Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Zero Tolerance

I have been masking my utter disgust regarding an event that happened last week by blogging some light hearted posts until I could wrap my head around what I wanted to say. Last week was a banner week for juvenile delinquents in this town. There has been outrage expressed at the cold blooded murders of the two Madison convenience store clerks by a 16-year-old girl, and two males, ages 18 & 20. Usually, I would just shake my head in resignation, and comment on how society has gone to the dogs and something needs to be done about these thugs, and then go back to my regularly scheduled life. That was until this whole issue hit WAY too close to home.

Tuesday night around 8pm, my little girl came into my room and broke down in tears. "I have to tell you something, Mommy." I tried my best to be as calming to her as I could while my heart was sinking inside, because I knew this was going to be bad with the state of mind she came to me in. I held her and reassured her that she could tell Mommy anything. She told me that a boy in her class--First Grade, age 6--grabbed her, shoved her into the bathroom of the classroom, held her down, and sexually assaulted her!!!! I tried to hold it together and stay calm. I promised her that we would go talk to her Principal and take care of this first thing the next morning. I was not prepared for the unbelievable "pulling of teeth" it took to get the school to take appropriate action in line with the severity of the offense this child committed on my daughter!

First, I was told the child would not be taken out of the classroom, even for that day, because it was one child’s word against the other. Then when I refused to accept that answer--and told them that he would not be in the same class as my child ever again--they offered to let me take my child home or to another class for the day.

Wait, what??? How is it justified that MY child--the victim--is the one who must have her routine disrupted even more than it has already while the offender is being coddled? Then, they agreed to let me take my daughter to her classroom while they took the boy down another hallway, and to the office for questioning. Gee, thanks, but ok. Any chance this child might be disciplined? Suspended? Expelled? He did physically and sexually assault an innocent girl, after all.

I was adamantly told that even though this child had been in the principal’s office at least 4 other times in a month for his disruption and trouble making, there would be no expulsion. What happened to “zero tolerance”? Well, zero tolerance only applies if the child has a weapon (knife, gun) or drugs. I find that ridiculous…to me, the logic in that is if a kid got so violent that he beat another child to a pulp, he would still be in school because he didn’t use a weapon. My response: BUT HE USED HIS BARE HANDS AND HIS BODY AS A WEAPON!!!

After going around and around with the school, central office, school resource officer…
Final solution: move the boy to another class. He won’t be in gym, recess or any other activities with her, except for lunch where they will be at separate tables.

Um, am I the only one who realizes that they have just removed this troubled child from one class and into another just to do the same thing to another child?

I have gotten a lot of talk of things like “we may not know if the child is old enough to understand right from wrong and the consequences of his action”. Right. So when are we going to wake up to the fact that we are growing up a generation of people who have never had to pay the consequences for anything they do wrong because we’re afraid of infringing upon their rights?

My child has the right to be able to attend school without fear or intimidation.

Chief Serpas was on the radio the morning after the murders in Madison, and from his words, it is obvious that he has a fervent desire to get the court system to actually enforce the sentences they impart to criminals. What a concept! Is it any wonder why we have repeat offenders? Because they haven’t had to fully pay the consequences for their actions the first time around! Why are we seeing younger and younger violent criminals and more teenagers being transferred to adult courts because they are committing progressively more severe offenses? Because they haven’t had to pay the consequences for their actions the first time around! Yes, it is true that a six-year-old may be too young to press charges against, but something must be done to rattle the parents and rattle the child enough that he will never hurt anyone again. I have zero tolerance for excuses. It starts now so that in the future he won’t end up in the same boat as the 16-year-old murderer is now.

We as a community and a society must insist that sentences are carried out to the end, kids are punished at the appropriate level of their misconduct, and if they are delinquents, send them to a correctional institution to either be rehabilitated or prevent them from hurting anybody else again.

If we don’t start insisting on this now, we will all pay the consequences.

29 comments:

Sharon Cobb said...

Oh Ginger,
I am so so sorry to hear about this. As if the crime isn't bad enough, the victim has to suffer more when there's no justice.

