Michael's life, in jepordy as he battles back from the burns covering his body. His mother's life will never be the same. Mom now has the burden of seeing her scarred son, no longer who he was before that day. Michael's family will incur an incredible amount of debt in hospital bills. The round the clock he will require in his healing, will take his mother away from his sister. Simultaneously dealing with her own tornado of emotions, mom will be helping her son through the pain and confusion of what happened, and supporting her daughter who is probably just as confused, angry and hurting over the event. The five accused? Their lives as they knew them are over, their parents, their families - all these lives affected by the insanely violent acts of their children. Will this community lose trust in those around them? Will they pull their kids closer to them, and try to shield them from the violence in the world - creating an even more segmented and segregated population? Obviously society has lost it's way. Our children, cliche as this is, are the future. Our future doesn't look bright, if this incident represents children of today, our future is a dark storm brewing, and teeming with those who have never been told 'NO,' who weren't given the opportunity to learn how to lose with dignity, children who have never felt like they belonged, kids who haven't been held accountable, and were cheated the gifts of humility, empathy and justice. How did these children go 13, or 15 years on this earth and come to the conclusion that attacking a boy with fire was the solution to their problem? Where were the parents of these angry boys? Michael's parent was with him, offering love and support to his fear of bullies, going through the 'right' channels at school to work out a strategy on how to deal with bullies. Where was the school leadership? If Michael's mom was making all the right calls to the appropriate people at school, why wasn't the school making the calls immediately to the homes of those boys. Why weren't they there making sure the boys weren't allowed to interact with Michael - or any other students for that matter? I once read the line, "it is a hungry man who starts a revolution." When I read that, many things that had been very confusing and I grappled with to understand, suddenly made sense. Perhaps these boys were hungry, or in this case starving, for the love and affection that makes a parent say "no," or have the strength to teach their child a tough lessons early on in life. Maybe these boys were starving for their community to accept them and guide them on what is right and wrong. They've probably always been hungry for the confidence of knowing who you are and being proud of yourself. I can't picture 5 boys not growing up hungry for love and attention lighting another boy on fire. Actually, I can't see those boys trying to take a bike; because those boys would have known better -- and it never would have escalated to this magnitude of violence. From my perspective, from day one, parents need to feed their children with love and compassion and empathy for those around them. By dousing their children's hunger to belong, they are dousing the fires of the future.

1 comment:

johnflurry said...

Meglyn, Wow. Our son was just the victim of a bullying event at school by nearly 16 children. Our son experiences Aspergers Syndrome and had a hard time knowing what to do at the time. In his IEP the school district promised an aide during recess but it has never been given. There is no excuse for any form of bullying. I pray that each of these children learn from this one mistake and none of them ever participate in a nightmare like you wrote about. Thanks for spreading this message.