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April 7, 2006 9:40 PM   Subscribe

Eighth grader Anthony Soltero shot himself on Thursday, March 30, after the assistant principal at De Anza Middle School told him that he was going to prison for three years because of his involvement as an organizer of the April 28 school walk-outs to protest the anti-immigrant legislation in Washington. The vice principal also forbade Anthony from attending graduation activities and threatened to fine his mother for Anthony's truancy and participation in the student protests." Anthony was learning about the importance of civic duties and rights in his eighth grade class. Ironically, he died because the vice principal at his school threatened him for speaking out and exercising those rights," ...
posted by amberglow (206 comments total)

 
Maybe he had other problems or something.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:47 PM on April 7, 2006


Maybe he had other problems or something.

No, I think it's clear that the War on Terror killed that kid. Start impeachment proceeding now, pls.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:51 PM on April 7, 2006


Well no, he died because he shot himself.
posted by delmoi at 9:51 PM on April 7, 2006


Yeah, it was all the vice-principal's fault. Fucking bastard.
posted by jdroth at 9:51 PM on April 7, 2006


Pretty sad, but how did he get a gun?
posted by Krrrlson at 9:51 PM on April 7, 2006


I apologize if I missed it, but are there any other sources picking this up at all? If not all I see is a blog quoting something that could very well be unsubstantiated.

Of course, given how amazingly well I've seen most school administrators handle things in the past...

Not really leaning either way, I'm just curious if this is anywhere else yet; before a huge discussion builds up around it it'd be nice to see if it was even accurate first.
posted by Stunt at 9:51 PM on April 7, 2006


Although certainly the principle was lying when he said the kid could go to prison. That's absurd.

He would have learned an important life lesson about petty bureaucrats and their empty threats, but now he's dead. Because he shot himself.
posted by delmoi at 9:54 PM on April 7, 2006


Society killed this little boy.

Society, consider yourself warned.
posted by Mikey-San at 9:55 PM on April 7, 2006


Yes. It's definitely irresponsible to make empty threats of jail-time, and may have set off some trigger, but the student probably had other greater problems if that was enough to put him over the edge. To lay all the blame for his death on the school and the vice-principal is a bit much. That apparently played a part, and the vice-principal should be held responsible for his actions, but to lay all the blame on him is a bit much.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:56 PM on April 7, 2006


Gosh, the powers of remote diagnosis demonstrated here exceed even those of Bill Frist re: Terry Schiavo on the Senate floor. I'm humbled to be in the presence of such analytical gifts.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:02 PM on April 7, 2006


Similar thing happened at St. Michael's College, a private school in Toronto, a few years back, after some kids working on the yearbook put a joke - I think about the principal being gay, or a child molestor, or something - into a draft that accidentally got sent to the printer. Instead of just discipiling the editor, the administration called in the cops, had them interrogate the kid, who was from an Asian family, if I recall correctly (more pressure to live up to family expectations?). Anyway, he killed himself. It was horrendous. And as far as I'm concerned, it was the school's fault, because they deliberately went out of their way to make the kid suffer and fear for his future, out of all proportion to the (unintended) offence. If this is true, the principal should be jailed. For something.
posted by Dasein at 10:03 PM on April 7, 2006


Let this serve as a lesson, boys and girls: if you're gonna do it, have the decency to take the nearest festering bureaucrat with you. Jeez.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:08 PM on April 7, 2006


Absolutely. If this is all true, then whatever other issues the kid had, the behaviour of the administration was the trigger.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:08 PM on April 7, 2006


Gosh, the powers of remote diagnosis demonstrated here exceed even those of Bill Frist re: Terry Schiavo on the Senate floor. I'm humbled to be in the presence of such analytical gifts.

That's not a fair comparison. There's lots of facts surrounding the Shiavo case, whereas there's only one blog source here to represent this incident. This only calls for speculation.
posted by Mach3avelli at 10:09 PM on April 7, 2006


That's not a fair comparison. There's lots of facts surrounding the Shiavo case, whereas there's only one blog source here to represent this incident. This only calls for speculation.

I think he's comparing us to Bill Frist.
posted by delmoi at 10:14 PM on April 7, 2006


I'll always miss my cousin Marc dearly. Only eleven years old, a model boy, the first time he got in serious trouble at school he simply didn't know how to handle it. There is no reason to be cruel to one's self when the world can be such a forgiving place. But I guess you have to know that first.

In my cousin's case it was pretty much his own fault. In this case you try telling me that kid would have killed himself if the asshole vice-principal hadn't come up with all that bullshit and threats. I expect he'll never have that job again, and I sure as hell hope he apologizes to the family. Fucker.
posted by furtive at 10:17 PM on April 7, 2006


Given that Steve Gilliard bought into the whole Cynthia McKinney non-story earlier in the week, he's going to look like kind of an idiot if this one doesn't pan out either.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:18 PM on April 7, 2006


I think he's comparing us to Bill Frist.

Or anyone else who rushes to the power of presumption. Which was the point of my comment.
posted by Mach3avelli at 10:18 PM on April 7, 2006


I hope to God you guys are right and it's not true. I really do.

I remember being 14 tho.
posted by amberglow at 10:22 PM on April 7, 2006


I have to second the request of an alternate source.
posted by nadawi at 10:22 PM on April 7, 2006


I expect he'll never have that job again, and I sure as hell hope he apologizes to the family. Fucker.

The kid should apologize to his own family too. So should your "tragic" cousin, furtive.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:24 PM on April 7, 2006


I was referring to the comments which appeared to say "oh well, the kid must have been messed up already." How the hell do you know what the the effects of deliberate psychological abuse by a principal can be on any given fourteen year old, or even precisely what that abuse consisted of, how it was meted out, and the myriad details this article doesn't cover? Anyone who asserts that this kid was ripe to bump himself off anyway by definition doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:26 PM on April 7, 2006


I have to second the request of an alternate source.

There is a MySpace profile called RIP Anthony Soltero, but I'm not sure if it's related as I don't have the stomach for the screeching embedded audio.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:27 PM on April 7, 2006


Anyone who asserts that this kid was ripe to bump himself off anyway by definition doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.

In the same manner, anyone who asserts that this kid wouldn't have killed himself had the vice principal not threatened him is being foolish. But the blog entry suggests just that, so it's our job to point out alternative scenarios.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:30 PM on April 7, 2006


All vice-principals are evil power-hungry small-minded twits; at least this one got outed early.
posted by jewzilla at 10:30 PM on April 7, 2006


Absolutely. If this is all true, then whatever other issues the kid had, the behaviour of the administration was the trigger.

That, or Judas Priest maybe...
posted by stifford at 10:36 PM on April 7, 2006


jewzilla >>> "All vice-principals are evil power-hungry small-minded twits; at least this one got outed early."

You know, I'd never realized that before. But it's true. Every single vice-principal I have ever met has been, as you say, and evil power-hungry small-minded petty tyrant twit. Is that the reason they never make it to principal, or is it the effect of being passed over for promotion, I wonder?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:44 PM on April 7, 2006


Everyone here who asked for a second source is smarter than the dead kid, assuming the story is true and complete as presented. Your vice-principal tells you you're going to jail, so you kill yourself? Smart enough to organize a protest, not smart enough to realize that judges hand out prison sentences, not school faculty.
posted by chudmonkey at 10:47 PM on April 7, 2006


Whatever else was going on, this nailed the essence of the story: "deliberate psychological abuse by a principal". And yeah the story might not be true, and yeah the kid probably had other problems, and certainly it was short-sighted choice, but that does not excuse a principal or vice-principal from pulling off a mind-fuck in response to political action. And I've seen this happen, so it would not surprise if this were true.
Point being, the principal is not absolved for his actions because a kid may have been upset about other things.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 11:04 PM on April 7, 2006


the principal is not absolved for his actions because a kid may have been upset about other things.

I agree. The vice-principal might not be responsible in law, but this should weigh heavily upon him for the rest of his life.

I went to a foster home when I was 14 and was put under house arrest. It felt like my world was crumbling. I made very serious plans to kill myself--the only time in my life I've really done so. 14 year olds don't have the same perspective as, say, 30 year olds.
posted by apis mellifera at 11:09 PM on April 7, 2006


What a idiot...
posted by Dreamghost at 11:35 PM on April 7, 2006


How stupid and awful and avoidable. The vice principal should be held fully accountable for his part in this kid's unnecessary death.
posted by fenriq at 11:45 PM on April 7, 2006


I organized a protest in high school and some investigative reporting for the newspaper and an infamous safe sex issue and TPTB brought the smack bigtime.... between the civil law threats and the outright threats to our person it was pretty ridiculous. I can see how a 14 year old kid would take it to heart, especially if he's watched enough prison movies. As 17 year olds [with a pretty famous athlete who joined our newspaper staff in solidarity] we don't give a fuck but they tried damn hard to intimidate us and get us expelled. They tried to ruin the journalism teachers career too. And all we were doing was minor local stuff.

They should tell 8th graders that those rights don't kick in until you're 18.
posted by fshgrl at 11:53 PM on April 7, 2006


How about the boy/girl that rejects some unfortunate confused teen, that goes on to kill themselves? How much blame would they share? If it was a harsh rejection, would that be enough of a mindfuck to count as 'the trigger"?
posted by stifford at 11:53 PM on April 7, 2006


How about the boy/girl that rejects some unfortunate confused teen, that goes on to kill themselves? How much blame would they share? If it was a harsh rejection, would that be enough of a mindfuck to count as 'the trigger"?

No, because there's nothing wrong with rejecting someone, and there's a hell of a lot wrong with threatening a kid with jail time for organizing a protest. Or was that a rhetorical question? This isn't rocket science.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:57 PM on April 7, 2006


I'm talking about legal accountability for a teenager overreacting. I'm not saying the vice principal shouldn't lose some sleep over it. Lose their Job? You lose me a bit, but I wouldn't say it would be unexpected. Anyone talking criminal accountabilty (not that anyone here has said that), I think is going over the line.
posted by stifford at 12:05 AM on April 8, 2006


How about the boy/girl that rejects some unfortunate confused teen, that goes on to kill themselves? How much blame would they share? If it was a harsh rejection, would that be enough of a mindfuck to count as 'the trigger"?

Well, context is important here. One dynamic is two students on an equal playing field, the other is a student/superior dynamic. So yeah, the rules change.

There's no legal liability, but a civil suit may be filed (and I suspect will be) if the principal's comments turn out to be true.
posted by Mach3avelli at 12:19 AM on April 8, 2006


Anyone talking criminal accountabilty (not that anyone here has said that), I think is going over the line.

He should be held criminally accountable, not because the kid killed himself, but for threatening illegal retaliation in his official capacity as an agent of the government. Whether this was a factor in the suicide is immaterial. I don't see any reason to grant the slightest leeway to officials who abuse their power in an attempt to influence the lawful actions of private individuals.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:33 AM on April 8, 2006


Sooo...Really sad and awful story, but do we have any back-up documentation? I'm just wondering honestly, cause I can't find a single news story.

I'm too good to get tear-jerky over a single link, ya know.
posted by rollbiz at 12:36 AM on April 8, 2006


No, because there's nothing wrong with rejecting someone, and there's a hell of a lot wrong with threatening a kid with jail time for organizing a protest

That seems irrelevant to the point Stifford was making. Some people here are making a very specific sort of claim:

Person A says or does something to upset person B.

Person B kills him/herself, presumably as a result of being upset by the actions of person A.

Therefore person A should be considered resonsible for killing person B.

