I happen to be an alumna of Frank W. Ballou High School, class of 1974. In reading your article (“Incident No. 1113,” 3/5), I found myself back in the halls of a very different Ballou High School. During my time at Ballou, most students were, like Thomas “T.J.” Boykin, very interested in their academic studies and graduating and going on to college, and, like James “J-Rock” Richardson, very interested in school spirit. The serious difference was that unless you maintained at least a 2.5 grade average you were not allowed to play sports or be involved in any extracurricular activity.
There was a united school effort to promote a positive school spirit in my days at Ballou. We students and our teachers desired to have reason to be proud of ourselves and our school. If the authorities at Ballou today had the correct priorities in mind for the school as a learning institution, its horrific environment would never have existed, and therefore the tragic incident with T.J. and J-Rock would never have occurred. How sad it is to realize in reading this article that the students are obviously being led by authorities who don’t really care about the students’ futures. They sound as if their only interest is to mechanically get through each day in order to retrieve a paycheck. It doesn’t sound as if anyone at Ballou has any vision of what the school should or could be for the students.
T.J. and J-Rock are both victims of a failed school system. Ultimately, we are all to blame. Everyone in this city has long been aware of the poor state of the D.C. school system. Any interested individual could have aided in preventing this situation. J-Rock had one person at the school looking out for him, though not well enough. T.J. had no one. If one teacher had cared enough to pay attention to what was going on, I believe he or she could have had the foresight to help and comfort T.J. by finding a solution to remove him from harm’s way.
The cafeteria arrangement was a ridiculous, irresponsible nonsolution to a problem that could easily have been solved. The principal’s job is to resolve all problems in a timely manner, not to ignore and postpone the most annoying and inconvenient ones. We are all too busy with our own lives to do the right thing. We are also paralyzed by fear.
It is fruitless to glorify the memory of a dead student. This will not bring him back or change anything at all. It is also fruitless to seek revenge, especially when there is no reason for any of this to have happened in the first place. What difference does it make where anyone lives? Why should that be an issue to others? Why should where they live make children enemies of one another? We must make our youth realize what really matters in this life: the human race. We will all bleed if we are cut, no matter what neighborhood we live in. Children also need to be reminded that they have no control over where they live. It’s their parents who have that control. So why be angry at a fellow classmate because of where he or she happens to live? It’s not anyone’s fault what he is born into.
This all sounds to me like a bunch of lost students and faculty doing their best to avoid every problem issue and person. The attitude illustrates an attitude of “We’ve got to work somewhere and get paid, but we don’t have to get involved.” Wrong! We do have to get involved, before things go wrong, to prevent them from arriving at such a dismal end.
We are all sorry now, but the sad truth is that we’ve been sorry all along. I am personally frustrated and annoyed with everyone in regard to what has happened at—and to—Ballou, including myself. It’s time for all of us to muster the courage to do what we each know in our hearts we can and should do to help our kids and improve our public schools. I’ll be praying for us all. God help and guide us.