However, there are things you can do.
Take her to her physician to document any physicl evidence. File a report with the police. Tell the principal if they will not take action, your lawyer (get one if you don't have one) will look into civil charges against the school, the school district and the kid's family. (Unfortunately, criminal charges may not be an option, though it sounds like you might have a case for criminal negligence since the attacker has a history of causing problems)
Mainly, let your daughter know she didn't do anything wrong.
Please call me if I can do anything.

Ginger said...

Thank you so much, Sharon. I am definitely taking steps to rattle all of their cages!

Anonymous said...

I was sexually abused and raped in my childhood and teen yrs.
and Now in my mid 40's I have worked with the families of violent crime and am presently working with offenders in prison.

As much as I do hear your outcry-
recidivism is not as you decribed.
It is a problem with many facets.

It is my hope that you have called the rape center's hotline for information and counseling.

sincerely,
d

Ginger said...

Thanks for your comment, D. I agree that there are many facets to recidivism; however--taking it all down to the most basic of levels-- if a delinquent is not required to serve out the totality of their sentence, it is sending a message to them and others that there are ways to buck the system. Sending them to a place of punishment, rehabilitation, or both is the most basic, first step, to justice for all involved.

Anonymous said...

Please let me know if there's anything I can do. I am speechless, Ginger. Dumbfounded by the apparent lack of concern by the school. The trouble is, if you pursue you risk putting your baby in the spotlight. Justice comes at a price. Again, please call if there's anything I can do.

Aunt B said...

Oh, my god, Ginger. How terrible! I agree with the other commenters, that you are not out of options, even if the school system is dragging their feet.

I know you aren't feeling compassion for that kid, and I'm not saying that you should, but I hear you on the cage rattling and a big one to rattle is this one: If school officials have evidence of abuse, they are required, by law, to report it to the police.

Check Tennessee Code 37-1-403. They HAVE to report it to the authorities. But the thing is that young children acting sexually inappropriate (such as a six year old assaulting your daughter) is a clear sign that he is, himself, being sexually abused. Everyone who works with children knows that this is a warning signal, which means that when you went to the administration and told them what had happened to your daughter, they became aware of two possible victims of sexual abuse--your daughter at the hands of that kid and that kid at the hands of whoever has their hands on him.

If all they've done is move that kid's schedule around, they're breaking the law.

Clearly they have to know that, and the fact that they're only taking your daughter's assault seriously because you're fighting for her, is really scary.

I'm with Sharon. I think you ought to get a lawyer involved (if only to figure out if you're also legally obligated to report it to someone other than the resource officer at the school). Something's really not right.

And that kid, who would do this at that age? Wow, you wonder what's happening to him. (I hope you get that I'm not trying to excuse him, I just know that 99% of the time, that behavior is because they're being abused. It doesn't mean he should still be near your daughter or anybody's daughter for that matter. He needs to be out of that school and in therapy.) But it is not the school's job to decide that he's "okay." That's for the authorities. That's why the law is how it is.

Ginger said...

Thanks Kathy T & Aunt B...you both bring up excellent and important aspects of the whole debacle. 1) Is it adding more trauma to my daughter to keep fighting them about it? 2) It's probable that he is being abused himself, so how far should the punishment be taken and then in turn balance it with the help he needs to get out of the situation he most likely is in? As difficult as it is to conjur up compassion for the boy, I know that there is a need for it to a certain point. Still, though...there are SO many people who have been victims of abuse who don't lash out at others...so there must be consequences for his actions...It's a tough call all the way around.

Malia said...

Ginger, I'm just dumbfounded by this. I have a 6 year old daughter myself and I'm just speechless. I hurt for you and your daughter. Has she talked with a counselor? I hope she is able to understand that she did nothing wrong! Oh, this just makes me ill. My heart goes out to you, girl. I'll be praying. And get yourself a lawyer!! You both need someone speaking on your behalf and advocating for you.

John H said...

Ginger - this breaks my heart on so many levels..as a parent and the husband of a teacher and as your friend. My youngest son was 'zero toleranced' out of school for one joint. I'm glad he got caught but the punishment was ridiculous.

