Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Title Escapes Me

His name was Ricky, and he was a star student in my class; helpful, always volunteering to read or answer questions, getting his work done in a timely way, and even leading class on occasion. He wasn't a genius, but he was smart and personable.

My classroom was in the local jail, and while most of my students were only there for a short time, Ricky was there as a longer-term "guest." I was impressed by the respect he showed me. Yes, there was a guard there; some kids did give me trouble anyway, but Ricky never did.

I was impressed, too, by the compassion Ricky showed to a 12 year old boy who arrived one day and could be heard crying in his cell. I was told by a guard that later that night, Ricky could be heard reading aloud to the new boy, to comfort him.

What did not fit with my view of Ricky was the brutal reality of why he was in the jail school; he and some peers had terrorized poor Zong, a 13-year old boy on his way home from the grocery store for his mom. They chased him up to the top of a 5-story parking garage, beat him, and dropped him to the ground, leaving him to die.

My point? Ricky was not just a thug. He was at one time a gift from God, given to his parents and capable of becoming an amazing human being, capable of contributing to society and living a long and happy life. Instead, his parents badly abused and neglected him and his sister, leaving them to their own devices much of the time. Ricky's family was no stranger to Child Protective Services, but he still lived at "home." Lacking love and nurturing from birth on, he developed into a person lacking fundamental character traits and anything resembling care.

Instead of a long and happy life, Ricky is serving a life term in prison, as is one of the boys with him. (Zong Vang's family is doing the same, only in a different kind of prison.)

There are no excuses for what Ricky did, but there are reasons.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month


  1. I'm afraid that it's this way for a lot of trouble young people. They need care and support in their home life but get abuse and discouragement instead. Thanks for lending that helping hand. You're the greatest! thanks.

  2. Wow. That is a heartbreaking story. Most of the children I teach are much younger, but I worry about their futures when I see how their lives are now. You are an amazing person to help teach the children who find themselves in those circumstances.

  3. In the four years I was the Matron in the Jail here, I encountered so many people who I thought about, "Under other circumstances, I would really like this person." So, many of them had had awful childhoods. Soooo, sad.

  4. I agree and I appreciate your perspective. It's a vicious cycle these kids suffer through.

    We have a local DJ on the radio staying LIVE on the air for 175 hours straight (7 days) for Child Abuse Prevention month. He is breaking all kinds of records and getting a ton of attention and I think it's all pretty cool.


  5. the cycle is horrible! i imagine that they probably have not been loved and hugged enough.


  6. That breaks my heart, in many ways.


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