Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

School Killing too Close for Comfort (Updated)

There was a fatal stabbing this morning at Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School. This is the school our high school is often compared with, as they are the same size and very similar in student body makeup.

The stabbing took place at around 7:20 am in a boys bathroom. There could be a witness to the murder, but that information hasn't yet been substantiated. What is known is that the victim was a 15.5 year old Freshman and the police have arrested a 16.5 year old Sophmore for the crime. He will be indicted this afternoon in Framingham district court on murder charges. He might be charged as an adult later on, but for now will be in juvenile court.

When I saw the "breaking news' and the story was revealed, my heart literally lept into my throat. Even though this isn't the school my kids attend, they know kids from this school through camp and social settings. It is the school my cousins kids attended. It is the school an old friend's daughters will attend. It is the school that I wanted to teach at before I quit that noble profession for a real paycheck in the software industry. This is just way too close to home for me to process.

I called the school psychologist at our school to find out how to handle this information. I wanted to know how the school itself was going to deal with it, informing our kids, or just letting them learn about it at home. And I wanted to know how we at home should talk about this crime, because it really is horribly frightening. And so unexpected.

There has been an unconfirmed rumor that the students involved were in a small classroom environment for emotionally troubled kids. I do not know if this is true or not, but I hope not. That's all those kids need is more kids harassing them for having mental illnesses. Like it isn't hard enough to go to a very competitive high school filled with ivy league bound students when you can barely remember how to dress yourself some mornings.

I pray for those kids left behind. School tragedies are all too common these days. But that's almost glib, and I don't mean to appear that way. Every school tragedy, whether a shooting or a stabbing or whatever is horrific. Every one inures us to more violence inside our schools. High school is a pressure cooker of emotions and stress. Add kids with parents who push them to excell and expectations to be the best, and you're got a firestorm of stress just waiting to blow.

We don't yet know the motive of the crime. We don't even know the identity of the murderer, although the victim has been identified. We know almost nothing other than that the school was in lockdown for hours before letting the students leave with their distraught parents. I cannot even imagine what their afternoons are going to be like. Counseling, as usual, is available to the students through the weekend. But is that enough?

I weep for my own children who are so vulnerable and precious. I will hug them tight tonight and tell them how much I love them. Please do the same with your own children.

Update: The victim was identified as James Alenson. He was pronounced dead at Emerson Hospital at 8:12 a.m. He was a special education student in the REACH program, and was evidentally mentally challanged. Most of the students interviewed didn't know who he was because he was in a small classroom environment and was always with teachers or aides.

John Odgren of Princeton is charged with murder, assault and battery with a dangerous
weapon and carrying a knife on school property. Odgren's lawyer, Jonathan Shapiro, said after the arraignment that "it is a tragedy for all involved. I know my client and his family feel for the victim and his family." Prosecutor Daniel Bennett said Odgren admitted to school officials he killed Alenson.

He also said his client has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, and is a special education student at the school and had no history of violence. He asked for his client to be allowed to go to a secure facility at Children's Hospital in Boston, to be paid for by his family.

My kids school seemed to ignore the situation and didn't tell the Girl anything, so I had to tell her. She was not clear on why I was so upset. The invincibility of teenagers... The Boy is not yet home. I'm interested to hear his take on this, as he does know several of the kids in the self-contained LifeSkills program from his bus.

Odgren at his arrest


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's your source for Alenson's disability? The NY Times and the three articles in the Boston Globe have only mentioned Ogden's disability. Please let your readers know, as that may be an important piece of information in this story.

20/1/07 9:53 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

My source was someone from our schools who said this to me on the phone. But as I said, I have no clue as to whether or not this is true, and from the articles in the Globe, it seems that he WAS a SpED kid in Speech and did have a student mentor and was picked on, he doesn't sound like a kid in a Life Skills class AT ALL. So I'm sorry it was implied otherwise. But the person at our school got this directly from the principal at Lincoln Sudbury around 10 am after the shooting, and it was passed around to all the teachers (my son reported seeing a teacher get the phone call and then start crying), we have no real clue of what was said, and what was misconstrued by very worried faculty and staff.

20/1/07 12:54 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Oh, and I forgot, the REACH program was named on the Channel 5 News (ABC affilliate) here in Boston so they evidentally got that information incorrectly as well.

20/1/07 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I missed it on Channel 5, and I watched the 5-6:00 news shows, but not 11. Still, that leak of sensitive placement information concerns me. I saw the speech reference in the Globe too, but also lots of honors and A student type stuff. Doesn't mean he's not special ed (I see that mix all the time as building special education coordinator), but it worries me that a profile of a murdered student doesn't mention that at all, nor does it mention the student's placement who did the stabbing, and that folks in other communities can access that .

Thanks for clearing that up though.

20/1/07 4:27 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

I think the reporting on Channel 5 during the day was horrendous. I saw it first as breaking news around 8ish, and watched all morning, including the press conference by the new DA and the school superinendent. They put in a lot of information that is probably only rumor and never meant to be included.

As the parent of two SPED kids, I'd be very upset if that is how my kids were discussed. I mean, the Aspie kid is semi-relevant in that Aspergers can lead to tantrums and violent outbursts and they have successfully used Aspergers as a diminished mental capacity defense in the past, but still, who knows what happened and what the two kids were all about. I wish it were all more private as Odgen is already guilty in the arms of the people. I dunno, media gets in the way too much.

20/1/07 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's certainly terrible when something like this happens; thankfully the reason it makes the news is because, however common it seems, it's still not the norm. That being said, I don't think I'd ever have been able to get myself to school every day if the level of violence--or reported violence--was what it is today. I feel for both families.

21/1/07 3:19 PM  

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