Thursday, May 05, 2005

Kearsley terrorist to face justice?

Talk about controversy! A former Kearsley High School student who terrorized 65 of her classmates with a hit list that included her own name, seems to be scrambling. Apparently, if the Flint Journal can be trusted (because often times it can't), there has been a "breakdown" between the high school terrorist and her attorney. He's removing himself from her case.

Kellie Jackson was scheduled to plead guilty to two charges stemming from distributing the hit list over the Internet, causing a wave of panic that nearly shut down the school, sports programs and extra-curricular activities for a week of terror for parents, students. teachers and the Kearsley administration. Imagine the trepidation of sending your child off to school knowing he or she were among those hit listed.

Kearsley High School has had a bad year! Lock downs due to bomb threats have become a regular occurance with students locked inside classrooms and worried parents locked outside the school, receiving short messages from hostage cell phones and Sidekicks. What is happening at that school anyway?? Why are those kids so angry?

Reality check: It's not just Kearsley being terrorized. During the last 10 years, we have witnessed repeated live reports of murder sprees which have killed students, teachers, cops, and security guards in schools across the country, Columbine High School being the worst. One teacher and 14 students including the killers died, and 23 others were wounded. The terrorists reportedly fell somewhat short of their goal, which was to murder 500 and blow up their school.

Remember the 13-year-old who wounded four of his classmates with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun in Oklahoma?

In March, 10 people died in Red Lake, Minn.

Another "kill list," similar to Jackson's, was found in neighboring Oakland County, allegedly written by a 14-year-old boy. He was charged with one count of threatening terrorism for a list he allegedly wrote threatening the lives of 11 people, including some of his classmates. Under the Michigan Anti-Terrorism Act, the boy could face up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted of the felony charges.

Investigators said the list was found in the boy's backpack after four classmates claimed they saw him writing it in math class. The list described who the boy allegedly planned to kill at the school. School officials searched the teenager's backpack and discovered a notebook containing the list.

His attorney, at the pre-trial heaing, argued that the boy has no criminal history or record of disciplinary problems in school. He said the boy denies writing the list, and that he still has the support of his family, including his mother.

Prosecutors said there was no way to tell what the boy might have done if he hadn't been caught, and argued he should not be released. The court referee agreed with the prosecutors, and ordered the boy held without bond at the Oakland County Children's Village.

My point - and I do have one - Something needs to be done! Nadine Kaslow, a professor and chief psychologist at Emory University in Atlanta, recently told ABC News, that troubled adolescents often use the terrorism for attention. "Some of it is the media attention. Sadly, it is a way to get noticed. These are often kids who have been neglected, whose voices haven't been heard. This is a way to be heard."

I remember watching Jackson on television the day the news broke about the Kearsley hit list. She was front and center of a group of girls, describing their fears about being named on the list. I understand she was among the ones who called the media's attention to the situation.

Clearly, Jackson and the other terrorists are troubled whether it be from bullying at school, neglect or abuse at home, or other factors. And their troubled is having a horrible impact in our homes, in our neighborhoods and in our schools. We no longer have the freedom to deem such threats as child's play or teenage pranks. Our police and school officials now need to be far more vigilant with ensuring safe environments in which to learn and grow.

The Journal said Jackson wants to consult with a new attorney before going forward with her pleas to charges of making false reports or threats of a bomb/harmful device, a 4-year felony, and conspiracy to maliciously use telecommunication services, a 1-year circuit court misdemeanor. The deal called for her to plead guilty to those charges. In exchange, prosecutors were to dismiss two other charges connected with the threats. The deal also was to ask the judge to set aside the conviction on the 4-year felony if and when Jackson completes whatever sentence he imposes. That would leave only a misdemeanor conviction on her record.

If the 14-year-old kid in Holly is being charged under the Michigan Anti-Terrorism Act for a hit list of 11 found in his backpack, what of nearly 18-year-old woman who disseminated a hit list of 65 over the Internet? He's locked up. Jackson and her co-conspirators are free, leaving us to wonder what they might have done if they hadn't been caught.

Our society and academic institution can no longer tolerate such deadly cries for attention. All threats, large or small, should be punished to the full extent of the law.

After all, Jackson put her name on that hit list. Let her experience the terror of justice.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Getting started...

I've been thinking long and hard about this venture, both as a means to process my own ponderings as well as to add perspective to a community desperately in need of ... well, perspective. Of course, perspective is subjective - opinion really, isn't it? I've never been one to hesitate offering my opinion...

As a 43-year-old part-time professional raising a son and daughter in Genesee County, I have loads of perspective. I work for the leading academic institution in the community. This after some 10 years as city employee, appointed by a former Mayor, who happened to be a different color than me or my children or my husband. His color and mine is only significant to an embarrassing number of people in our community. I realized a long time ago that despite what my white friends and family told me, Flint - and Genesee County for that matter - has a race problem. White people don't think so. Most black people, on the other hand, know so.

Of course, the same can be said of our nation.

Already, those of you reading this likely have drawn some conclusions about me, gained some perspective, shall we say. I have probably already lost a few of you not willing to hear one more time about race or problems or differing perspectives. Some of you may stay and read on, mildly curious about what this white woman might have to say.

The focus of this effort will be on Genesee County, Michigan, located in southeast lower Michigan, at the intersection of Interstate Highways I-75 and I-69 -- so says the County website. I reside in Flint, the county seat, a city once flush with GM workers, paychecks and residents who took great pride in their homes and neighborhoods. Today, Flint has gone from the second largest to Michigan's fourth-largest city, with a 28 percent drop in total population to 124,943, according to the 2000 Census. The median age is 30.8 and the racial breakdown is 53 percent black, 41 percent white, and 3 percent Hispanic.

Believe me, we got issues!

Race is one thing. Leadership is another! We have lost countless leaders in the past 10 years to communities that offer more. If we don't recall them, we micromanage their professional and personal affairs until they throw up their hands and leave - us to our own devices. We want something, anything to guide us out of the sparkless Flint. In desperation, we believe the lies of wolves and then wonder how we got into the mess - and how in the world we will get out.

I wonder how we are going to get out as well. We need perspective. Maybe not mine, so much, but voices of hope, of well-intentioned, good -hearted people who want to deal honestly and forthrightly with the mess, the issues, the problems, the wildly different perspectives.

Herein lies the matters of Genesee County, of Flint, of our country ... because you matter, our children, our families and our friends matter. Together, we matter most of all.