I normally try to keep my posts lighthearted but I hope you'll forgive me if I'm in a darker place today.
I had planned to do a post on the end of the school year and the happy memories it brings. Two of my grandchildren finished their year yesterday, the other two have a couple weeks left. A very exciting time for kids, full of plans for the summer.
Expect for Paul, a thirteen year old eighth grader at my grandson's school, who came home on Tuesday, took a gun and ended his life.
I don't have all the facts surrounding Paul's death. I don't know if anyone does. My grandson tells me the stories going around school all say that Paul was being bullied. Police and school officials say that is not the case. The media seemed disinclined to get involved until a group of parents - who may or may not have any real facts - staged an anti-bullying protest in front of the school today. Even then, only one local TV channel reported the event.
A number of student-generated Facebook pages have sprung up, mourning Paul and denouncing bullies and bullying. There was also a site asking all students to wear a white shirt on the last day of school to protest bullying and in memory of Paul, which my grandson says many did. Of course, the comments on these sites now include statements from other students saying they have been bullied and at least one parent talking about her child being bullied.
The school is talking about their no-bullying policy. Teachers receive special training in that area and the students attend anti-bullying programs. Victims are encouraged to come forward, bullies are punished. Or are they? How do you measure the effectiveness of an anti-bullying policy?
As far as I know, Paul's parents have not spoken publicly on the subject.
My heart breaks for Paul's family and for the loss of this young life, but my mind is looking for answers. Was Paul bullied into taking his own life? Did the school system that was supposed to keep him safe fail him? Or are the accusations of bullying the kneejerk reaction of people who simply need someone to blame?
Why should I be so troubled by this? Well, because a young man is dead. And because we're talking about my grandson's school. And because next year, he will be in the eighth grade.
A groaner seems inappropriate today so I'm just going to ask you to say a prayer for Paul's family. And perhaps you could also pray that children of all ages will someday learn to treat each other with acceptance and love.