If the action of person A wasn't one directly related to facilitating or encouraging person B to kill his/herself (say for instance sending someone a letter urging them to kill themselves to avoid having their secrets revealed) or if person B's suicide couldn't be considered a likely outcome of said action then it seems like that conclusion is a bad one. The rightness or wrongness of the action is irrelevant.

My acquaintance in high school killed himself because his girlfriend dumped him. Did he show any signs of severe emotional problems before the dumping? Not to my knowledge. Would he have killed himself had she not dumped him? Presumably not. Was her dumping him the "trigger" that pushed him over the edge? According to his note, and emphatic yes.

My friend's mother was an alcoholic who killed herself in a bout of depression. She wouldn't have been drunk her final day if the people at the local bars/liquor stores had refused to sell booze. Would she have killed herself if she wasn't drunk? Presumably not. Did she show outward signs of her severe dependency issues (at least clear enough that the guys that sold her booze shoulda picked it up)? Well, I spent time around her probably 4 times a week on average, and I had zero clue. Was the alcohol sold to her by the bars/liquor stores the trigger that pushed her over the edge? Certainly.

In neither of those cases am I inclined to say that the "trigger" party should be considered responsible for the death of the self terminated, but that has nothing to do with the fact that what they did was either "right or wrong".

I've been dumped by girls, I've been sold booze and I've been threatened with legal action on many, many occasions. Two of those occasions the legal threats came from my high school administration (first when I was 16, and then when I was 18) both times the administration lied through their teeth and both times it was because I was exercising my constitutionally protected rights (hurray for underground student newspapers!). Sure it could be quite scary at times, especially to a kid of 16 standing up to frothy mouthed grown ups, who has shown they are willing to behave illegally and immorally to shut you up.

But I'm still here.

Why? Because I didn't choose to kill myself. And in the end that's what this case is about. Was the VP acting wrong? Certainly, and that VP should be held accountable for what they did wrong (the lying, threatening etc.) but they should not be held responsible for killing some kid because that kid chose to kill himself, and could have chosen not to.
posted by Jezztek at 12:48 AM on April 8, 2006


I'm not supporting the vice-principal's statement or actions, at all. But even to be held accountable in a civil suit (which probably does have a good shot at happening) sounds a bit off, imo. If the guy was calling the kid into the office and giving him the "you're a little turd, why don't you kill yourself?" speech three times a week, then I'm a little more with it. But the VP lies and acts like a prick, and the 8th grader doesn't consult his family, the internet, some other authority, and then just goes off and kills himself? If that's the only thing that set the kid off, he wasn't going to be long for this world one way of the other. If there was other things going on, it makes the vp even less liable (imo). I mentioned another kid rejection as an example, just to demonstrate sometimes kids overreact to tragic proportions. And unless an adult was proactively and repeatedly reinforcing the idea of suicide in this kid's head, I don't think they should be held responsible.
posted by stifford at 12:48 AM on April 8, 2006


He should be held criminally accountable, not because the kid killed himself, but for threatening illegal retaliation in his official capacity as an agent of the government. Whether this was a factor in the suicide is immaterial.


Bah, IshmaelGraves only needed like 2 sentences to make the point it took me like 8 paragraphs...
posted by Jezztek at 12:51 AM on April 8, 2006


Why is it always the "conservatives" who are defending the meanest, pettiest point of view?

Heaven? For Eternity? With the likes of You?

I'll Pass.
posted by rougy at 12:57 AM on April 8, 2006


He should be held criminally accountable, not because the kid killed himself, but for threatening illegal retaliation in his official capacity as an agent of the government. Whether this was a factor in the suicide is immaterial.

If he faces charges for misrepresenting his authority or postion, that's another matter. I was only questioning his accountablilty for the suicide.
posted by stifford at 12:59 AM on April 8, 2006


From the article, a news conference by the mother is being held on Sunday. No doubt the mainstream media will pick up and run with it then, as it sounds that the press are already interested. Hopefully we'll hear more details about the story and get the assistant-principal's (AP) side of events.

Now, assuming the story is true - that the AP threatened one of his students with a severe punishment beyond his authority to mete out - I would argue the AP, and the school, are liable for the student's death, or at least he would be in the UK. When the student is at school, the staff have a duty of care to their charges; they act 'in loco parentis'. To threaten a 14 year old with massive consequences for something he's entitled to do is a breach of that duty, and arguably negligent. It's an abuse of power over someone he should be protecting, not scaring to what turned out to be his death.

For those that argued that wouldn't be enough to cause the student's suicide, I disagree. At 14, students can see the direst consequences in a situation, and go from total bravado to terrified in very short order. I've seen students massively over-react to something minor, hell, I did it myself at that age. Not being able to see the long term, they think every setback is the biggest disaster ever, and I can easily see how the thought of being thrown out of school, not being allowed to graduate, and going to jail could throw a student into such a state of despair that they would take their own life rather than face it. Especially if the student was told this alone in the principal's office without a parent present. The principal becomes liable for this because he should know better and because he was in a position of authority and had a duty of care, similar to that a parent has. If a parent had mentally abused their child with similar threats, and that child committed suicide, would we not expect charges of neglect to be filed against that parent? For other children to be removed from their care? We should expect nothing less for this assistant principal.

Assuming the facts are as represented by the mother (which is a big if, admittedly), I would expect this man to lose his job, his school to be sued for negligence (assuming the AP has a history of such conduct, which seems likely), and possibly some form of criminal neglect charges, or at least a civil suit against him personally.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:10 AM on April 8, 2006


Of course this could always fall under the heading of 'child abuse'. I believe under the laws in my state such a charge could be leveled, but I doubt they would.
posted by IronLizard at 1:19 AM on April 8, 2006


I don't think anyone could be held responsible for anyone Else's massive over-reaction. Isn't that pretty much a given? I mean if it was a reasonable, predictable reaction then yes, I could see that, but doesn't massive over-reaction sorta imply that's not the case?

Yes, getting scared shit less is a totally reasonable response for a 14 year old in that situation. Breaking down in tears would certainly be in order. Going home to your parents and begging them for help, super duper reasonable.

But killing yourself? That's all on you lil' dude.
posted by Jezztek at 1:20 AM on April 8, 2006


For those that argued that wouldn't be enough to cause the student's suicide, I disagree.

I'm not saying the event wasn't enough to be the "trigger" to the suicide, I was asking more when does the trigger become acountable.

At 14, students can see the direst consequences in a situation, and go from total bravado to terrified in very short order. I've seen students massively over-react to something minor, hell, I did it myself at that age. Not being able to see the long term, they think every setback is the biggest disaster ever, and I can easily see how the thought of being thrown out of school, not being allowed to graduate, and going to jail could throw a student into such a state of despair that they would take their own life rather than face it.


To me, that seems like more reasons to question holding someone else accountable for the suicide.
posted by stifford at 1:22 AM on April 8, 2006


Stifford, Jezztek - if this had been a random man on the street, I'd agree that he wouldn't be liable for the consequences of his comments, including the suicide.

The difference is, the man is in a legal position of authority over the student, and has a legal duty of care for the student, similar to that of a parent. Disclosure: I work in a UK school. Because of his position and training, he should have acted more appropriately, and had a parent present. That's what makes him liable. He should have known better and should have acted differently.

No, the student shouldn't have taken his own life, but even if the student had not, the AP would still be guilty of neglect and dereliction of duty, assuming the facts are as presented. The AP didn't commit murder, but that doesn't stop him being liable for the consequences of abuse of his position, and if that includes a suicide, he bears a big chunk of responsibility for causing that.

I suspect we may just have to agree to differ for the time being though.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:35 AM on April 8, 2006


Assuming that the story is true , we could use this analogy with adults

a) a doctor tells you you will suffer immensely for the next three years and you will be permanently marked by that problem even if you will not die because of it

b) the doctor is completely wrong, but because of your psycological frailty you enter a deep depression and commit suicide

c) the doctor should know that menacing dire outcomes has psycological consequences that could lead to desperation

Similarly, the principal should know that kids are more susceptible then adults to threats, he should know because he works in a school with kids.
posted by elpapacito at 1:38 AM on April 8, 2006


Because of his position and training, he should have acted more appropriately, and had a parent present.

Those are really good reasons to hold him liable for abuse of power, but I see nothing that explains why he should be held liable for someone else's choice to kill themsef made while in a bout of massive over-reaction.

The AP didn't commit murder, but that doesn't stop him being liable for the consequences of abuse of his position, and if that includes a suicide, he bears a big chunk of responsibility for causing that.

Nope, I disagree. His actions may have been a trigger for the suicide, but as in the two examples from my life I posted above (with the girl dumping the guy, and the liquor store selling the mother booze) just because the suicide probably wouldn't have happened without said action, I don't think it follows we can claim that person is responsible for the suicide. The rightness, or wrongness of the action is question is totally irrelevant.

b) the doctor is completely wrong, but because of your psycological frailty you enter a deep depression and commit suicide

I think it would be better if you phrased it as such: You don't bother to get a second opinion, you don't even wait until the first onset of symptoms, you don't seriously discuss the matter with your family and you kill yourself so quickly after hearing the news you don't have enough time to enter a truly deep depression.
posted by Jezztek at 1:56 AM on April 8, 2006


So if a doctor gave someone a bad diagnosis (negative and/or incorrect) and that person doesn't going for a second opinion, any research of the illness, and just kills themselves the same day (did the vice-principal talk happen the same day as the suicide? just curious), The doctor is responsible? I guess legally that does make the arguement stronger as malpractice (although I don't know if I agree philisophically).

But what if a doctor (with the best intention) portrayed a much bleaker than likely outcome ("you're going to keel over in 3 months, hacking up blood and tar each day") for a smoker unless they quit, "crazy" smoker thinks they can never quit, so they just off themself. Is the doctor legally accountable?

Legal Blame for suicide just seems like an odd thing to argue in court, imo. But I guess it happens.
posted by stifford at 2:00 AM on April 8, 2006


jezztek: you miss my point entirely : principal must not deliver the news the way he probably did. What if I told some frail people out of nowhere they have cancer and they going to die ? You don't know shit about people emotive reactions do you ?
posted by elpapacito at 2:04 AM on April 8, 2006


The AP didn't commit murder, but that doesn't stop him being liable for the consequences of abuse of his position, and if that includes a suicide, he bears a big chunk of responsibility for causing that.

Nope, I disagree. His actions may have been a trigger for the suicide, but as in the two examples from my life ... just because the suicide probably wouldn't have happened without said action, I don't think it follows we can claim that person is responsible for the suicide.

And this is the crux of the two arguments, which I don't think we can resolve, as we both look at the same situation and come away with a different answer. In most circumstances, I would agree with you, the sucidee should take the blame. The only reason that I think that he is responsible in this case is the fact that he has a duty of care for a minor in his care, the same if he'd been a parent or guardian - and working with teenagers, he should have known that one possible outcome of his comments was self-harm, which should have reined him in (quite apart from the fact that we do agree on, that he should have reined himself in for other reasons)

Out of interest... If a parent had threatened a huge punishment - say being sent away to live in care - for going on a protest march, and the child ended up committing suicide, do you feel the parent should be held liable for that? I do, I presume you don't, but I'm genuinely curious.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:11 AM on April 8, 2006


principal must not deliver the news the way he probably did.

Of course, and he should be held responsible for dereliction of duties, or conduct unbecoming whatever you want to call it. But that's totally different then holding him responsible for the death of the kid.

What if I told some frail people out of nowhere they have cancer and they going to die ?