There is something terribly wrong when a kid makes a stupid mistake (my son) and is kicked out of school for an entire year, and then when something like this happens, very little seems to have been done except some excellent 'cover your ass' work done by the school.

I believe with all my heart that Aunt B is on target here on several levels: where would this kid learn this type of behavior? most likely in his home.

Also you have the law behind you here. If the school counselor wasn't involved and they didn't do some serious work with the parents there is a big problem.

I'm sure you are doing everything in your power to ensure that your daughter knows it wasn't her fault, but it is so traumatic that such ideas take root easily.

God bless you. I pray for comfort and peace for the both of you, and that you will know what action needs to be taken.

Aunt B said...

Don't get me wrong, Ginger, my sympathy for that boy is at a distance. Not to say that he's an animal, but it's like when you see a dog with rabies. No matter how bad you feel for the dog, you don't send your kids to play with it.

I think he needs to learn consiquences. I'm just saying that he would learn that lesson doubly well, and probably in a way that might really help him, if whoever was messing with him also had to learn consiquences.

But dang, that the school thinks that will happen the way they're handling this? It makes me scared for your daughter.

What happens next year? Will the school think it's okay to put him in her class next year?

And what about the next girl? Are they going to tell her mom that it's just one child's word against another?

I hope you and your daughter can find the peace she needs over this whole event. I am so sorry this happened.

Ginger said...

Thanks you guys! It means so much to me to read your comments of support. Aunt B, I totally know where you're coming from and agree with you 100%. Usually, a 6 year old would not know even to lash out in that way unless he has either seen this happen to somebody else or he is having it done to him. So I definitely agree that he needs help for his own well-being, but also for the safety of all of the kids he will come in contact with throughout his schooling...and beyond. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am so thankful for you guys...

Rachel said...

Ginger,
So sorry to hear about this. Obviously your daughter is "old enough to understand right from wrong," because she was upset by it and came to you. Why isn't he?
Not sure what the solution is, except that that boy obviously needs some type of help/intervention. If he's expelled, I wonder if he might just be at home learning more bad behavior. It's a tricky situation. I'm so glad your daughter came to you about this.
Do let me know if there is anything I can do.

Anonymous said...

This just makes me livid to think about. I'm all about innocent until proven guilty, but to coddle the kid so. To act like it's just boys being boys...no, he needs to be taught now that is wrong.

Linda said...

As if dealing with the situation isn't hard enough... My heart goes out to both you and your daughter. I hope you're making headway in bringing to light the gross lack of concern from the school. A 6 year old boy doesn't pick up this behavior on his own - he probably needs help as much as he needs discipline.

Hope the healing is starting. You guys are both in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Ginger,

As one positive note in this whole situation, I want compliment you on teaching your daughter to speak out and to tell you what happened to her. It says a lot for your relationship that she came to you for comfort, support and the truth instead of being afraid of punishment or judgement.

Take care of her self confidence and give her the support and reinforcement to take care of herself in the future too.

You are doing a good job.

Rachel said...

I second what saraclark just said. You must be doing a very good job.

angie said...

I checked withthe La Vergne Police Department detectives and because this happened on school property, we have no jurisdiction over the matter. Therefore, you must -- if you so choose -- file the report with the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department in Murfreesboro. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Office because the schools are county property and the county takes care of its own.

I'm sorry there's nothing we can do for you with this particular incident. If there is ever anything you need from the City, just let me know.

Kate O' said...

Wow, Ginger, I can't even fathom what it must have felt like to hear that from your daughter. I'm so impressed with you standing up to the wimpiness of the school teachers and administration wanting to absolve the child of any responsibility. I hope you get through to them.

Ginger said...

Thank you, Rachel, Michael, Linda, Sara, Angie, and Kate! I so much appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on this with me. I am still mulling over the next step to take on this. Angie, you'll know more than I would, but I believe the school resource officers are Rutherford County Sherriff's dept and not City anyway, so if I do file the report, I would do it through the SRO, right? They told me I couldn't press charges against a 6 year old, but I'm sure I should be able to file an incident report...I'll check on this tomorrow to be sure.
Thanks again, everybody...it means more than you'll ever know...

angie said...

You may not be able to file charges but a civil suit against the parent of the child is somthing you could do. I'd check with the Sheriff's office in Mboro (bypassing the SRO who is obviously prejudiced) and see what can be done. Otherwise, I'd get a lawyer and sue the school board, the principal, and the parents of the child. Don't let them tell you he won't be in her class again. That's what they told a parent whose child goes to La Vergne Primary and two years later they were in the same class again. The parents are suing for $1 million.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Geege... I am so sorry you and your daughter are having to go through this.

My thoughts and prayers are with the both of you!

Lintilla said...

Ginger-- this is Slarti's wife. Our kids played with your daughter at the party and had a really good time. I am just now hearing about this... Slart just doesn't commun-icate... I'm very sorry to hear about this because your daughter is just precious. I agree with the others to hug her and be proud of how she was able to come to you to let this be known. Also, give yourself a pat for raising a child who is confident in her mom to come to her. I worry about such things in life with our kids-not so much as in school at this point (their school is very strict), but in life in general. There are those out there who are being abused in numbers of ways that we can't see and then think that is the norm for the rest of us. (Not knowing how old the other child was) It does continue and there must be a way to legally stop this in its tracks. A lawyer is the best advice, but after that, I would try as much as possible to let your daughter be a little girl and not involve her. Are child protective services monitoring the family dynamics since there have been other instances of this child's failings? If not, there needs to be constant monitoring and mandatory meetings with child psychologists. But that is me and I'm still into the old fashioned right and wrong that was taught to me by my parents and not the political coddling of today's kids. Sorry that this is late and I'm not the speaker that Slarti is, but I did feel compelled to speak what little mind I have.

mike said...

I am outraged about what happened to you and your daughter. I hope your daughter is recovering from this terrible thing.

The school authorities are trying to molify you in order to dodge civil liability...and they do not give a flip about your daughter or others safety. They do not want this to get out to the public or the board level due to the outrage it would cause (not to mention their pitiful jobs). I have seen this way too much...for I had taught for awhile; and the way some of these administrators play these situations make me want to vomit.

The school failed in its responsibility to protect your child; I would contact an attorney, DHS, the school board, and if need be, the media...and go after them with horns ablaring. Good luck to you...

ps...aunt b is absolutely right..and their coverup make the administrators criminally liable. There are also legal mandates to protect the identity of the underage victim as well as proceedures to minimize impact of fact-finding on the victim as well. Do not allow school officials to try to hoodwink you on your legal options...and responsibilities; for they will if they can.

Besides that fact, that boy needs both help and some consequences. He is getting neither from the school.

newscoma said...

Ginger,
I used to work in the DV field in Nashville. There is a woman in Murfreesboro who can help you. I'll send you her name through your e-mail and send her the link to this blog.
I'm so very sorry,

Anonymous said...

Child Sexual Abuse Resources in Nashville:

Nashville Child Advocacy Center, Director: June Turner 327-9958 (forensic interviews for prosecution purposes and counseling)

Our Kids Center, Social Worker: Lisa Dupree 341-4917 (medical clinic for child sexual abuse forensic medical exams)

Rape and Sexual Abuse Center, Counselor: Char Creason, Crisis Line: 256-8526 Business Line: 259-9055 (counseling and children's groups)

Department of Childrens Services- Statewide 1-800 Telephone Number to Report Child Abuse/Child Sexual Abuse 1-877-237-0004

Metro Police Youth Services Division-Ask for a child abuse/ child sexual abuse detective 862-7417

District Attorney General's Office, Child Abuse/Child Sexual Abuse Special Prosecutor: Brian Holmgren 862-5500 (Holmgren handles the prosecution of adults. He can tell you who handles the prosecution of juvenile offenders.)

District Attorney's Office Victim Witness Services-Juvenile Court 862-8043

Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools: Dr. Pedro Garcia, 2601 Bransford Avenue, Nashville, TN 37204 Telephone: 259-8421 Fax: 59-8418 (You can go to the Bransford Avenue Office and file a complaint with Customer Service and/or write Dr. Garcia.)

What happened to your daughter was a crime. Please report it to all these agencies and they will help you. All of the indivuals at agencies whose names I gave you are strong advocates for child victims.

My daughter was sexually assaulted at age 3 by three 5 year old boys at a daycare. People don't want to believe that children that young will commit a sexual offense. I think that is why they don't help. My heart goes out to you. I understand the pain. No matter what anyone does or does not do to help you, get your daughter in counseling. There is hope. My daugher is fine now.

Anonymous said...

Ginger,
Call the Murfreesboro Child Advocacy Center 867-9000. They will help you.

Anonymous said...

Your blog says you live in Nashville, so I sent you Nashville resources. Here are the resources for Rutherford County:

Child Sexual Abuse Resources in Murfreesboro/ Rutherford County:

Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford County, Sharon, Jenny, and Sheri 867-9000 (forensic interviews for prosecution purposes, child sexual abuse children's groups, and non-offending parents groups, all services are free of charge)

Our Kids Center, Social Worker: Lisa Dupree 341-4917 (medical clinic for child sexual abuse forensic medical exams)

Primary Care and Hope Clinic, Nurse Practitioner trained to do forensic medical exams: Jacqueline Peters, Clinic Director: Lisa Terry 893-9390 (Primary Care does forensic medical exams in collaboration with Our Kids Clinic)

Guidance Center, (counseling for child abuse/child sexual abuse victims and non-offending parents) Murfreesboro Office: 893-0770 Smyrna Office: 459-9251

Guidance Center also provides counseling for adult and juvenile sex offenders, Dr. Larry Seeman 893-0770

Private Therapists:
Dr. Janie Berryman 662-7979
Dr. Trey Monroe 329-0501
Danita Hughes 895-6942
Dr. Kathryn Riddle 896-3643

Rape and Sexual Abuse Center, Counselor: Char Creason, Crisis Line: 256-8526 Business Line: 259-9055 (counseling and children's groups)

Department of Childrens Services- Statewide 1-800 Telephone Number to Report Child Abuse/Child Sexual Abuse 1-877-237-0004

Rutherford County Department of Children's Services Child Protective Services, CPS Supervisors: Shannon Romans and Kristin Giere 494-4540

Rutherford County Sheriff's Department, Detective Mickey Mc Collough (Child Abuse/Child Sexual Abuse detective, forensic interviewer, trained at the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Alabama--which is the best training program in the nation.) Direct Line: 898-7903, Secretary: 898-7916

District Attorney General William C. Whitesell, District Attorney for the 16th Judicial District, 898-8008 (Report to General Whitesell that the school did not file a child abuse report. Schools are mandatory reporters of child sexual abuse. It is against the law for a school to have knowledge of a child sexual abuse case and not report it to Department of Children's Services.)

District Attorney General's Office, Child Abuse/Child Sexual Abuse Special Prosecutor: General Laural Nutt 848-5181

District Attorney's Office Victim Witness Services, Pat or Peggy 898-8008

Director of Rutherford County Schools: Mr. Harry Gill, Central Office, 2240 Southpark Blvd. Murfreesboro, TN 37128 893-5812
(You can file a complaint. All school personnel--teachers, principals, etc.-are mandatory reporters of child abuse.)

No matter what anyone does to help you or not help you, please get your child counseling. That is what will make the difference in her life and that is the most important thing.

Anonymous said...

I was doing research online and found this blog. First of all I want to say that I am so sorry for what you are going through. I can relate. Here is a short version of our story.
My husbands first cousin and his wife were our best friends. Thay have 1 daughter who is now 7. We have 2 who are now 8 & 3. They live in Sevierville, TN and we lived in FL. 2 1/2 years ago we moved here. We all did everything together. Shortly after we moved my oldest told us that her younger cousin was touching her in private places. We all talked and bought books for kids to explain to them that this is not appropriate. Now, their child has serious issues, she acts like she is an adult and this was when she was 5. As time went on the mother who was my best friend started telling how her dd had made sexual comments since she was 2 and some involved the father. I begged her to get help even if nothing had happened to her because she did not act like a child. Everyone who had met their child prayed about how they couldn't stand her, they prayed because she was a child. Well this past summer, the mother, daughter and I went to FL to get my 2 kids, they spent the summer there with my parents. The day we were suppose to leave I woke up with a stomach virus. My mother woke me up that afternoon distraught. She had caught the girl messing with my youngest who was 2 at the time. My oldest broke down once we got home and told me she had her cousin pinky swear not to touch her sister anymore. She had been messing with both of my daughters for 2 years. Mind you this girl is small but very conniving. Come to find out my kids were not the only ones. We had a meeting with both parents and they were to get her help and notify us of the process in hopes of finding out if something had happened to this girl and who did it to make her this way.
Well, We all had a falling out as we had expected. Someone reported it to CPS and we are still in an investigation. But because her age nothing can be done and we are being treated like the criminals. we worned CPS that my husbands family has money, police, & judges in their pockets. And apparently it worked becuse nothing is being done. His whole family is treating us horribly. We are trying to find a lawyer to see if we can do a civil suit but we don't have the money, so we will see.
Can Relate... Gatlinburg, TN

Anonymous said...

We had a similar incident happen involving our son and a girl in his class. We were sent home a note stating that our son had inappropriately touched this girl. We met with the principal and discussed things with our child and found that they both had inappropriately touched each other. We disciplined our son at home while the school did nothing. I have no idea what happened with the girl. The following year, our son was placed in a classroom with only one former classmate from the year before and guess who it was? The same little girl. We of coarse didn't find this out until there was another incident involving the 2 children. This time, our son adamantly stated that the little girl told him to touch her and that if he didn't do what she said then she wasn't going to be his friend anymore and was going to tell others not to play with him. HE WAS 7 YEARS OLD!! He didn't comprehend the difference between right and wrong, only that he wanted to be liked. The school moved him out of the classroom and we began taking him to a private counselor on our own. Since being separated from this girl, we've had absolutely ZERO incidents with our son and any other female anywhere. After several sessions and even hypnotic therapy, our therapist informed us that it wasn't our child who had the problem, it was the girl and that the school should report the incident so social workers could investigate both parties and thus get help for the girl if she did indeed need it. We were doing exactly what needed to be done by getting him help to try and resolve the problem on his end so we weren't concerned about being investigated and even had the therapist on our side. I approached the principal, told her what we were advised and she did nothing. I then contacted social services and explained to them the entire situation and again, no steps were taken. As parents, we feel as though we did exactly what we could do by taking our son for professional evaluation and therapy to find out why he did this and make sure he never did it again. Our son has never ever been in any kind of trouble before and is ultimately a good kid. Under hypnosis, he relayed the same story to the therapist about how the little girl enticed him to touch her and then she ran and told. Which I'm glad that she did tell, don't get me wrong. I don't want my son going around thinking that that kind of behavior is acceptable or that's how you make friends. We've stressed to him that it's a very bad thing that he did and that he doesn't need to be friends with someone who's going to ask him to do something that's wrong and he'll be punished for. What worries me at this point is that the school system acts as if they don't really care about either child. This girl could have something being done to her at home or at least away from school. They weren't concerned about the girl, they weren't concerned about my son, all they were interested in was a quick fix to an ugly situation - making it go away as fast as it happened. Now, as long as he's in this particular school system, I've got to make sure myself that he's not placed in the same classroom as this child because the school told me that they have no way of keeping up with things like that and that it's my responsibility if I don't want him around her to keep him away from her. I tried talking to the girls parents and suggesting that they inform social services or even the local authorities so that there could be some home studies done for the children's sake. They weren't interested in involving the authorities since the school agreed to remove my son from the classroom. I'm sorry, but that's a bit shady in my opinion. I feel like both children were victims in this case. My son did not know better and didn't comprehend the ramifications of what he had done. He's 8 1/2 now and like I said, we've never had another incident but I still worry and reiterate to him all of the time about keeping his hands to himself and to not touch girls in private areas. Next year he will be in the 3rd grade and will have to change classes and the probability that he will end up around this other child is high and that worries me. So much so that we're contemplating moving just to change schools. I've never witnessed so much incompetence in school officials and lack of caring as I have with this school. It's extremely sad!