There Is No Justification for 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.
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
Rethink the Tree Ordinance
As a member of EAGR, I am writing to express my astonishment that serious consideration is being given to the adoption of a tree ordinance that will affect the ability of every homeowner in Rye to make decisions regarding their own property. As an attorney, I was taught that laws should be tailored as narrowly as possible to address a perceived wrong.
My understanding is that the impetus for this ordinance is to address “clear cutting” and clearance of large numbers of trees from properties to prevent flooding, etc. I am mystified as to the leap of logic made to justify the requirement that ALL homeowners desiring to remove single, sizable trees on their own property must pay a fee, ask the permission of a “tree czar” to do so, and justify to that individual their reasoning for removal.
The rationale for those advocating for this intrusion into private property rights seems to boil down to two equally specious arguments: one, that “many other towns are doing it” and two, that these advocates are desirous of “teaching” property owners to think about their trees. Their desire to educate is laudable, but I feel confident that I and other property owners with vested and tangible interests in their own property are quite capable of making responsible decisions about the landscaping thereof.
I sincerely hope that the City Council members have similar confidence in their constituent’s capabilities.
Turn Down the Volume At Tiki Bar
The Tiki Bar on the Playland Boardwalk is playing music so loud it can be heard all the way to Rye Town Park and beyond. They have set up dozens of moorings in the harbor for motorboats, which will leak oil on our beach. They are invading the pier with chairs and tables, preparing for mobs.
They have turned our lovely, quiet beach area into a raucous commercial enterprise. It looks like the South Bronx down there. Rye must stop this blatant invasion of our commons.
We Have a Leaf Blower Law, Let’s Enforce It
The leaf blower law in the City of Rye is clearly one of Hamlet’s “customs more honored in the breach than the observance.” A typical day in late spring and summer is less characteristic of the quiet and peaceful suburb so beloved by the usual realtor depiction and more indicative of an industrial zone with attendant noise pollution.
When approached by residents quoting the existence of the law, the usual reaction of the individual operating the blower is one of wide-eyed innocence based on a stated complete lack of knowledge of the law (which has been in existence for four years), followed by a stealthy renewal of the practice once the residents are out of sight. In the event that the police are notified with the normal response interval, the crew will switch off the equipment just as the police cruiser appears.
In essence, the force of any law is dependent on a combination of respect for it on the part of those whose behavior it is designed to control and the general populace, as well as rigorous enforcement by the authorities.
Our leaf blower law fails miserably on these criteria and merely meets the lowest standard for action taken to control a public nuisance, namely, “We have solved that problem — we passed a law”!
I am mystified why the ingenuity of the authorities, which is so effectively deployed in parking and traffic violations, is so manifestly absent from this problem, particularly when the use of the blowers in summer has no discernible advantage to the property involved other than a temporary appearance of neatness until cancelled by the breeze. It would seem that the futility of the blower use is exceeded only by the impotence of the law designed to prevent it!
Is Empathy Learned?
By Elizabeth D’Ottavio-Eck
I’ve been a Rye resident for nine years. My decision to make a home in this town was primarily based on the importance of providing a great education for my daughter
and as a full-time working, single mom I wanted to be in close proximity to her school and to my work at PepsiCo in Purchase. In the time I’ve lived here I’ve had the great fortune to meet many incredible people who are now life-long friends. It is in this state of mind that I felt it necessary to express my deep and utter astonishment at what occurred on Friday, June 1st.
When I heard the news about “the hazing that occurred on Friday” I felt a multitude of emotions, mostly anger at the kids who committed this cruel act as well as a deep sense of pain and sadness for the children who were assaulted. I tried to imagine how I would feel if it were my daughter who was threatened, beaten and humiliated and in the same token I also tried to imagine being the parent of the kids who committed the crime.
It’s been two days since the incident and I’ve heard from lots of people who share my perspective; I’ve also heard others minimize this horrific event and it is the latter of the two that made me wonder if empathy is something we learn? I grew up in a family where the mantra “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” was enforced on a daily basis. Compassion and kindness were equally as important as getting good grades and winning a track meet.
I’ve heard statements like “boys will be boys” and I wonder, what message does that send? Is it just something that’s said to make us all feel better, something that’s said to make us feel more comfortable in an uncomfortable situation? Or do we actually believe that there is some kind of underlying truth in this phrase that excuses certain behavior? My daughter heard kids talking in the bathroom in school today, saying things like, “everyone’s overreacting” and I wonder if this is how some kids truly feel or is this a message they’re getting from someone else? Is it because we live in Rye and this just doesn’t happen here? Is it because it’s too impossible to imagine? I wonder if they witnessed up close and personal with their own two eyes what happened that day if they would still somehow deny, excuse or defend what occurred.
As a parent, as a mother, as a member of this community, I am deeply saddened by what occurred on June 1st. My heart goes out to everyone who was affected by this cruel, senseless act and at the same time I’m inspired by the parents, young men and young women who had the courage to stand up and say, “This is not okay”!
In my opinion they are the true leaders in our community.
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. We all know the details to which I refer, and I do not plan to go into them further here.
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 have 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 extremely concerned about the fact that the media is publishing their names and showing their photos when they are only 16 and 17; I am extremely concerned about the mental health stresses to these boys (not to mention their families) when they are only 16 and 17. I worry that these intense legal, media, and mental health strains may lead our small, tight-knit community to more sorrow and damage, rather than to a resolution of this hazing problem or to the intense social pressures teenagers here face. I have seen it myself in defense practice and I remind you that the teenage mind can only handle so much pressure and guilt at one time. The teenage mind is not as strong as the adult mind.
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 teenage boys accused is my next-door neighbor and a close 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 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?
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 the victims and the charged boys from backlash, to keep outsiders (the media) out, 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 process, to love and forgive them, and to rehabilitate them. Why did we all move to this community if we are not now capable of following these goals?
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.