Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Know thy Neighbor

I am greatly impressed with the students of Parkland and how they are still diligently pursuing their goals of gun laws and of electing those into office that will pursue a similar agenda. All of this while still finishing school and grieving. A lesser one would be in their bed with the covers pulled up and they are the exception frankly as there is nothing wrong with the latter over the former.

These kids are different and they have a long road ahead with many hurdles but that is the advantage of youth and the ability to ignore said hurdles as they are small roadblocks in life when your life is so young.

Today I sit in an English Language Learners class just a floor up from where I was Monday. The Teacher in that class and I had a frank discussion about the schools, the expectations and of course the students who are a part of this high school. I did not have the same discussion as this is a different class, different Teacher and different dynamic. The ELL kids that she started with have been cut by half and in turn those that have joined in or are still a part are either no better or worse with their skill set of language acquisition.

The stereotypes exist and the reality exists that for many they will either make it or not and that is not any different that the reality of what black men face in America either. They are late to the party many of these Immigrants but they will find the road no less filled with potholes, barricades, walls and roadblocks more than most. The insular communities that they create do provide somewhat of an internal wall in which to find work and support and community but the full assimilation and integration in America becomes increasingly more tangential with each passing day.

It became so disturbing to listen to an African Immigrant and a Latino Immigrant verbally spar and abuse each other that I pulled out my Iphone, earbuds and listened to music so loudly my eardrums were thumping and yet it was not enough. I could not take it anymore and went across the hall to have at least the loudest of them removed. For the last 15 minutes it has been quiet. So again what am I to do when the reality hits and I am to be in charge of their security. The irony was we had a Tornado drill and I screamed at the top of my lungs to get the hell out, shut up and move to the first floor of the building (We we on floor 2 and the written instructions were totally different than the ones we were receiving over the intercom which again proves that they have not a fucking clue how to manage any of it).  So as they left  I promptly shut the door, turned the lights off and stayed in the room relieved  and sad that they had to return. When they did they were so off the charts with behavior I got my coat, my purse, walked to security and said I am leaving if I don't get help.  One kid yelled as he was being removed yelled, "She hates me." Kid in normal times I would have said no you only annoy me but I said nothing and realized he was right I do.  I truly have nothing good to say or offer on any of these troubled disturbed children,

Then I read the below editorial and thought there is a lot here that proves once again how mishandled the Cruz kid was for years.  What was amazing that this little girl agreed to tutor him but why she was is again bizarre.  Had they kept an accurate record of his behavior that went with him throughout every school they would know his history and those children with whom he had direct encounters with that put both at risk.  No kid needs to go to jail and yes that would be the knee jerk reaction once the assault occurred with the apple, no he needed detention, restriction of access, observation and of course consistent expectations that enable everyone to know what is what when it comes to kids and their needs.   Schools that are too big, districts that like Nashville enable parents to transfer a kid from school to school without recourse and the history of his or her behavior is buried. I saw this in Seattle with two boys who had history of sexual abuse and assaults and in turn they went on to another school and without any record committed the same again.  One Teacher was fired as a result and had to sue to get her job back as his parent never mentioned to her any of her son's issues prior to their leaving on a cross country field trip.   Parents want to protect kids but in reality they mean their own.

Kids do not need to go to jail and Nicholas Cruz had he been tagged after that assault, given counseling, a behavior contract and consistent expectations he may not have gotten a gun.  But he chose to and could and made his decision.   Had he gone down the road to the other school, the largely Spanish speaking one I wonder if any of this would have resulted and I think not.  Stoneman Douglas is a high achieving school, its diversity is evident but when you see the largest majority of kids who are the front line speakers of this movement they are white and come from stable established homes.  The sole girl who has a Latin surname and considers herself bisexual is the exception and not surprising the most vocal and confident as she is likely an anomaly in her class.  Being different in high school is not always a good thing and she is taking some heat from the trolls as a result.