What about it? If you were a doctor, and you were mistaken due to your own negligence then you should be held resonsible for malpractice. But if I as the patient kill myself because of that news, without any sort of reasonable response (2nd opinion, waiting it out, talking to friends/family about it or even giving it enough time to set in), well that's my fault not his.
posted by Jezztek at 2:20 AM on April 8, 2006


I'd like to see the vice principal convicted of a felony, and then made to spend one single night in jail - if only so he'll have to explain the incident every time he fills out a job application from now until the rest of his life.
posted by Feral at 2:20 AM on April 8, 2006


Well, I agree that even if the story is true, the AP should face consequences for his poor handling of the student, as well as abuse of power and whatever else is legally applicable in terms of his handling of this student when he had some legal guardianship... but not the suicide.

However, those arguing that he should be held responsible for the suicide itself make, albeit intentionally, an interesting point: the AP should be told that he's legally liable for the suicide itself- but have it not be legally valid. I mean, I'm surprised no one has yet pointed out that it would be perfectly fitting and poetically just to tell the AP that he was facing life in prison on a murder charge and/or a massive civil suit, and let that sink in with him for a couple of days. You know, even if he wasn't facing any such consequences, and would find that out eventually. Intentionally mislead him and all. Am I the only one seeing the symmetry in that scenario?
posted by hincandenza at 2:24 AM on April 8, 2006


For the record, I also think the cancer-news doctor shouldn't be liable for the suicide of his patient. Guilty of malpractise possibly, but not the suicide. The suicidee is an adult, and the doctor isn't in a position of authority or duty of care over his patient.

On preview - hicandenza, that would be quite an interesting punishment, though limit it to the murder charge, as he may well end up facing a civil suit. Perhaps a few months thinking he's going to spend the rest of his life in a federal prison would be appropriate, though it does feel a bit 'eye-for-an-eye'.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:31 AM on April 8, 2006


which I don't think we can resolve, as we both look at the same situation and come away with a different answer.

I think that's what it comes down to. I have to look at things from my perspective. I was in a similar situation threatened with expulsion, legal action or arrest by a lying piece of shit VP for making an underground student newspaper (and admittedly publishing an unflattering cartoon of the VP related to the matter, but I kept that part outside of school).

I was held in his office without my parents on two occasions before they were allowed to accompany me and eventually I was suspended for a few days on totally bogus charges which the Vice Principal conjured up from the student handbook by taking a black magic marker to one section of the code of conduct and editing a 7 sentence paragraph down to 2 and half sentences so that it fit the definition of what I had done (just remove a few qualifiers and you can make nearly anything against the rules).

Just a fun aside, eventually officially what I got suspended for was listing another student's name in our "special thanks" section on the credits page. The rule the piece of shit VP edited down to make my actions suspension worthy?

The rules on sexual harassment.

But by taking those 8 sentences, and removing words with a sharpie until there was only about 2 1/2 sentences left, then listing another student's un-pseudonymed name in the "thank you" section was according to the VP a suspend-able offence.

Even better, that student was the same gender as me so I got suspended for sexually harassing a guy I knew, and the thank you read "thanks to [Student's name] without your acts kindness, this issue would never have been made" which hardly seems inappropriate for school.

So I got dicked around, and threatened, and told I wouldn't graduate and told I'd be sent to juvie yadda, yadda, yadda. But I'm still here because even though I got scared shitless when stuff started going down I didn't irrationally and massively over-react. If I had, it woulda been my fault and no one elses.

That doesn't make this kids VP, or my VP any less of a power abusing asshole who deserves to be fired, but that's neither here nor there as far as I'm concerned, if the issue is who's responsible for a suicide.
posted by Jezztek at 2:46 AM on April 8, 2006


hincandenza

I love that idea.
posted by Jezztek at 2:47 AM on April 8, 2006


I remember being 14 tho.

I remember being 14 as well, and that sort of thing from a principal would have had me 1) going to my parents or 2) slashing the principal's tires, or perhaps something even more juvenile and reactionary. Now if a cop with a gun had said that to me, it would have scared the piss out of me. But I don't think I would have committed suicide, because I think it takes a pre-existing mindset or dysfunction to provide the will to do such a thing.

Similarly, the principal should know that kids are more susceptible then adults to threats, he should know because he works in a school with kids.

I would venture to say that he DOES know. I wouldn't be surprised at all if this AP has a history of bullying students with intimidation and threats (which is somewhat understandable but still wrong, given the state of some schools).

No, the student shouldn't have taken his own life, but even if the student had not, the AP would still be guilty of neglect and dereliction of duty, assuming the facts are as presented. The AP didn't commit murder, but that doesn't stop him being liable for the consequences of abuse of his position, and if that includes a suicide, he bears a big chunk of responsibility for causing that.

I agree with this statement, but what pisses me off is the possible scenario that the assistant principal is a bully who preys on the more emotionally vulnerable students as a source of validation (or outlet for frustration) and intentionally targeted this kid as a result. I'm no lawyer but I think that if that scenario can be effectively argued, it could win a civil suit for a plaintiff. Even without establishing that malicious intent, probably.
posted by tweak at 2:58 AM on April 8, 2006


Odd that there doesn't appear to be an obituary for the kid in the local paper for the area. I searched the past 30 days, just in case...
posted by Gator at 3:04 AM on April 8, 2006


I wouldn't be surprised about no obituary--most people are not given one, and i don't think this kid's family was prominent (or even citizens, possibly). There's mention that the LA Times will be covering the memorial at the church in either the Gilliard or Kos threads.
posted by amberglow at 3:16 AM on April 8, 2006


The vice principal should be held fully accountable for his part in this kid's unnecessary death.

Well, if the mother's press release is the complete story (highly unlikely), I'd have to agree, but there's almost nothing here to speculate over; it's not even at Newsfilter level yet. The only thing I could find about De Anza Middle was this story about a 12-year-old student dying suddenly on the running track last month. Anyone pondering contributing factors at this early stage should probably ponder that one as well.
posted by mediareport at 4:21 AM on April 8, 2006


I am having a hard time not calling bullshit on this, but I will do my best to reserve judgement until after the press conference.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:36 AM on April 8, 2006


Well, talk about your bullying!

School's are rife with anti-bullying programs these days, perhaps the staff could listen to their own lessons on this subject...
posted by fairmettle at 5:44 AM on April 8, 2006


Smart enough to organize a protest, not smart enough to realize that judges hand out prison sentences, not school faculty.

In a kid's mind authority is authority, and school administrators, as far as they know, are part of the very same machine that judges and police are. "Smart" is sort of irrelevent if you haven't been taught about your rights properly.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:47 AM on April 8, 2006


You know what I blame this on the breakdown of?
posted by psmealey at 6:26 AM on April 8, 2006


Hitler?
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:31 AM on April 8, 2006


Googling "Anthony Soltero" gives no results related to this story other than the blog entry and myspace page noted above. There is a DeAnza high school in Richmond, CA as well as a church as described in the article, but there hasn't even been an obituary for this person that I can find. No news reports of him leading a protest. The vice principle was not named; why would they leave out that crucial bit of information? They certainly wouldn't want to protect him. anyway, it seems to me that a lot of the facts asserted in the story cannot be confirmed.

Of course that won't keep me from having an opinion. I think the unamed vice principal should be locked in a plane. Full of snakes.
posted by TedW at 7:43 AM on April 8, 2006


I read through all the Kos comments and while one other poster said they heard about this on Spanish language radio, it seems odd that it's gotten no more media attention than that considering it happened almost a week ago, doesn't it?
posted by jessamyn at 7:52 AM on April 8, 2006


I couldn't find anything on ProQuest or Lexis Nexis. Anyone else have any luck?
posted by veronica sawyer at 7:58 AM on April 8, 2006


There's mention that the LA Times will be covering the memorial at the church in either the Gilliard or Kos threads.

None are so blind.
posted by yerfatma at 8:06 AM on April 8, 2006


The De Anza middle school referred to in the story is in Ontario, California--more LA area than Richmond, CA. Sorry, TedW, your google-fu is on recall. However, your main contention is correct. There is no local mention of any such protest, any such incident at school or community (and how quick have news agencies jumped on ANY school related shooting. Um, I'm thinking...immediately?)

So, while I'm loathe to call *CoughbullshitCough*, and while I think our immigration policies are completely misguided, and while I saw my own high school vice-principle drag a kid out of class and pin him against the wall with his forearm across the student's throat (this was 33 years ago, so no, there won't be any news stories), I think that there are enough REAL alarming situations to concern ourselves about rather than start foaming at the mouth for the summary execution of Assistant Principal John Doe.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:10 AM on April 8, 2006


Actually, there is only one Assistant Principal at that school and his name is Gene Bennett. I don't know why he's not mentioned.
posted by jessamyn at 8:16 AM on April 8, 2006


Here's the website for the De Anza Middle School; this link is for the staff and contact information. Might have to wait until Monday, but give Kathy Kinley (Principal) or Gene Bennett (Assistant Principal) a call and see what they have to say.

Warning: Embedded Midi files that JUST WON'T QUIT
posted by beelzbubba at 8:16 AM on April 8, 2006


on preview: rats--thanks, jessamyn.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:17 AM on April 8, 2006


Is it my google fu that is bad, or is it that the only De Anza high school in CA is not near Ontario? If the school in the story doesn't even exist, then that would certainly explain why the vice principal doesn't have a name. Anyway, the level of skepticism is rising, so I started a MeTa thread for those who want to discuss it there.
posted by TedW at 8:21 AM on April 8, 2006


On preview I see that it was indeed my google-fu; now if the rest of the story could be similarly confirmed it would be nice.
posted by TedW at 8:23 AM on April 8, 2006


From the article: We have to let the schools know that they can't punish our children for exercising their rights

So kids have "rights" to walk out of school whenever they feel like it?

There was a political issue that some kids in my high school got involved in, way back in the late 80s. They made signs, went to a protest. A protest that was held after school.

I think there is plenty of blame to go around here...

How about the protest organizers who scheduled the protest during a time when people would have to leave work / school to attend?

How about anyone who encouraged kids to be truant from school in order to go?

How about kids not clever enough to get a parent's note to excuse their absence?

The kid encountered some Serious Negative Consequences (threats from authority, and probably a real possibility of serious adverse action against him) because he voluntarily decided to provoke them by walking out of school (and I presume, urging others to do so as well). That the specific threat mentioned here was probably bullshit, and that he wasn't able to cope with it, is tragic.

Authority doesn't like being fucked with. I wish this kid had found a way to work around it, to use the system to his advantage, rather than baldly break the rules.
posted by beth at 8:30 AM on April 8, 2006


jessamyn wrote "I read through all the Kos comments and while one other poster said they heard about this on Spanish language radio, it seems odd that it's gotten no more media attention than that considering it happened almost a week ago, doesn't it?"

This press conference may be the crossover from the Spanish-language community to the English-speaking mainstream. Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine is so Spanish-language that the directory listing for the number included with the press release mentions it. MeFi and Kos could have picked it up before crossover, though I'll admit that my BS-filter is a little used to getting the stories after they have MSM coverage.
posted by VulcanMike at 8:38 AM on April 8, 2006


Someone asked this earlier and I think it is an important question; Where the hell did the gun come from? Home? For those who think the AP should be help criminally accountable for the act, does that change your mind at all?


And if this is true and does go to court, I'm sure the AP's defense team will dig up as much rotten shit on the parents and home life of the kid as they can. Probably no case...
posted by batou_ at 9:12 AM on April 8, 2006


Hi everyone -

I'm a complete newbie here; would just like to comment on
this very interesting discussion.

It seems to me that we live in such an infantile "blaming"
society that simple common sense gets completely buried.

My feelings about this story (if it is indeed true) are:

- This kid did a minimally outrageous thing, certainly not
worth dying for. So he organized a protest; so he didn't get
a note from his parents. Big deal. That doesn't even make
him close to being a criminal.

- The AP was a moron who said something that a moron
might say. But every day we are all assaulted by the
moronic statements of morons. They are just words;
vibrations of air. We all take the responsibility every minute
of each day to not kill ourselves because of what some
moron says.

- The kid died because he chose to kill himself. The AP did
not kill him. The kid had other problems, it can be assured.
Killing yourself is an ultimately narcissistic thing to do in this
kind of situation. The only way the AP could be accused of
killing the kid is if he actually killed him.

- The kid was going through a learning experience that if you
protest something, you will have opponents who will get
irrationally nasty, and he couldn't handle it. That's a hard
lesson we all learn; but this particular person couldn't
survive it. I don't know why this kid couldn't imagine that if
he organizes a protest, he's going to have confrontation.

- Anyway, the point I'm making is that one of the most
important concepts we can teach our kids is "Sticks and
stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me."
Reality checking is one of the most important skills any of
us will ever have.

The concept of personal responsibility in this country is
completely corroded. You have adults thinking like children
and children thinking like children. A dangerous
combination.
posted by Nicholas West at 9:14 AM on April 8, 2006


When I was an orderly in a psychiatric ward one of the psychiatrists decided to test whether a patient's seeming recovery was genuine or whether he was just showing the psychiatrist the behavior the psychiatrist wanted to see.

So he told the teenager that he was going to be locked up permanently and sent away to the state institution. The kid attempted suicide, which the psychiatrist said proved the patient had never really recovered. The patient survived.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:20 AM on April 8, 2006


I called the Ontario police just now. I told the woman who answered the phone, "I know this might sound a little off the wall, but there's a story going around on the Internet about a young Ontario boy who supposedly shot and killed himself about a week and a half ago, but there doesn't seem to be anything on the news about it, um, I was just wondering if you can tell me anything about it, did this happen? I have the boy's name..." She replied, "Um, hang on, let me see if I can find [a/the] press release." (I couldn't tell if she said "a" or "the.") She put me on hold for a moment and then came back and offered to give me the pager number of the Public Information officer, because she didn't have any further information for me, but then she added, "But I can confirm that that did happen." I said, surprised, "It did? Really?" She confirmed it again, in a sad tone of voice.

I've paged the officer but he hasn't called me back; he may not, as I'm on the other side of the country. We'll see.
posted by Gator at 9:24 AM on April 8, 2006


Where did the three years thing come from? Is the AP just talking crap, or is this possibly some sort of truancy thing? Do we know whether or not the AP was malevolently saying "You little asshole, protesting could get you three years in prison" or was he saying "Look, you truanted school, that's against the law and technically you could get three years for that..." and maybe he'd be referring to supervision, or something along those lines, and the kid misinterpreted it as three years in prison.

I mean, I know it's unlikely, but I have a hard time believing somebody could just pull "three years in prison" out of their ass like that. If the guy was just making it up, why not five? Or ten?

I think we need more facts before ordering the rent-a-mob :)
posted by kaemaril at 9:50 AM on April 8, 2006


Gator, thanks for going to the source to check. If they eventually do give you actual press release information, please post.
posted by hank at 10:20 AM on April 8, 2006


The term "massive overreaction" has been used, as if a fourteen year old going to jail for three years is a mere nothing, as if it's somehow equivalent to breaking up with a girlfriend.

Consider that going to jail means that, if you are a bright 14-year old, your life is ruined, and every plan you ever had is thrown away.

*If* the story is as it's presented, the Vice Principal deserves jail time.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:01 AM on April 8, 2006


*If* the story is as it's presented, the Vice Principal deserves jail time.

Oh yeah? Why? What crime did he commit? Being an asshole? Is being an asshole a crime?
posted by jdroth at 11:13 AM on April 8, 2006


There are numerous crimes under the penal code, certainly criminal negligence, and perhaps threatening or even breach of trust that would cover this IF the case is substantially as presented.

If the case is as presented, the Vice Principal was at least partly responsible for the death of a child under his care. That you can reduce this to "being an asshole" says a lot about you.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:28 AM on April 8, 2006


Consider that going to jail means that, if you are a bright 14-year old, your life is ruined, and every plan you ever had is thrown away.

Well, even if you are correct, that killing yourself as a 14 YO going to jail for 3 years isn't a massive over-reaction that doesn't seem to apply here. If he was convicted and sentenced to jail for 3 years, then chose to kill himself then your statement would apply.

But he killed himself because his jerk of a AP told him he was in trouble, and the kid apparently didn't bother to talk it over seriously with anyone. That's a whole different ball of wax, and if that isn't a massive over-reaction I think you need to realign your definition of massive over-reaction. At this stage in the process I think breaking down in tears, being scared shitless or running home to your parents would have been a reasonable reaction, self terminating? Not so much.
posted by Jezztek at 11:31 AM on April 8, 2006


Vice Principal was at least partly responsible for the death of a child under his care.

I still don't see how you make that jump, I don't think anyone can assume that the VP should have guessed the kid killing himself would have a been a reasonable response to his bullying. After all every VP I've ever met has been a bully asshole, and they bully dozens of kids each year (myself included, when I was that age) without suicide being the result.

But just because someones actions set off a suicide doesn't mean they should be responsible for the suicide. If it turns out that Cynthia McKinney reads Metafilter, and she reads my comment making fun of her hair. Then in a bout of massive over-reaction she kills herself out of shame and leaves a note making it clear my post was pushed her over the edge. Well, I'd probably feel pretty bad. And while it's true, according to Mrs. McKinney, she wouldn't be dead if it wasn't for my thoughtless actions, I certainly hope I wouldn't be going to jail for pushing her over the edge. The "rightness or wrongness" of my action compared to the VP's seems irrelevant.
posted by Jezztek at 11:40 AM on April 8, 2006


"The only way the AP could be accused of killing the kid is if he actually killed him."

There are many many cases in law and in morals where you can be held fully or partially liable for someone's death without actually killing them yourselves.

"The kid was going through a learning experience that if you protest something, you will have opponents who will get irrationally nasty, and he couldn't handle it. That's a hard lesson we all learn."

Is this true? I never had an authority figure tell me that I was going to go jail and that all my life was ruined. Did you?

This isn't some minor lie. This isn't like having your girlfriend break up with you.

This is saying that everything you ever wanted has been destroyed -- and worse, that everyone you know will be ashamed of you and that you have disgraced your family.

Tell me: *has* such a thing every happened to you?


"Reality checking is one of the most important skills any of us will ever have."

Um, this isn't some random guy telling him this -- this is a person in authority over a child -- a person whom the child would be *punished* for not obeying or not believing.


"The concept of personal responsibility in this country is
completely corroded. You have adults thinking like children
and children thinking like children. A dangerous
combination."

School officials are and always have been responsible for the well-being of children in their care. *If* the situation is as it is represented in the article, then the AP deliberately and maliciously lied to the student, resulting in his death, which goes beyond misconduct and becomes a criminal matter.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:49 AM on April 8, 2006


That's exactly what the AP was, an asshole. No more, no less.

He did nothing to cause the death of this child. He didn't
physically touch him.

What if the AP was just ignorant, and actually believed that
what he was telling the kid was true? Would a non-lawyer's
ignorance of the actual law in this situation make him a
criminal? I don't think so.

He was just another ignorant person spouting ignorant
statements. That is not a crime, and we all have to interact
with people like that every day.

But nobody talks about how this 14 year old kid was able
to shoot himself, as if that was the most normal thing in the
world.
posted by Nicholas West at 11:49 AM on April 8, 2006


Nicholas West : "But nobody talks about how this 14 year old kid was able to shoot himself, as if that was the most normal thing in the world."

Krrrlson : "how did he get a gun?"

batou_ : "Where the hell did the gun come from?"

But, yeah, not many, but that's probably because we can all pretty much guess how he was able to do it. If you mean "nobody talks about whether it was wrong that he was able to get a gun", then I'd venture it's because folks have the self-restraint to realize that we've already got a situation that everyone disagrees about, and bringing up another situation that everyone also disagrees about isn't going to make the conversation flow much more smoothly. I certainly don't take the silence to be an indication that folks think "it was the most normal thing in the world".

And, Nicholas, not a snark, just a note in case you weren't aware: MeFi word wraps automatically, you don't have to hit enter at the end of each line.
posted by Bugbread at 11:56 AM on April 8, 2006


Thanks Bugbread - yes, I know it wraps automatically, but
I purposely carriage-return it because I think shorter
sentences are easier on the eye and to absorb when read
from a computer screen.

Yeah, it's true...the gun thing is another issue altogether, and don't get me started ;)
posted by Nicholas West at 12:02 PM on April 8, 2006


The Vice Principal was at least partly responsible for the death of a child under his care.
I still don't see how you make that jump, I don't think anyone can assume that the VP should have guessed the kid killing himself would have a been a reasonable response to his bullying.
Suicide is the fourth largest killer of children that age. It is the Vice President's professional responsibility to know that this is a reasonable possibility.

Again, it is the is extremely harshness of the threat, as it's presented. The kid is being threatened with the loss of his entire future; it's not something you'd go through and "get over" in six months; it could quite likely be the largest single fact of your existence for the rest of your life, America being what it is.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:03 PM on April 8, 2006


"He did nothing to cause the death of this child. He didn't physically touch him."

As I explained before, there are many many cases in law where an individual can be held liable for the death of another without "touching" them.

In an extreme case, if I deliberately remove a "bridge out" sign and you drive to your death, I could be charged with murder.


Closer to the matter at hand, suppose a police officer appeared at a man's door and deliberately lied, telling him that his entirely family had just been killed -- and that man had a heart attack and died.

Surely the police officer should be held legally liable?


Suppose a vice principal lies and tells a child that his life has been destroyed -- and the child kills himself (the teenage equivalent of a heart attack)?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:11 PM on April 8, 2006


lupus_yonderboy - He was not being threatened with the
lost of his entire future. He was hearing someone threaten
him with the loss of his entire future.

The fact that he didn't even once reality-check what was
being said to him and went so far as to directly kill himself
over it means he had severe problems parsing reality, and
probably would not have survived very long in general. If it
hadn't had been this situation, it would have been something else IMHO.

The ignorance or harshness of the AP is not an act of murder.
posted by Nicholas West at 12:13 PM on April 8, 2006


The kid is being threatened with the loss of his entire future...

I never had an authority figure tell me that I was going to go jail and that all my life was ruined. Did you?


Well, more or less in my case yes. As explained above, I was told I was going to be expelled and that I could be sent to jail (well juvie) for publishing an underground paper, by my lying piece of shit vice principal. If I would have been expelled, and sent to juvie I would never have gone to college and so forth so, yeah I think my life would have been well ruined.

I didn't kill myself. And that experience certainly influences my opinions on that asshole of a man, but it doesn't change the fact you shouldn't hold him responsible for some else's massive over-reaction(tm) to his asshole behavior.
posted by Jezztek at 12:15 PM on April 8, 2006


Thanks, Gator---i wish it wasn't true tho. I'm going to link to it on Kos if no one else hasn't yet, if that's ok.

The VP is guilty of abusing his power. While children are on School Grounds and in their care, threats like this are not at all supposed to be used, nor is a child ever supposed to be told he has prison in his future as a result of an act that should have only resulted in a short-term suspension and a note in his record at most. Lying to their charges is also not allowed, esp if it's to cause harm, as it was in this case. I'm sure there are school charters and by-laws and rules that spell all of it out, and i hope this guy is never near impressionable kids again. Wall St. and sales floors could use assholes like him, but he should not be near kids.
posted by amberglow at 12:20 PM on April 8, 2006


lupus_yonderboy : "Suicide is the fourth largest killer of children that age. It is the Vice President's professional responsibility to know that this is a reasonable possibility."

I'm not disagreeing with your greater point, but this particular argument doesn't seem to connect, to me. If the VP knew that his comment would result in the kid's death, then knowing that suicide was the fourth largest killer would have been a wonderful hint that his comment would cause the kid to kill himself. But if you don't think your comment will cause someone to die, there's no reason to weigh up whether suicide is the likely method of death.

I'm not trying to be flippant. As I say, I agree with your greater point. In fact, I may agree that the idea that the VP should have known that suicide might result. But suicide killing more kids than breast cancer, heart disease, or AIDS is not the factum that would trigger that realization. Perhaps if kids were more statistically (per capita) likely to kill themselves than adults (maybe they are). But suicide being the fourth largest killer is largely another way of saying "kids don't die of age-dependant causes much, so other causes of death are more prevalent".
posted by Bugbread at 12:22 PM on April 8, 2006


I'm calling shenanigans on suicide as the teenage equivalent of a heart attack.

Even if the kid immediately flung himself out the school window to his death after hearing the vice principal's bluff, I would still be apprehensive about blaming the VP. This bright, politically active kid made it out of school, didn't check up with anyone on the validity of the VP's statements, and just kills himself? If he did it because he thought his family would beat the shit out of him for getting in trouble (pure speculation), the blame for his suicide still falls way short of the VP, imo.

Like I said before, I'm not saying this VP should stay in the education field due to his threat/bluff, but there's other things going on to cause that suicide, regardless of "the trigger".
posted by stifford at 12:28 PM on April 8, 2006


Oh yeah? Why? What crime did he commit? Being an asshole? Is being an asshole a crime?
No being an asshole isn't a crime, being a principal terrorizing a kid with jail time is mighty irresponsible for a person that should know how to best talk to kids.

Remember the first time you met a real sneaky asshole boss at job ? I bet you didn't like it, but after all the worse that
could do to you was fire you ..or mob you, which is the practical equivalent of bullying. Except that if you can't find
another job for some reason, have payments to make and family to maintain, you can't excape a mobbing boss easily. I assure you they can ruin an adult life for good, no matter how hard and tought the worker think he can be.

Similarly, you have a kid that "fucks up" with school authority ..that is formative for kids so as long as they learn challenging authority and generally opposing people is hard and must be done with smart, reasoned conflict defusing ways. YET he can't know because he's a fucking kid, he's scared silly of going to jail and ruining his own life.

It's something above the job of the principal, its the principal as a GROWN ADULT that should see the kid is just bragging and menacing left and right ; principal choose to terrorize him for whatever reason, kid overreacts.
posted by elpapacito at 12:34 PM on April 8, 2006


Do the people who think that this principal is responsible for the kid's death think that rock musicians should be held accountable for teen suicides involving their music?

And you all better be truthful and nice to me, 'cause if you're not, and I kill myself, there's a whole bunch of people here who'll blame you for my death.
posted by elderling at 12:34 PM on April 8, 2006


Nicholas West, if readers want your comments to wrap at a narrower width, they can always resize their browser windows to achieve that effect. Chopping them yourself is just annoying for those of us who keep our monitors at a high resolution. Not snarkin', just sayin'. Welcome aboard and all, but, IMHO, you're just going to annoy people if you continue to chop your lines.
posted by wheat at 12:36 PM on April 8, 2006


I know it wraps automatically, but I purposely carriage-return it because I think shorter sentences are easier on the eye

That's only true if the entire comments section were spaced this way. But unfortunately by prematurely truncating the line length, you force readers to shift their reading pattern mid-stream. People reading this site are familiar with the line length, and have adjusted their reading styles to expect it. In practice, your "help" is more jarring than if you'd just left well enough alone.

What you are doing is effectively shining a bright light in a dark room because "it's too dark in here," while the rest of us already have adjusted our eyes to the dark. You know what happens when you do that? It takes a good five minutes to get your eyes adjusted back to their night vision again.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:39 PM on April 8, 2006


elderling, nope--the Rock star is not in a position of direct authority and responsibility over a kid--the VP is. There's this whole "in loco parentis" thing in the law that covers this i think--school officials definitely are included.
posted by amberglow at 12:40 PM on April 8, 2006


elderling : "Do the people who think that this principal is responsible for the kid's death think that rock musicians should be held accountable for teen suicides involving their music?"

I think the AP is partially, but far from fully, responsible, so I don't know if I qualify, but, no, I don't. I know of very few rock songs which threaten me in a way that I believe could really happen, though, so the situation may differ.

Except for songs threatening to rock me, which very well might happen.
posted by Bugbread at 12:40 PM on April 8, 2006


OK wheat, thanks.
posted by Nicholas West at 12:41 PM on April 8, 2006


Um, I'm out of things to say. I feel I have started my case clearly and that I am right as a matter of ethics and of law. Many of you clearly have an ultra-Darwinian view of the world where kids should learn to expect arbitrary, harsh punishments from authority figures with no legal responsibility for their actions, no matter how unreasonable nor no matter what the consequences. Neither law nor ethics supports this view, in my opinion.

I never claimed that the Vice Principal should be charged with murder -- I very clearly said that the VP should be charged with criminal negligence for his partial responsibility in the death of a child under his care and I stand by that claim.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:42 PM on April 8, 2006


If the kid kills himself after school, off school property, does the
"in loco parentis" rule still apply? (not asking snarkily, just curious).

So, I went to Catholic School. If after hearing a nun tell me I would be burning in Hell for eternity repeatedly, for several transgressions, and then I kill myself, is the nun responsible?
posted by stifford at 12:46 PM on April 8, 2006


Do the people who think that this principal is responsible for the kid's death think that rock musicians should be held accountable for teen suicides involving their music?

Of course not. The rock musician isn't being paid by the State to care for the child.

(The rock musician is also an entertainer: one sign of madness is in fact the inability to distinguish between real-world things like courts, jail, police and vice-principals and ficitious things like entertainers, books and movies.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:48 PM on April 8, 2006


That's an interesting point stifford. The Catholic church has threatened, or relayed the threat, of eternal damnation to countless parishioners over the years. A threat a lot worse than 3 years in the clink.

I guess the Catholic church is criminally responsible for the fear and misery of countless people (including quite a few suicides) and should be held accountable as such.
posted by Nicholas West at 12:52 PM on April 8, 2006


So, I went to Catholic School. If after hearing a nun tell me I would be burning in Hell for eternity repeatedly, for several transgressions, and then I kill myself, is the nun responsible?

Sometimes, yes. It might not be legally enforceable but I should think that any moral person would include "hounding a child to death" on their list of completely unacceptable behaviors.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:54 PM on April 8, 2006


I think private schools and esp. Religious schools aren't as covered as Public Schools--haven't there been cases where kids were beaten or abused so badly they required hospitalization and nothing happened to the schools?
posted by amberglow at 12:57 PM on April 8, 2006


I don't deny that the principal was a jerk, but if it was normal human behavior for a kid to off himself when someone in authority behaves badly, then we wouldn't have a teacher shortage in the US.

Furthermore, were this kid an adult, there'd be no story at all. He'd be the crazy guy who offed himself after the boss threatened to put him away for 20 years for stealing office supplies.
posted by elderling at 12:58 PM on April 8, 2006


The fact that people do things that are wrong and no one dies does not somehow mean that if they do those wrong things and someone dies that they are magically exempt from the consequences.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:01 PM on April 8, 2006


I'm wondering whether this school had a "Zero Tolerance" policy for all infractions? Any way to find out? (they didn't exist when i was in school--lots of strict authoritarian rules and policies in place nowadays didn't)
posted by amberglow at 1:03 PM on April 8, 2006


stifford : "If after hearing a nun tell me I would be burning in Hell for eternity repeatedly, for several transgressions, and then I kill myself, is the nun responsible?"

Of course not. Repent, and you might have been saved, but commit suicide, and your hell is guaranteed! If you took her threats seriously, suicide is the one thing you couldn't do. If you committed suicide, it would indicate that you didn't take her threats seriously, so they couldn't have been what caused you to commit suicide.

elderling : "Furthermore, were this kid an adult, there'd be no story at all."

True. Also, if the kid hadn't killed him self, there'd be no story. Or if the kid were a dog. Or if the principal spoke in a language that only he could understand.

You can play that game with everything. Terry Schiavo? If she had died of the bubonic plague in the 1600's, we wouldn't have made such a big deal about it. Or if her relatives were discussing shooting her when she went grocery shopping, there wouldn't be (much) of a story. If Bush were the president of a rotary club, instead of a country, we probably wouldn't get so riled up about him, either.
posted by Bugbread at 1:05 PM on April 8, 2006


Of course not. Repent, and you might have been saved, but commit suicide, and your hell is guaranteed! If you took her threats seriously, suicide is the one thing you couldn't do. If you committed suicide, it would indicate that you didn't take her threats seriously, so they couldn't have been what caused you to commit suicide.

But what if my conclusion was "in for a penny, in for a pound"? If I was already going to hell for eternity (for wackin' off, etc...), what difference does suicide matter as a punishment? Double Hell for Eternity? Let's say I didn't speak with another "nicer" nun or priest to find out about confession and forgiveness, and just rushed off after what mean nun said and snuffed myself? (this is getting a little off the point...).
posted by stifford at 1:10 PM on April 8, 2006


Color me flabbergasted at anyone who doesn't think the asst. principal should be fired. He told some huge lies which by their very content go beyond discipline and into harassment. In the US people are fired every day for doing much more innocuous things.

It doesn't even matter what happened after that point.

(Although I'm also amazed at what seems to be an inability on the part of a few people to understand/empathize with a sensitive, young, overwhelmed kid - or anyone who loses it and takes that hasty final step from which there's no turning back.)
posted by NorthernLite at 1:16 PM on April 8, 2006


If after hearing a nun tell me I would be burning in Hell for eternity repeatedly, for several transgressions, and then I kill myself, is the nun responsible?

Aussuming you did that transgression you woud have a feeling of being guilty, dirty..an emotive reaction that isn't rational, yet it happens and have effects.

Some people may as well decide to kill themselves because they can't stop doing a certain "sin" and the fact that the nun inserted another sin "of comitting suicide" is just a lawyeresque move to disclaim responsability.
-------
Nun: you sinner ! Masturbate and go to hell ! Sucide and go to hell !

Kid : Oh no I masturbated again ! I'm a sinner, I'm going to hell !

Priest: confess and you shall be pardoned ! Come little boy !

