No Tolerance for Thugs
The recent hazing incident in Rye High School/Rye Middle School has left most of us in shock. How could it happen here? Judging by the front-page article “Hazing Scandal Stuns Rye” it has been happening for a while and we as parents and adults in this community have turned a blind eye. It is only a testimony that privileged upbringing doesn’t automatically produce decent members of society.
The time is now to stand up and speak. Remember: “When they came for the Jews, I was silent, when they came for the Communists I was silent, when they came for me, there was no one left to speak”.
To stamp out this behavior once and for all, simple steps need to be taken:
1) The young thugs who committed this crime, should be charged as adults and tried accordingly, including if found guilty sent to adult prison.
2) These young thugs should be immediately and irrevocably expelled from Rye Schools.
If this incident ends up as another “slap with wet noodle on the wrist”, “community service” type of discharge, let us brace for a repeat year after year, until we have a fatality among the young students.
The message needs to be clear: Rye doesn’t tolerate thugs among our ranks.
Bozidar Jovanovic, Ph.D., CFA
Nothing Justifies Hazing
Perhaps the most alarming aspect to me about the paddling incident is the fact that apparently many RMS and RHS parents not only think paddling is an acceptable activity, but they believe it’s a good one. What does it take to make us all understand the emotional and psychological harm done to both paddlee and paddler? The physical harm to the child paddled or beaten in other ways is palpable, but the fact that parents can ignore the inner scars/habits of hazing on both kids is disturbing.
In rebuttal, those who accept hazing invoke “tradition” to justify it. Traditions are not necessarily positive ones. Thanksgiving is a positive tradition, passed down generation to generation because of the good values it embraces. Racial and religious prejudice, on the other hand, is a harmful, unjustified tradition, although we have come a long way in this country toward amending how we view ourselves and our neighbors.
Consider all of the articles and school talks about bullying over the past five years or more. Have we not listened? Ignoring the message and the evidence is inexcusable and insensitive. Claiming that this is a valuable tradition makes us as parents equally culpable.
These Are Our Own Teenage Boys, and They Need Us Right Now
By Diana McBaine-Cook, Esq.
The choice we all made to move to Rye to raise our children is a bit like the choice we made when we got married: “For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health . . .” Most often in Rye we have had “better” times (if not fantastic times). Most often in Rye we have prospered and then paid high taxes so our community will continue to flourish. And most often in Rye we have been healthy.
But in the last few weeks, we have witnessed the “for worse” part of the choice we made to move here. We have been under intense police pressure, as well as local and national media scrutiny, for events involving our teenagers, mainly our teenage boys. We have had teenage boys go missing and teenage boys acting out terrible hazing rituals that, apparently, were perpetrated upon them when they were younger.
Instead of focusing on the details of these recent events, I wish to remind all of you that these are our Rye teenage boys. They are part of our “marriage” to Rye. They are our own football players, our Garnets, our lacrosse players, our Rye High School students. They are the children of leaders of Rye youth sports and pillars of the community who have given so much back to the other children and families in Rye with their endless volunteer work. So, it is the responsibility of all of us to protect our Rye teenage boys now; to guide them and watch over them even when they have troubles — dare I say especially when they have troubles. That is, after all, one reason why we moved here: so that the small community would rally behind our own children if they ever had a time of need.
Just because things have hit a rough patch, does not mean that we end our so-called “marriage” to Rye. (A “divorce” is not that easy by the way. You have to move out of Rye). Just because our teenage boys have been in trouble does not mean they are no longer part of the so-called “oath” we took when we moved here to stick together in this small town, pay high taxes, and do endless hours of local volunteer work so that our community, and our children, would flourish.
Why am I the one to write to you about this matter you may ask? First of all, I practiced criminal defense law in the past and have worked with juvenile defendants. So, as a former defense attorney, I am telling you that I am extremely concerned about the fact that our teenage boys are being charged as adults when they are only 16 and 17; I am
Criminal defense lawyers get paid to worry . . . I am worried . . . and I am not even getting paid to do it.
The other reason why I am writing this is one of the accused teenage boys is my next-door neighbor and friend. I have watched him grow up the last seven years, seen him get his first puppy and bring it to my house all the time. I have seen him put out bird feeders on his deck each spring. He and his brother took care of my house and property during Hurricane Irene when I was away. I have been relieved to know that this boy (now teenager) and his brother were there, next door, ready to help me fix the outdoor lamps and dig me out of the snow. He never asks for anything in return, and he is always polite and cheerful. He sets a good example for my children and has allowed them to take toys from his tag sale for free. So the kids and I drop off pies for this particular teenager because teenage boys must love pies, right?
My point is not to focus on the details of my own experience with one of the Rye teenagers allegedly involved in these hazing incidents but, rather, to remind you that many of us know these boys personally. Many of us know boys who may get into trouble next year or the year after. Any and all of our children may encounter some difficulty down the road. So may we all try to remember that the purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate the kids and prevent them from becoming repeat offenders? (They will face more “punishment” than you can even imagine while they are going through the criminal justice system). Moreover, this goal of rehabilitation is to be invoked if the juveniles are found to be guilty in a court of law.
Believe it or not, the juvenile system can and does work when it is followed properly. So why are we not demanding that it be followed with our Rye teenage boys? Why aren’t we closing in as a community to protect both the victims and the charged boys from backlash, to keep the media out (or at least redirect the media to our community efforts to solve the hazing problem), and to help all of these families heal and face the overwhelming legal hurdles ahead of them?
Did you notice that our Rye teenage boys have been charged as adults with felonies as well as misdemeanors? They are in the hands of the District Attorney’s Office now. So it is up to the rest of us to support them and help them get through this criminal law process, to love and forgive them, and to rehabilitate them if they are found to be in need of such rehabilitation. Why did we all move to this community if we are not now capable of following these goals?
Why is it that we have not called upon prominent local defense attorneys and/or prosecutors who live in Rye to educate our teenagers about hazing and drug offenses before they happened? Why is it that people wait until there is an emergency to call upon lawyers, particularly criminal lawyers? Why not use these attorneys proactively to educate our teenagers about juvenile offenses during school meetings? This really should have been done long ago.
I know that mine is not a popular or welcomed opinion. Rather, mine is a cautious opinion because I fear this situation in Rye could get even “worse”. So I strongly urge all of you to proceed with caution. I strongly urge all of you to proceed with forgiveness. And I strongly urge all of you to proceed with the unity we all have in our “marriage” to Rye . . . For better or for worse.