Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Suspended Teens Mandated to Write About Kitty Genovese



Twenty-nine Lynn English High School students have been suspended and more could face disciplinary action as the city investigates a violent fight between two girls that was videotaped by cheering onlookers.

Officials say the girls who were involved in the fight were suspended for five days and will also face assault charges.

The student who shot the video was suspended for three days and all those watching will miss one day of school.

According to the Boston Globe, all 29 students will be required to write a research paper on the 1964 murder of Catherine "Kitty" Genovese.

Genovese was killed in New York City in 1964 as her cries for help went ignored.

For those who don't know about Kitty Genovese, a landmark case which coined the phrase, "The Bystander Effect," she was followed home from work, stalked, raped and beaten to death as several neighbors watched, heard and did nothing to save her. An extreme case, but one that continues to astound us, even today.

The 29 teens from Lynn English High School took the Bystander Effect to a new level.  Not only watching the fight between the two girls, but cheering it on and putting it on video. What precipitates this level of violence and the need to share it on video?

Perhaps they planned to make it viral much like the gross, but popular, videos made beating up homeless men.  What is wrong with our culture that we aren't so appalled by this behavior that we do something to stop it? I'm not so sure suspension and a research paper are going to have the effect on these teens that parents and teachers are hoping for.

When we define violence as entertainment we are sinking to a new low, accepting it and portraying it as an every day occurance to be watched and enjoyed with friends.  It's probable that many of these teens see violence in their own homes on a daily basis, so it's their "normal."  Parents who are involved in violent relationships are already setting the example from which their children learn to behave.

The mission to break the cycle of violence is one that is placed on our society as a whole, but if we don't teach our teens, and if they continue to experience violence at home, it will continue into our schools and eventually into our neighborhoods and communities. We are all responsible for positive change.

Many things have changed since 1964 and the murder of Kitty Genovese, including Neighborhood Watch Associations.  But one thing that hasn't changed much is the fear to get involved and do the right thing, it's called social responsibility.  In our age of technology it's easy to make a call, take a picture for evidence, and assist someone in trouble.

It's too bad that the Lynn English High School students reacted so differently.

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