Kid : no no no, God can see me ! You can't pardon , you are a sinner too, God can pardon. I am coming God *shot self*

Nun: litte irrational brat ! He should have seen that committing suicide is mighty irrational as it is a sin ! I am not responsible of that !
---------

Except that she taught the kid to believe in a irrational fear inducing Sky God
posted by elpapacito at 1:21 PM on April 8, 2006


bugbread : Precisely. A healthy 14 year old boy can distinguish fantasy from reality. Interest in this is generated by emotional attachment to children, not because it is fantastic in any real way. People are jerks. Unhealthy people kill themselves. It does not follow that unhealthy people kill themselves because people are jerks. Unhealthy people kill themselves because they're unhealthy. Flinging blame at the jerk is convenient, because he was a jerk, but not because he was responsible.
posted by elderling at 1:21 PM on April 8, 2006


Why can't someone feel compassion for someone else that commits suicide, as well as think it was a stupid, pointless thing to do?
posted by stifford at 1:23 PM on April 8, 2006


You were all a lot more independent, emotionally mature, rational and in-perspective than I was at 14! Perhaps by 16 I was a bit more into questioning authority, but at 14, authority questioned me and I listened.
posted by VulcanMike at 1:25 PM on April 8, 2006


What appalls me about this is oversimplification. Because the poor innocent child had his feelings hurt by the bad man, everyone's focusing on the bad man or the tribulations of youth. Nobody's focusing on the real problem, which is mental illness. This romanticised, good-versus-evil view of this makes me want to puke.
posted by elderling at 1:34 PM on April 8, 2006


elpapacito : "Except that she taught the kid to believe in a irrational fear inducing Sky God"

Er, well, yeah, but an irrational fear inducing Sky God who sentences people to eternal torment for suicide. That whole "God can pardon. I am coming God *shot self*" makes me think you've been a lot more influenced by Protestants than Catholics. I can't imagine a Catholic actually thinking that.

elderling : "A healthy 14 year old boy can distinguish fantasy from reality."

Er, yeah. But as far as I know, jail sentences are not in the realm of the fantastic. They may be in the realm of the untrue, but there's a big difference between the untrue and the fantastic. For example, if I tell you my name is Bob, that is untrue, but not fantastic. When I was a healthy 14 year old boy, if I broke the law and the vice principal said I would be raped to death by unicorns, I wouldn't have any difficult recognizing that as fantasy. If he said I was going to jail, I would have a lot more difficulty analyzing the situation correctly.
posted by Bugbread at 1:35 PM on April 8, 2006


elderling wrote "A healthy 14 year old boy can distinguish fantasy from reality. Interest in this is generated by emotional attachment to children, not because it is fantastic in any real way. People are jerks. Unhealthy people kill themselves."

I resent the statement that a 14-year-old who kills himself is "unhealthy" in your implied tone. The following is from KidsHealth.org, and makes it clear that a lot of what contributes to teen suicide is being a teen...

What Kids Are at Risk for Suicide?
Now that you're a parent, you might not remember how it felt to be a teen, caught in that gray area between childhood and adulthood. Sure, it's a time of great possibility but it can also be a period of great confusion and anxiety. There's pressure to fit in socially, to perform academically, and to act responsibly. There's the awakening of sexual feelings, a growing self-identity, and a need for autonomy that often conflicts with the rules and expectations set by others.

A teen with an adequate support network of friends, family, religious affiliations, peer groups, or extracurricular activities may have an outlet to deal with his or her everyday frustrations. But many teens don't feel like they have that, and they feel disconnected and isolated from family and friends. These teens are at increased risk for suicide.

Factors that increase the risk of suicide among teens include: [Snipped the list, which included depression, distress, family history, abuse -- italicized emphasis mine]

Warning Signs
Suicide among teens often occurs following a stressful life event, such as a perceived failure at school, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a major family conflict.
posted by VulcanMike at 1:35 PM on April 8, 2006


elderling wrote "Nobody's focusing on the real problem, which is mental illness."

Could someone please identify the specific mental illness that causes teen suicide? HIV causes AIDS. What causes suicide? We know absolutely nothing about this young man outside of what is in the article, so statments such as these must mean that there is a clear mental condition that can be ascribed to a teenager who kills himself. Please share...
posted by VulcanMike at 1:40 PM on April 8, 2006


Geeze, elpapacito, checking your profile, you're in Italy!! How could you posit "Only God can forgive me for masturbation. I will kill myself and beg his forgiveness!" as a remotely possible Catholic position??
posted by Bugbread at 1:44 PM on April 8, 2006


It is a very rough time, and some kids don't make it out of adolescence--for all sorts of reasons. I see a kid who was making a real developmental step, past himself and his hormones and his own life--don't we all think the world revolves around us when we were teens?, and towards a sense of justice and rights and society and the wider world.
The cruel and excessive smackdown by the VP must have been absolutely devastating.

Vulcan, it's not a mental illness, but gay and lesbian teens kill themselves at higher rates than straight teens--due to societal attitudes, and that we're all brought up to be straight.
posted by amberglow at 1:45 PM on April 8, 2006


who says elpapa is Catholic, bugbread?--most Europeans are not at all religious.
posted by amberglow at 1:46 PM on April 8, 2006


elderling : "What appalls me about this is oversimplification. Because the poor innocent child had his feelings hurt by the bad man, everyone's focusing on the bad man or the tribulations of youth. Nobody's focusing on the real problem, which is mental illness."

What appalls me about this is oversimplification. Because the kid killed himself, you're focussing on "the real problem", which is mental illness. Very few people are accepting the possibility that it was a mix of poor emotional handling by the kid, poor execution of responsibilities by the AP, possibly some measure of bad luck, possible mental illness, and a variety of other possible factors.
posted by Bugbread at 1:47 PM on April 8, 2006


amberglow : "who says elpapa is Catholic, bugbread?"

Not me. I didn't mean to imply that elpapacito was Catholic, but I think if you live in Italy you've probably come into a moderately large amount of contact with Catholics.
posted by Bugbread at 1:48 PM on April 8, 2006


what Northern Light said

IF the story is true as its been told, then I don't think the VP has any legal trouble, but just on its merits, his actions are inexcusible.
posted by cell divide at 1:59 PM on April 8, 2006


eldering : People are jerks. Unhealthy people kill themselves. It does not follow that unhealthy people kill themselves because people are jerks. Unhealthy people kill themselves because they're unhealthy.

You made two starting statements : given that

a) People are jerks
b) Unhealthy jerks kill themselves

then you maid a third statement : and given that

c) Unhealthy jerks do NOT kill themselves because jerks are jerks

a fourth, final conclusion : therefore

d) Unhealthy jerk kill themselves because they are unhealthy

But you didn't demonstrate in any way that your point c) is true , because the fact that jerks are jerks is just a tautology , an obvious statement that doesn't prove anything. Similarly point d) is not proved.

On preview:

Bugbread :I can't imagine a Catholic actually thinking that. you're in Italy!! How could you posit "Only God can forgive me for masturbation. I will kill myself and beg his forgiveness!" as a remotely possible Catholic position??

Oh that's an interesting discussion that I will leave to the doctors of rethoric debating the sex of angels. The kid in my example is self tormented, dominated by the sensation of being guilty. Without the notion of all seeing sky god and without the notion of damnation for sin, he wouldn't be experiencing that particular guilty trip. Obviously he is NOT mightly rational in that moment and doesn't see the suicide "disclaimer" that should prevent him from committing suicide. It's emotional, it is NOT rational.
posted by elpapacito at 2:04 PM on April 8, 2006


dirtynumbangelboy writes "You know, I'd never realized that before. But it's true. Every single vice-principal I have ever met has been, as you say, and evil power-hungry small-minded petty tyrant twit. Is that the reason they never make it to principal, or is it the effect of being passed over for promotion, I wonder?"

Is this seriously going unchallenged? My step-father was an assistant principal who took the job because he was raising four daughters on his own and it paid more than his history teacher salary. He was transferred to one of the most violent schools and had daily parent conferences based on stabbings, fires, drugs, etc. The parents often blamed the school or the administration for their kids' behavior. He was one of the most patient and caring people I've met, and somehow he survived that job and retired some years ago. Of course some of the kids blame him to this day for their own problems, but I know the man and he didn't create them. I raised a lot of hell, myself, and I didn't always like the way he dealt with me, but as an adult I know he was always fair and never cruel.

Are the people here all so juvenile as to assume that all public school assistant principals are "evil?" Is that what passes for analysis?
posted by krinklyfig at 2:11 PM on April 8, 2006


If we're positing that the sky-god-wanking-suicide kid is irrational, then that would seem to exonerate the nun...
posted by Bugbread at 2:11 PM on April 8, 2006


"Warning Signs
Suicide among teens often occurs following a stressful life event, such as a perceived failure at school, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a major family conflict."

These aren't warning signs, they're stressful, yet normal, human experiences. This is like saying that jogging is a warning sign for a heart attack. Jogging can trigger a heart attack, but it doesn't cause it. Heart disease causes it. Suddenly giving away treasured possessions is a warning sign.

There are many known mental illnesses, such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder, etc. that can lead to suicide. I have no doubt that there are many more that we haven't discovered yet. Asking to correlate teen suicide to one mental illness is like asking what single illness causes a fever. Lots of illnesses share sypmtoms.
posted by elderling at 2:13 PM on April 8, 2006


dirtynumbangelboy writes 'You know, I'd never realized that before. But it's true. Every single vice-principal I have ever met has been, as you say, and evil power-hungry small-minded petty tyrant twit. Is that the reason they never make it to principal, or is it the effect of being passed over for promotion, I wonder?'"

krinklyfig : "Is this seriously going unchallenged?"

Well, in a strict, anal sense, I don't think anyone here is qualified to challenge dirtynumbangelboy, because he's just talking about the vice principals that he's met, and if we haven't met them, then, hey, he could be right.

If you are talking about how no-one is challenging the implicit statement "All of the vice-principals I have met were tyrant twits, therefore all vice-principals are tyrant twits", I think the lack of challenge is just due to the statement not really worth being challenged. Kinda like if someone drops an "it's a jew conspiracy" into a thread.
posted by Bugbread at 2:17 PM on April 8, 2006


dirtynumbangelboy writes "You know, I'd never realized that before. But it's true. Every single vice-principal I have ever met has been, as you say, and evil power-hungry small-minded petty tyrant twit. Is that the reason they never make it to principal, or is it the effect of being passed over for promotion, I wonder?"

Is this seriously going unchallenged? My step-father was an assistant principal who took the job because he was raising four daughters...posted by krinklyfig


I think it went unchallenged becuase our snark meters are functional. I think that dirtynumbbangelboy was as sarcastic as he possibly could be without making his or our monitors drip.

Your sarcast-o-meter evidently is in the shop today, so, no, I don't think we all think public school assistant principals are all evil. Probably just those of us who went to public school!
posted by klangklangston at 2:23 PM on April 8, 2006


If we're positing that the sky-god-wanking-suicide kid is irrational, then that would seem to exonerate the nun...

Ehehe yeah you are correct it is that deceiving, some I guess many believe in this false equation irrational=batshit-insane , therefore the nun has no responsability.

Too bad the nun was a cause of the chain of events that leaded the kid in my example to an highly emotive reaction. When one thinks that skygod is going to burn him in hell he has an hell of a time remaining calm and coherent , let alone noticing the mighty hypocrisy and contradictions.

Let me took the chance to thanks amberglow for this entertaining interesting post.
posted by elpapacito at 2:27 PM on April 8, 2006


elpapacito : "Too bad the nun was a cause of the chain of events that leaded the kid in my example to an highly emotive reaction."

Well, basically, yes. Too bad. The nun put forth two statements: Masturbate, and you're going to hell. Commit suicide, and you're going to hell. The kid decided to believe the first and ignore the second. So the kid listens to half of what the nun says, ignores the other half, and dies as a result. It's hard to pin that on the nun. If I tell my kid "Don't drink and drive", and he decides to ignore the "don't" half and go with the "drink and drive" half, I hope I'm not put to blame for it.

Regardless, if we switched it from "nun" to "pastor", or kept it within Catholicism but switched from suicide to some non-mortal sin, then I think we'd be in relative agreement. Use of suicide and Catholicism was just a bad choice because, unlike the case at hand, the suicide would only happen given the assumption that the kid ignores half of what he's told, at which point I don't think the blame can be fairly placed on the teller.

With the "going to jail" actual case at hand, the suicide isn't predicated on ignoring half the example. If, for example, the vice principle had said "write a letter of apology, or go to jail", and the kid killed himself, we probably wouldn't be discussing this so hotly. The problem is that the VP, from the little information we have, didn't say anything like this. The kid listened to everything the vp said, and killed himself.

But, again, I'm not for reductionism. I don't believe the kid killed himself purely because the vp said "you're going to jail", nor do I believe he killed himself purely because he was unhealthy or mentally ill. It seems self-evident that there were likely quite a number of factors and reasons.
posted by Bugbread at 2:38 PM on April 8, 2006


another confirmation from the police there
posted by amberglow at 2:45 PM on April 8, 2006


elpapacito, you seem to be starting from a presumption that the nun -- or in Anthony Soltero's case, the AP -- is the only or primary authority figure in the kid's life, the only or main figure from whom the impressionable kid gets his impressions, and the only or main figure to whom the kid can appeal.

Unless the Catholic kid in your situation is being raised in the nun's cloistered cell, or Anthony Soltero was living 24/7 in the AP's office, that's not the case. Kids have parents, as well as other teachers an authority figures. When one authority figure (out of many in a kid's life) makes a stupid, threatening statement, I think a reasonable assumption would be that the kid would go crying, terrified, to his parents ("He said I'm going to jail, what am I gonna do") only to be reassured, rather than assuming that self-harm would be a natural result of what happened.

Unless the AP said something along the lines of, "Tell anyone about this and you'll really be in trouble," or "No one's going to believe anything you say," or anything similar that abusers tend to use on kids to prevent them from appealing to another authority figure. But we have no reason to think the AP said any such thing.

I'm extremely sleep-deprived, so I'm sorry if I'm not making sense, it just seems strange to me that some people find it unsurprising and even expected that an otherwise undepressed, mentally-healthy kid might kill himself after an experience like this, without first appealing to any of the other authority figures in his life. Sure, he would have every reason to believe the AP when he issued his threats, a kid wouldn't have the means to realize that the threats were empty. But why wouldn't he ask someone else for help?
posted by Gator at 2:56 PM on April 8, 2006


Not if the parents aren't citizens, Gator---many children of immigrants are the negotiators and the ones who deal with authority on the parent's behalf--if they weren't (which would explain why this was such a big deal to the kid), then the parents would not have been people to go to about this. In terms of any law or authority, an undocumented parent is not at all any kind of authority figure.

There are many many other issues that kids are not comfortable or able to go to their parents about as well.
posted by amberglow at 3:00 PM on April 8, 2006


amberglow, you've twice mentioned that the parents might not be citizens. Why do you think that might be the case?

And yes, kids are often afraid to go to their parents for many reasons, but when the kid thinks killing himself is the better alternative, that would tell me the kid isn't mentally healthy, beyond mere teen angst (which, as I recall, is bad enough by itself).
posted by Gator at 3:06 PM on April 8, 2006


Gator,

I'm with you in principle, but I don't think it's fair to assume that in every case there would be adults with which to consult. If telling his parents is a big fear, then he might not have had any other adults to appeal to. I know that, as a kid, if my parents did something bad, I could appeal to others, but if I did something bad, the only people I could appeal to were my parents or the school, and if the school were the problem, and I wanted to keep that problem from my parents, there were no other folks I could talk to about, because all the adults I knew were through school or through my parents.

Plus, if you're being threatened with something (Do A or you go to jail!), I would've been very likely to try to consult with someone. However, if I was just plain being told of something (You will go to jail), I don't know that I would have. Sure, I would now, but when I was 14 I was more convinced that The Law was The Law, and consulting my parents would be as effective as consulting my parents about how to avoid a possible nuclear war (yes, I was a small child when The Day After was shown).
posted by Bugbread at 3:11 PM on April 8, 2006


No bugbread, you're right, not every kid has the resources. But it just seems to me that this kid must have had some, since he was apparently so involved in organizing that protest. He must have had guidance from an adult or two in that realm, I would think, even if he was paralyzed with fear of his parents' reaction.

I generally hate the mindset of "Why didn't you just call the authorities?" when a disempowered person gets abused -- it happens with battered women all the time, for example, and a lot of people can't understand why a woman doesn't just call the cops after the first punch is thrown, not realizing that there are all sorts of psychological things that can paralyze a woman and keep her from telling. I'm just getting a different feeling from this story, though what facts we have are admittedly meager and filmy at this point.

I dunno.
posted by Gator at 3:22 PM on April 8, 2006


On further sleep-deprived reflection, I'm starting to wonder about the whole, "He didn't tell his mom" assumption that a lot of us, including me, have made. How did this story even get out, if the kid didn't tell someone before he killed himself? Hmmm.
posted by Gator at 3:26 PM on April 8, 2006


amberglow, you've twice mentioned that the parents might not be citizens. Why do you think that might be the case?
I have no proof, but i think that might be why he was so active in this cause (there would have to be some connection of the cause to his own life and family, i believe, given the usual self-obsessions of teens, and he may rightly have seen the proposed laws as a direct threat to him, his family, and or friends). Plus, it's a Spanish-language Church, which would be indicate that it's patronized by recent immigrants, legal and not.
posted by amberglow at 3:30 PM on April 8, 2006


"The kid should apologize to his own family too. So should your "tragic" cousin, furtive."

With what, a Ouija Board?

"who says elpapa is Catholic, bugbread?--most Europeans are not at all religious."

In most of the world, not being religious doesn't preclude one from being Catholic.

Nicholas West— If you persist in your free verse, you'll be the next Todd Lokken.


As for the case— I mentioned this to my girlfriend, and she said that in 8th Grade she had no friends, no social support, her parents didn't understand her... All she was good at was school. If the principal had told her that she was going to be expelled, imprisoned and have her life ruined, she would have gone home and slit her wrists. Thinking back to my middle school years, I can see where the kid was coming from, and don't feel a damn bit of sympathy for the bully of an AP.
posted by klangklangston at 3:30 PM on April 8, 2006


bugbread:
So the kid listens to half of what the nun says, ignores the other half, and dies as a result.
That would be terrible, but would be his decision and his responsability.

It would be , but it isn't because he wasn't the one that choosed to expose himself to an incoherent, often immotivated and generally outdated set of morals rules. The cause of the problem just -appears- to be the kid, therefore one superficial observer would conclude that the cause was THE kid and the will of the kid.

But absent the guilt coming from sinning, aka doing something against the rules, he probably wouldn't have committed suicide. He never was exposed to the reasoning behind the sin, he never had a chance to challenge the rules because the rules were coming from no less then a Sky-god, an omnipotent being that when enraged can send plagues and do whatever the fuck he pleases to the unruly infidel.

When a person is completely desperate, emotively wrecked , pain can be unbearable : unbearable enough to override the rule of "not committing suicide" ; if comitting suicide is a rule against the sin of suiciding evidently it was conceived because people suicided, otherwise there would be no use for it.

So the argument that the kid choosed to ignore half of the instruction and therefore the guilt remains on him and not on the nun is a lame argument, lame because it rests on the notion that one person is permanently constantly coherent with all the rules and permanently rational ,which is in evident contradiction with the rules that are also set to discourage (by using the guilt trip) irrational behaviors.

What's the point of setting rules to contain irrational behaviors if there is no possibility of such irrationality ? The kid could be blamed only if irrational decision, such as that of ignoring part of the commandments, was impossible. yet it is only irrational and the rules were set to contain irrationality and there rules FAIL. The nun made the rules, the nun is reponsible.


BACK to the Principal : he should be an authority figure, not an authoritarian figure. THe kid broke some rule ? Discipline him, but if discipline him too much he will break and sucide and the failure rests on the teacher who should know better, even if by law he isn't guilty of first degree murder.
posted by elpapacito at 3:34 PM on April 8, 2006


That does sound plausible, amberglow (though I now find myself wondering just how easy it is for illegal immigrants to put and keep their kids in school without bringing the hammer down on themselves, and also, if his parents aren't citizens, whether the school administration knew that).
posted by Gator at 3:39 PM on April 8, 2006


klanglangston writes:

"Nicholas West— If you persist in your free verse, you'll be the next Todd Lokken."

Please forgive my ignorance of goings-on here, but I do not understand this reference or use of the term "free verse".
posted by Nicholas West at 3:49 PM on April 8, 2006


Nicholas, "Todd Lokken" is a MeFi injoke -- short explanation here. Basically, if you continue to post in a way that deviates substantially from the norm around here, we will make fun of you and your name will become an injoke too. But you've already said you'd stop, so no need to worry.
posted by Gator at 4:00 PM on April 8, 2006


Thanks Gator.

Hey, there's no such thing as bad publicity, long as they spell your name right.
posted by Nicholas West at 4:03 PM on April 8, 2006


Nicholas West: klangklangston is suggesting you stop your carriage-returning (which, strangely, you had lready done long before), lest you become an in-joke.

In fact, "Todd Lokken" was a user who signed all of his posts, but didn't use a line break, so you'd be reading along and encounter something like, " . . . and what are we supposed to think about that? Todd Lokken." Confusing and amusing, and an in-joke that lives on even now.

PS: welcome to Metafilter. Don't take things too seriously.
posted by jenovus at 4:10 PM on April 8, 2006


Damn, that's what I get for not F5'ing after reading the thread.
posted by jenovus at 4:11 PM on April 8, 2006


Gator : "But it just seems to me that this kid must have had some, since he was apparently so involved in organizing that protest. He must have had guidance from an adult or two in that realm, I would think, even if he was paralyzed with fear of his parents' reaction."

Ok, good point. You're right (I'm tired and not thinking straight). I wouldn't say he definitely did, but I agree that he was far more likely to have an adult or two that he could turn to than not to have.

elpapacito : "It would be , but it isn't because he wasn't the one that choosed to expose himself to an incoherent, often immotivated and generally outdated set of morals rules."

Er, no, he isn't the one who chose to expose himself to the rules, but he is the one who chose which rules to pay attention to, and which not to.

elpapacito : "When a person is completely desperate, emotively wrecked , pain can be unbearable : unbearable enough to override the rule of 'not committing suicide'"

That seems odd. If the pain a person has is the fear of eternal damnation, how could the pain be so unbearable as to cause them to try to alleviate it by not alleviating it? If I have a pain from a cut in my arm, why would the pain be so unbearable as to override the rule of not pouring vinegar in it? If I have a pain of fear of being eaten by monsters in the closet, why would I run into the closet?

But I gather that your central idea is that people are not always consistent or logical. With that I also agree. Which, again, makes me wonder why the nun is to blame. If the nun provides arguments against killing oneself, and the kid is inconsistent and illogical, and ignores those arguments, why is the nun to blame?

elpapacito : "yet it is only irrational and the rules were set to contain irrationality and there rules FAIL. The nun made the rules, the nun is reponsible."

???

So, if we have laws against murder, and someone commits murder, then the laws failed, and the lawmakers who made the laws against murder are responsible for the murder?

And, by the same token, if the nun said "You're going to hell, because you masturbate", but never told the kid "If you commit suicide you'll go to hell", then the rule against suicide, since it didn't exist, didn't fail, and hence when the kid kills himself the nun is not to blame? She's only to blame if she tells him not to do it?

Regardless, while this side-discussion is interesting, it's a bit tangential to the main topic, because there we are in only mild disagreement, not total disagreement.

Gator : "though I now find myself wondering just how easy it is for illegal immigrants to put and keep their kids in school without bringing the hammer down on themselves"

From experience being raised in Houston: very easy. Or, if not "very easy", at least "very common".
posted by Bugbread at 4:17 PM on April 8, 2006


kids are often afraid to go to their parents for many reasons, but when the kid thinks killing himself is the better alternative, that would tell me the kid isn't mentally healthy, beyond mere teen angst (which, as I recall, is bad enough by itself).

