I have read and re-read “Incident No. 1113” (3/5), and I am led to share my thoughts.
Let me begin by commending the Washington City Paper staff for doing the work, research, and investigation on the tragic murder that occurred at Ballou Senior High School on Feb. 2, 2004. I have to give you credit for delving into as much detail as possible and reporting it on a human level.
On the other hand, I must also say, your paper painted a picture of good guy vs. bad guys and, not to dispute any truths you did report, this terrible incident was much, much bigger than your attempt to paint the picture of a “child,” Thomas “T.J.” Boykin, who was forced to protect himself against school bullies by carrying a firearm and allegedly solving a temporary problem with a permanent solution.
I can only assume T.J. felt totally hopeless and thought no one could or would help him.
The additional truth that should have been reported still remains untold: the inaction and unresponsiveness of the D.C. Public Schools officials at Ballou. To be specific, I am referring to all those employed by the school system at Ballou who were very aware of, witnessed, counseled, and ministered to the victims involved in this horror. Victims of this crime remain among the living, are walking the hallways of and neighborhoods near Ballou, and are no doubt carrying so much rage that I pray that someone is paying attention this time.
I am also speaking specifically of the security guards, who chose to cater to children’s whims and be “friends” with them, instead of being the authority figures they get paid to be—and the kids really need. Security missed golden opportunities, daily, to be mentors and examples of the way upstanding brothers, fathers, sisters, and mothers should look and act. The children needed to see that more than witnessing security getting their ’dos done in the hallway.
I am also speaking of the school nurse(s) who cared for the physical injuries that were brought to their attention, but failed to take it a step further and report the assault incidents to the police and to the parents of the injured students.
I am speaking of the athletic coaches, who should be prime examples of what a man’s man should be for the boys in their charge, but instead chose to be cover-up experts, placing sports and winning first and student’s needs second.
I am speaking of the teachers, aides, office staff, and principal who witnessed the behavior of a troubled child but took little to no action because—and I must assume here—they were either scared to death or just didn’t care about the students. Or maybe they just hoped it would go away.
And in a very sadistic way, the problem did go away, didn’t it?
As a parent and a grandparent, I don’t care how tall or how big a teenage child becomes, they are still children, and they require adult guidance and supervision. Never, never do they deserve to be ignored. Never do they deserve to be left to their own wits to figure life out.
Children must be advised, talked to, counseled on a daily basis by adults—and told, “This, too, shall pass,” “Tomorrow will bring a whole new bag of hope and opportunities,” “Don’t worry—I will help you work things out,” and “I love you too much to let anyone or anything harm you.”
I know this is hard to do all the time, but adults must take a stand and place the children first. We are losing too many.
I guarantee, if young people hear words of encouragement as well as words of guidance on a daily basis, lives will take a different path. Wake up all adults: parents, teachers, counselors, school nurses, principals, neighbors, churches. Stop trying to be friends and take charge! Take responsibility for the children in our care. The children are our assignment. Let’s work on getting an A-plus, please!
Fort Washington, Md.