Friday, November 21, 2008

Girl, 10, Drafted School Hit List: Does the Nation Need to Know?

Once in a long while, I read a story that jogs hazy memories of common sense in government and in education. It is usually the conspicuous absence of common sense that arouses such fits of nostalgia.

Both “The Smoking Gun” and “Drudge Report” have featured a story of a troubled girl in Kenosha, Wisconsin who drew up a “hit list” of students and teachers she allegedly intended to kill. Enough details were left in the poorly edited story to leave little doubt in the minds of local residents as to her identity.

The intake information noted by a Kenosha detective was taken with apparent professionalism. It belonged in the confidential files of a mental health professional. Instead it is splashed across the internet.

According to “The Smoking Gun” ,”A 10-year-old Wisconsin girl drafted a hit list containing the names of 21 classmates and four teachers who would be targeted “when I go on my killing spree.” The handwritten list was confiscated Monday afternoon by a teacher in a McKinley Middle School classroom, according a Kenosha Police Department report, a copy of which you’ll find below. At the top of the one-page list the sixth grader wrote, “When I go on my killing spree the victims are…” A second list contained the names of four students–including the girl herself–who were “people I don’t want 2 kill.”

According to the Kenosha News, The girl told authorities she wrote the list because she was upset that other students accused her of spreading rumors. She also said people were mean to her, made fun of her and that she was mad because her teacher didn’t call on her when she raised her hand and sent her out of the classroom when she talked.

The girl didn’t have a plan for her list, but understood how it could scare people, police said.”

The girl was suspended from school pending a review of the case, and the decision made to refract the shining light of common sense through the warped prism of the juvenile justice system.

The entire police report is available on The Smoking Gun. It notes a predictable picture of some academic difficulties and a normal level of sibling rivalries in the girl’s home. There was no firearms in the girl’s home. Other than forks and kitchen knives, nothing in the home could have been construed as a weapon. The principal significantly noted that the girl had not previously been a notable discipline problem. Although the girl is unnamed, her mother’s last name is mentioned, as well as the girl’s grade and the name of her school The issues this raises about the privacy rights of a minor and her family need no elaboration.

Any school should have either a psychologist on staff or a mental health professional who is available on an ad hoc basis. If protocol mandates that law enforcement be called, there should be one branch of hte flow chart that leads towards evaluation and therapy as an adjunct to or an alternative to legal action.

A critical question is how this story ever made it into the newspapers. It is possible for the classmates of a troubled student to be alerted to any issues that might concern them or their children. Splashing the story across the nation serves no constructive purpose at all.

We have just finished an election campaign in which the news media failed completely in its duty to educate the public. Critical stories about President elect Obama’s rise in the world of politics were spiked and fluff stories about Sarah Palin’s wardrobe were given spotlight news coverage.

The story of a troubled little girl in Wisconsin is of no interest to me other than as an anonymous case history to refer to in raising my own children.

Depending upon the print media and television for my view of the world is a lot like having a watch dog that bites the baby and licks the hand of an intruder. Sitting at my table reading such meaningless news coverage with such a useless dog by my side means being uninformed and unprotected.

There are children who have immense powers of concentration on matters of personal interest to them . These same children can not focus in class. They fidget and daydream instead of listening to the teacher. I was such a child. If I were in school today, my parents would probably be urged to give me Ritalin.

Our news media seems to display the same distorted focus that in individuals is classified as a learning disorder. There is a total distortion of focus and perspective that seems like a cognitive disorder.

It is doubtful that we can cure a news media that daydreams through a presidential campaign and drags a child in grade school into the limelight. Such a news media can not be easily cured. But like the little girl in Wisconsin, they can be sent home until they get professional help.

A case is pending in juvenile court in Kenosha about this incident.

Another case, that against our errant news media is pending in the court of public opinion

No comments: