The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on November 15, 2023.
OUR POSITION: The horrible incident at L.A. Ainger Middle School that resulted in the serious injury of a student is a reminder that people must stand up to bullying and for those less able to stand up for themselves.
There should be no tolerance for bullying. The repercussions can run deeper than any wounds or scars. Bullying, especially at a young age, can influence a child’s self-esteem, attitude toward others and relationships their entire life.
A horrible incident recently at L.A. Ainger Middle School in Englewood was a dramatic reminder of how, when things go too far, bullying can even be life threatening.
If you haven’t followed the story, we’ve reported in The Daily Sun, how a boy, a native of Haiti, was attacked in the school lunchroom by a bigger classmate because of what appears to be a tap on the head. The 13-year-old reacted aggressively, picking up the smaller boy and slamming him to the floor, head-first. Then, according to police reports and video, he kicked the student as he lay helpless.
The youth who was attacked began to shake in place before falling unconscious and convulsing. He was airlifted to a Tampa hospital and placed into a medically induced coma, officials said. As we write this he was able to move his limbs but unable to communicate and remained in serious condition.
The arrest report included sworn statements from students and staff, along with video surveillance of the cafeteria, indicating the suspect was the sole aggressor. The 13-year-old suspect was arrested.
What happens next is anyone’s guess but, because of one person’s actions, two lives have been changed, possibly forever.
The victim faces a long road to recovery and could even have health issues the rest of his life. The attacker faces criminal charges that could result in discipline impacting his future as a student and leave a stain on his records that could follow him his entire life.
What is the answer to this type of behavior? There is no easy one-trick cure.
Faculty and parents at the school are doing what they can to address the issue — including providing counseling for students.
Parent Jessica Souza decorated clothespins with positive messages.
Some of the messages on the clothespins say, “Thank You,” “Be a buddy not a bully.”
“The goal is to sneak these pins onto someone’s backpack to make someone’s day,” Souza said.
She pointed out that students come from all types of backgrounds and their lives outside school can vary greatly. Not everyone has a stable home environment.
There are other avenues where issues can be addressed and students can learn how to turn negative behavior into positive outcomes. That could happen in afterschool activities, clubs and organizations.
We’d like to think when the new Boys and Girls Club, which is in the planning stages, is built and opened that it could provide a very positive atmosphere for students who can benefit from interacting with others in a non-threatening, positive environment.
Church groups are another potential retreat for students looking for interaction with others or seeking resources outside the home where they can learn and practice building relationships in a non-adversarial way.
One important lesson we hope comes from this incident is that bullying is not ok. It’s not funny and it’s always harmful — if not physically, then mentally. Students should be brave enough to speak up when they see bullying. Stop it if you can. Report it if you can’t.
Editor’s note: In response to the violent assault, a neighbor has started a GoFundMe account to help raise money for the victim and his family. The account can be visited at: gofund.me/b8d6f2ca.
More information about the incident can be found HERE.