Monday, July 7, 2008

Looking for answers.....

I was not going to post about this, but after returning to school today, my heart is still aching, I am still angry and I need to let go of this before it turns my heart to stone.

Last Monday, an 8 year old student from the school I teach at was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a 14 year old neighbor!!! Dy'Mia Janae Woody was not my student. But I knew her. We were not close, but she knew who I was and I immediately recognized her when her picture flashed on the screen last week, announcing her death.

When I woke up last Tuesday morning the news was on, and I heard a reporter say the body of an 8 year old girl had been found in an abandoned mobile home off Old Grove Road. I knew immediately that she was "one of ours," as we often refer to children in our school community. My fears were confirmed less than an hour later when I received an email from my principal.

We had the week off from Summer school last week for the 4th of July holiday. Had I been at school, the news couldn't have been any harder to take. I watched the news constantly and checked my school email for any news. My husband (a retired cop) and I watched an interview of a 14 year old neighbor of Dy'Mia's who had been one of the last to see her Monday night. My husband's radar immediately went up and he said "that kid either did it, or knows who did." By Wednesday, a suspect (the same 14 y.o. boy we watched being interviewed) had been named, and arrested. More details of her death trickled out later in the week as well as information about the funeral plans.

I was scheduled to go out of town over the 4th of July holiday, so when I heard the funeral would be on Saturday when I was still out of town I was sad to know I would not be there to give my condolences to her family, and be there to support my colleagues who knew Dy'Mia, and represent our school to the community.

Word came over the weekend that a crisis intervention team would be there to assist students and staff when summer school resumed today. I wondered how the kids would react, especially those students who knew Dy'mia. As I walked int he building, I was handed a letter by our principal about how things should be handled today. It was reassuring to be there, to be with our students, to hug them, to listen to them, to be the port in the storm they needed in their little lives.

Through this all I keep asking myself what makes a 14 year old do this to an 8 year old child. To any child? What kind of kids are we raising? My school serves a high poverty area of Greenville. Over 90 percent of these kids receive free or reduced lunch, they come from single parent homes, and are predominantly African-Americans or Hispanic. Their world is colored with drugs, guns, violence, sex, you name it, they have seen it. There is so much anger, and apathy, mistrust and abuse.

I went into education to make a difference in the lives of kids like these. Now I find myself so ill-equipped to handle it. When a child asked me "why did he do it" today, I didn't have any answers. I needed an answer too. Next week I will be attending a conference called "Boys in Crisis" as part of my preparation to teach an all-boy classroom of 4th graders next year. I need to understand where they are coming from a little better. So maybe I can still make a difference.

Rafe Esquith, one of my heroes, said (pardon me for paraphrasing here) that we can't save these kids, but we can teach them to save themselves. Looks like I have my work cut out for me.

No comments: