Given how this country was wrestled from the American Indian so long ago, it seems appropriate to return to the topic of bullying today on Columbus Day.
As you know, schools are back in session. This subject has hit the headlines anew.
If you are you waiting to hear that the efforts of our criminal justice leaders last year have paid off and so the situation is improved…I am sorry that I will have to disappoint you.
It didn’t. It hasn’t.
Perhaps this year, if we follow the same path as last year, we can impose the death penalty or bring back the stockades to battle the problem…!
While, regrettably, my responsibilities to clients made it impossible to live up to my blogging duties (sorry about that) last week, my opinions and I have still been around.
Particularly on the subject of bullying.
As you know, I have been rather critical of our political/law enforcement approach to the problem. Some people, after either seeing my recent television appearance , or the October 11th issue of Newsweek Magazine, in which I was quoted on the subject, may walk away with the idea that I am simply in favor of bullying..
I’m not, by the way.
I am , however, against “quickie” attempts to address such problems made for political expediency, which either serve only to hurt the cause or, if you will excuse me, bastardize it altogether.
It is my opinion, that both were accomplished after the tragic suicide of Phoebe Prince last year.
Both our legislature (unanymously I might add) and “crusading” District Attorney Betsy Scheibel handed out swift feel-good solutions which were applauded (primarily by themselves) and led us to believe that we finally were fixing the problem.
We weren’t, by the way.
Avenging Advocate Scheibel did, however, indicted the six teenagers she said were responsible for Ms. Prince’s suicide. I have argued that her actual crusade was for the cause of her political future rather than the cause of Justice. Next, not to be outdone, our legislature raced into session to pump out something they could call the “toughest” anti-bullying law in the nation. It accomplished little save giving us the new January holiday, “No Name Calling Day”…which would seem to contradict the very reason for the effort in the first place.
Now, around a year later, some of the dust has settled. We have learned that Ms. Prince had been a troubled and suicidal youth before she even stepped foot into South Hadley High School. Bullying and suicides by the young have continued. Schools are now scratching their heads not only to address bullying, but now with the added confusion of trying to protect themselves legally given the omni-vague “toughest” legislation which outlaws such things as “offensive” behavior by students of any age.
It would, however, appear that the good folks of South Hadley and environs, have begun to recognize DA Scheibel’s antics for what they were. Apparently, seeing the writing on the wall, she has decided to step down from her 17 years in office. One of her assistant prosecutors (also involved in the case) who attempted to replace her was also rejected by the people. Other law enforcement officials connected to the debacle are also said to be fearful of their own future as well.
None of this, of course, brings Ms. Prince back. Nor does it dissolve the indictments shrouding the criminal records of the six youths, any question of incarceration aside, for, at least, the next 15 years.
So…maybe it is time to trade in the rush for politically pleasing platitudes that fall under the heading of “getting tough on crime” and put some actual thought into addressing the problem.
Any kid taking his or her own life is a tragedy beyond measure. And yet, the so-called bullies, are our children as well. They are not monsters and, frankly, they did not create bullying.
As mentioned above, look back to beyond our own country’s history for the origins of that one.
Later today, I will be speaking to Newsweek again on this topic and, as the weeks go on, I will return to this issue. It is an important one.
Addressing the bullying problem with a generalized iron fist may give some momentary satisfaction, but it will not help the problem. It will worsen it.
These are our kids. Our future.
Perhaps they are worth more than momentary consideration.
As always, should you wish to discuss a criminal case with me, please feel free to call me to arrange a free initial consultation at 617-492-3000.
In the meantime, have a great, safe and law-abiding holiday!
To view the original story in which parts of this blog were based, please go to : http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/10/10/a_case_that_still_waits_for_some_real_justice/?page=full