I understand this young girls anger and rage that walk up and sit down is insufficient but it is part of the movement as it should be from all ends of the spectrum of needs we need to do to ensure community building.  I am afraid and I walk in schools everyday. No one should feel that way and this is one way to eliminate it by knowing your community.

I Tried to Befriend Nikolas Cruz. He Still Killed My Friends.

The New York Time
By Isabelle Robinson
March 27, 2018

PARKLAND, Fla. — My first interaction with Nikolas Cruz happened when I was in seventh grade. I was eating lunch with my friends, most likely discussing One Direction or Ed Sheeran, when I felt a sudden pain in my lower back. The force of the blow knocked the wind out of my 90-pound body; tears stung my eyes. I turned around and saw him, smirking. I had never seen this boy before, but I would never forget his face. His eyes were lit up with a sick, twisted joy as he watched me cry.

The apple that he had thrown at my back rolled slowly along the tiled floor. A cafeteria aide rushed over to ask me if I was O.K. I don’t remember if Mr. Cruz was confronted over his actions, but in my 12-year-old naïveté, I trusted that the adults around me would take care of the situation.

Five years later, hiding in a dark closet inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I would discover just how wrong I was.

I am not writing this piece to malign Nikolas Cruz any more than he already has been. I have faith that history will condemn him for his crimes. I am writing this because of the disturbing number of comments I’ve read that go something like this: Maybe if Mr. Cruz’s classmates and peers had been a little nicer to him, the shooting at Stoneman Douglas would never have occurred.

This deeply dangerous sentiment, expressed under the #WalkUpNotOut hashtag, implies that acts of school violence can be prevented if students befriend disturbed and potentially dangerous classmates. The idea that we are to blame, even implicitly, for the murders of our friends and teachers is a slap in the face to all Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors.

A year after I was assaulted by Mr. Cruz, I was assigned to tutor him through my school’s peer counseling program. Being a peer counselor was the first real responsibility I had ever had, my first glimpse of adulthood, and I took it very seriously.

Despite my discomfort, I sat down with him, alone. I was forced to endure his cursing me out and ogling my chest until the hourlong session ended. When I was done, I felt a surge of pride for having organized his binder and helped him with his homework.

Looking back, I am horrified. I now understand that I was left, unassisted, with a student who had a known history of rage and brutality.

Like many pre-teenage and teenage girls, I possessed — and still, to an extent, possess — a strong desire to please. I strive to win the praise of the adults in my life and long to be seen as mature beyond my years. I would have done almost anything to win the approval of my teachers.

This is not to say that children should reject their more socially awkward or isolated peers — not at all. As a former peer counselor and current teacher’s assistant, I strongly believe in and have seen the benefits of reaching out to those who need kindness most.

But students should not be expected to cure the ills of our genuinely troubled classmates, or even our friends, because we first and foremost go to school to learn. The implication that Mr. Cruz’s mental health problems could have been solved if only he had been loved more by his fellow students is both a gross misunderstanding of how these diseases work and a dangerous suggestion that puts children on the front line.

It is not the obligation of children to befriend classmates who have demonstrated aggressive, unpredictable or violent tendencies. It is the responsibility of the school administration and guidance department to seek out those students and get them the help that they need, even if it is extremely specialized attention that cannot be provided at the same institution.

No amount of kindness or compassion alone would have changed the person that Nikolas Cruz is and was, or the horrendous actions he perpetrated. That is a weak excuse for the failures of our school system, our government and our gun laws.

My little sister is now the age that I was when I was left alone with Mr. Cruz, anxious and defenseless. The thought of her being put in the same situation that I was fills me with rage. I hope that she will never know the fear that I have become so accustomed to in the past month: The slightest unexpected sound makes my throat constrict and my neck hairs curl. I beg her to trust her gut whenever she feels unsafe. And I demand that the adults in her life protect her.

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