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Blood And Mercy: Death of a Student

Oct 2, 2017 by

It was an unmitigated tragedy with mitigating circumstances.

The bisexual teen, tormented mercilessly for a third of his lifetime, because, as he tearfully noted, he was “different”, panicked and “snapped” and fatally stabbed a classmate who allegedly was gleefully humiliating him and repeatedly hurling pencils at his head.

It was a killing but not a murder.

Desperate remorse will now perpetually complicate his life. His sensibility will imprison him even in freedom. An innocent heart can be guilty of a crime.

Shakespeare said that “the smallest worm will turn when trod upon.”  A delicate soul can indeed lash out when assailed. But revenge is never justified and the boy who died was not the cause of the killer’s prior misery.

The teen could have lawyered up, blame the classmate he killed for a prior pattern of atrocious indignities and insults, and created an exculpatory charade to perform for the cops and an eventual judge and jury.

Instead he opened up that the boy that died had not hounded him in the past and without a trace of sarcasm, said he would “hold his memory in my heart.” His conscience thereby made it harder for his defense team.  He surrendered and confessed without arrogance or defiance.  He was the agent of a cruel fate.

“I feel like a failure,” he said, telling without self-pity of his shattered family and home-life. His confession sounded more like an informational briefing than a bid to muddy the waters in the determination of culpability.

He had been sadistically harassed because of his voice, his aesthetic presence, and his self-identification. Not the gentlest and most forbearing saint could endure such tribulation without losing control eventually.

Had the dead classmate not reportedly chucked utensils at his head and then repeatedly punched his target in the head when confronted, as claimed, there would have been no disaster. At least not this time.

By his actions, the victim put himself in harm’s way, but he was no more deserving of death than anyone else  In a way, it was a symbolic sacrifice. It was the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, except it was the  loss of a potentially long and fruitful life that was lost forever.

Of course, whether or not aware that the stabber was simmering with suppressed and provoked rage, the poor youngster who died paid a wildly disproportionate price for a form of mischief that probably reflected immaturity more than poor character.

The immediate aftermath of the tragedy was a showcase Department of Education spin operation. The day after the bloodshed, a weapon-detecting  scanner was installed at the entrance.Such a unit had been requested in the past, but denied not on the basis of need but rather bad “optics.”  More than 80 percent of the staff and nearly half of the student body served notice on the DOE ‘s own survey that they did not feel safe in the building.

Blood on the hands of bureaucrats is like disappearing ink.

I’m sure that the mayor, chancellor and other DOE decision-makers feel genuine empathy for the family of the dead boy. They’re not indecent folks. But for them to make a spectacle of indignation and feign surprise at the occurrence is unseemly and calculated.

The family of the victim has retained one of the most familiar of media-hustling attorneys who seems poised to launch a court case from every possible angle, some of them promising and likely justified. His conclusion that potential testimony from a possible student witness may implicate negligent teachers sounds to me, a proud non-attorney, like the “throw in the kitchen sink” tactic that some have called a :”tort reflex.”

The Department of Education’s preliminary defense of staff is fit and proper for now and will almost certainly stay that way if there isn’t interference. Their deployment of “grief-counselors” and the City Council’s holding of oversight hearings about bullying are pro-forma gestures unless they lead to systemic reforms in student discipline.

The era of no-fault conflict-resolution must end. Certain student behaviors warrant punishment. With all the mandated workshops and tiresome memos and curricula about bullying, how could years have have elapsed with a vulnerable LGBTQ child persecuted and crying out and no intervention from school leadership?

Where was “restorative justice”?

And we must stop using suspension data as a measure of school quality, because it encourages cover-ups, mis-classification, secrecy and cynical manipulation of perception.

The killer is very remorseful, which is in order because he destroyed a human life. It little matters at this point, but he doesn’t seem to possess a murderous heart. He is being held without bail and his dream to be a performing artist is in ruins.

He is on a “suicide watch” in jail. If he killed himself too, it would be a calamity of Shakespearean proportions.  It would be true murder.

Ron Isaac

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