Suicide can be caused by a number of things, including mental or physical illness, but my own personal experience of feeling suicidal is that it is a gut-wrenching feeling of total despair. You're not thinking rationally, or logically looking at ways to resolve the situation - a dispassionate adult can look at the situation, and almost laugh at it - you're thinking of killing yourself because of THAT?

It can simply be a situation that feels so bad, you want nothing more than to run away from it, and the only way you can see (in your emotionally befuddled state) to run away is to jump from that ledge, pull the trigger, or take those pills. Being 14, with other problems, and feeling passionately about something (which presumably he was, in order to demonstrate). To have an adult who is in a position of authority over you threaten you with what seems like a life-ending punishment for it, I can easily see how suicide would be the emotionally-driven end result.

I survived. This kid didn't. Does that make me a better person? No. It just means he didn't change his mind at the last minute. Many people go through trauma, and don't kill themselves. Are they better people? Less mentally ill? Luckier? I don't believe so. It's just their animal sense of self-preservation was stronger than their animal sense of fear of the immediate future.

Assuming the case as is described, the AP should have known better than to threaten him. He should have acted in a manner befitting his duty of care. For those saying we should take responsibility for our own actions, why are they not asking that this man should bear responsibility for his?

Most of us agree that based on what we've been told so far, the AP abused his position, and should face some form of sanction. The question is, how big a sanction, and that comes down to whether you think a senior teacher can or should be held liable for a suicide he probably triggered - and the answer to that varies on who you ask, and as I said earlier, I don't think it can be resolved here.

I have to admit though, I do feel strongly about this situation, and this thread was enough to make me register after years of lurking in order to comment. There just seems something so *wrong* about a senior teacher/administrator at a school causing a student so much anguish he kills himself. I just hope that it if he is guilty of what he's accused of, he gets a punishment that fits his action.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:28 PM on April 8, 2006


If the nun provides arguments against killing oneself, and the kid is inconsistent and illogical, and ignores those arguments, why is the nun to blame?

Because the arguments provided by the nun..aren't really arguments. It's a commandment, an imperative coming from above that you can't discuss, you can't argue : yet if you violate it, eternal damnation. Pretty dire prospect if you believe in SkyGod. The kid doesn't necessarily analize the commandment logically, yet the retaliation factor, the fear, is clear and present. You don't argue skygod or you will burn in hell ! Yet if you reject the commandment, you will burn in hell !

You have a choice, either believe in skygod and go to hell or believe in him and follow the rules stricly, don't argue the rules ! Don't argue existence of skygod ! This is a false choice : you are never given the option of not choosing.

Who provided this wicked set of absolute rules ? The nun

Similarly with principal: the principal is The One because he is the one, wheter you like it or not you can't help that. The kid could fuck care less about the principal, but he has control of grades. He doesn't want to disappoint the family and must get good grades, but the principal is mad at him ! The kid is immature because he is a kid and chooses suicide.

Who is to blame for enforcing rules and making rules so strict that his can happen ? The principal, who should have predicted this behavior. Even adults, when they feel cornered and desperate may commit suicide. One has to see why they felt like that and if somebody somehow misguided them, abused their trust, menaced them excessively.

This is NOT the same as negating personal responsability : the kid is definitely responsible for pulling the trigger, but he is not ENTIRELY responsible for the fuckup he had in his mind.

So I want the kid and his accomplices apprehended for homicide.
posted by elpapacito at 4:54 PM on April 8, 2006


elpapacito : "It's a commandment, an imperative coming from above that you can't discuss, you can't argue : yet if you violate it, eternal damnation."

But, apparently, you can ignore these commandments: the hypothetical kid did so, in killing himself. If he really believed these commandments, he had two choices: continue masturbating, and go to hell, or stop masturbating, and don't go to hell. Faced with these choices, he took a third option: kill yourself, and therefore definitely go to hell. This is a choice which the nun commanded against. It is a choice whose outcome the kid was massively against. So the kid decides to do something that will provide exactly the outcome which he is trying to avoid. This seems to be an extremely unlikely hypothetical, and one in which the supposedly guilty party, the nun, has actually called on the power of the skygod and the threat of eternal damnation to prevent. And if a kid is devoutly religious, and even the threat of the eternal wrath of skygod himself won't turn his path, I can hardly see why the nun is at fault.

elpapacito : "This is a false choice : you are never given the option of not choosing."

True, but that isn't really the case we're discussing, is it? And it's a bit of a tautology. Science teaches that you can shoot yourself in the head with a gun, and die, or not shoot yourself in the head with a gun, and not die. It doesn't provide for a caveat that you can merely disagree with science. That's the way most statements are. Traffic laws teach me I can obey the rules of the road, and not get a ticket, or disobey the rules of the road, and get a ticket. They don't provide the option of not believing in the existence of the rules of the road. That doesn't fall under their aegis, any more than bylaws about how to dye wool appear in rules for TCP/IP networking.

elpapacito : "Similarly with principal"

I just don't see the similarity with the principal. The nun has made it clear that suicide will cause precisely that which the kid wants to avoid so badly. The principal did not. It isn't as if the principal said "You will go to jail for three years. If you kill yourself, you will go to jail for three years for commiting suicide". If he did, the situations would be pretty analogous. As it is, the only thing I see in common is that we are talking about authority figures and suicide. The actual roles of the authority figures as they relate to suicide are pretty much completely dissimilar. And this, again, is why I say that the whole "skygod" part isn't my complaint with the issue, it's choosing Catholicism, because it prohibits suicide. If you'd chosen, I dunno, Buddhism or some other more suicide-friendly religion, I'd probably be agreeing with you. As it is, you picked for an analogy a religion that expressly prohibits that which you're saying it caused.

elpapacito : "The kid could fuck care less about the principal, but he has control of grades. He doesn't want to disappoint the family and must get good grades, but the principal is mad at him !"

I think the jail scared the kid a whole lot more than the grades did (but I'm speculating here).

elpapacito : "Who is to blame for enforcing rules and making rules so strict that his can happen ?"

Depends on the case.

elpapacito : "The principal"

Er, have we established that the principal made this rule (go to jail for three years) or that this rule even existed? I personally interpreted this as the principal being in the wrong not because he made a "go to jail" rule, or enforcing a "go to jail" rule, but threatening the kid with a rule that, as far as I know, doesn't even exist! True, it would have been even worse if that kind of draconian rule did exist, but unlike the skygod analogy, we're talking about a real situation here, not a hypothetical.

elpapacito : "who should have predicted this behavior."

I don't see it. How should the principal have predicted suicide? Are people popping themselves off left and right like that? I agree that the principal made a mondo fucked up decision. I agree he abused his power. I agree he did something that he shouldn't have. I agree that he should be punished. But I don't know what special training principals get that says "If you threaten a kid with jail, they will shoot themselves."

elpapacito : "the kid is definitely responsible for pulling the trigger, but he is not ENTIRELY responsible for the fuckup he had in his mind."

Like I said, we're in agreement about this part. That's why I said if we stepped away from the skygod example, or changed the parameters slightly, we'd be in agreement, but the particular specifics of our hypothetical is throwing up roadblocks.
posted by Bugbread at 5:24 PM on April 8, 2006


LA Weekly: What Adults Don't Get: Inside the minds of student marchers
posted by amberglow at 5:29 PM on April 8, 2006


bugbread: The (assistant/vice) Principal certainly didn't make such a rule. Principal's don't get to send their students to jail, though doubtless they'd like to from time to time.
posted by kaemaril at 5:41 PM on April 8, 2006


The kid doesn't necessarily analize the commandment

That's how I got kicked out of catholic school.
posted by Stauf at 5:41 PM on April 8, 2006


It has just appeard on Google News when you search for Anthony Soltero within Google News.

(this is my very first Metafilter post)
posted by BillsR100 at 6:42 PM on April 8, 2006



Nope, I disagree. His actions may have been a trigger for the suicide, but as in the two examples from my life I posted above (with the girl dumping the guy, and the liquor store selling the mother booze) just because the suicide probably wouldn't have happened without said action, I don't think it follows we can claim that person is responsible for the suicide. The rightness, or wrongness of the action is question is totally irrelevant.


Those two examples are completly diffrence, because there is no authority present.
posted by delmoi at 6:43 PM on April 8, 2006


krinklyfig >>> "Is this seriously going unchallenged? My step-father was an assistant principal who took the job because he was raising four daughters on his own and it paid more than his history teacher salary. He was transferred to one of the most violent schools and had daily parent conferences based on stabbings, fires, drugs, etc. The parents often blamed the school or the administration for their kids' behavior. He was one of the most patient and caring people I've met, and somehow he survived that job and retired some years ago. Of course some of the kids blame him to this day for their own problems, but I know the man and he didn't create them. I raised a lot of hell, myself, and I didn't always like the way he dealt with me, but as an adult I know he was always fair and never cruel."

At what point did I say there weren't nice VPs out there? Oh, right... I didn't. But in my experience with half a dozen or so vice principals over my school career, plus some unofficial polling amongst my friends: the vast majority of vice principals are total assholes. We don't know why. Maybe it's just our experience. Nice straw man, though. And it let you brag about your father. Well done!

klangklangston >>> "I think it went unchallenged becuase our snark meters are functional. I think that dirtynumbbangelboy was as sarcastic as he possibly could be without making his or our monitors drip."

Actually, I wasn't being sarcastic.

Now, please, can we stop the recent MeFi pile-on that I've been receiving? Kthx.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:46 PM on April 8, 2006


Why doesn't somebody ask Gene Bennett what happened? Say your representing the group news blog, metafilter, and trying to get the facts in what happened? I certainly don't have the balls.
posted by Suparnova at 7:57 PM on April 8, 2006


some unofficial polling amongst my friends: the vast majority of vice principals are total assholes.

Excuse me if I think your unofficial polling amongst your friends is completely meaningless. If it unilkely that you and your friends have met a vast majority of vice principals (or even a small percentage of them). Most people who have had a lot of dealing with vice principals have done so because they've been in trouble; it's not exactly an unbiased group. Vice principals are generally responsible for school discipine. This doesn't make them assholes.

And until some actual facts about this case are made public (instead of the family's press release posted at some random blog), I think it's foolish to rush to judgment on anyone: the kid or the VP.

Threads like this are why I avoid the Blue. I'll go back over to AskMe now and put on my blinders...
posted by jdroth at 12:32 AM on April 9, 2006


I feel I have started my case clearly and that I am right as a matter of ethics and of law. Many of you clearly have an ultra-Darwinian view of the world where kids should learn to expect arbitrary, harsh punishments from authority figures with no legal responsibility for their actions, no matter how unreasonable nor no matter what the consequences. Neither law nor ethics supports this view, in my opinion.

lupus yonderboy, you are right, and it seems to me many here are confusing that issue - the principal's responsibility for the bullying and its consequences - with the issue of the kid's personality.

Supposing he was already suicidal or at least there were other factors contributing to the suicide - lack of social support, difficult situations in his family, other problems at school, anything - it still wouldn't change the principal's ethical and legal responsibility for abusing his position with a threat based on a lie.

In fact, even supposing the kid had other issues, that would make it even worse at least on a human and ethical level, if not legal, for a school authority not to have taken that into account; sure, if such issues were there, the principal might not have known about them, but then... it makes you wonder what kind of contact such an authority had with the kids under his... authority.

Anyway, in itself, the threat of 3 years in jail is really serious. Even adults have killed themselves for being accused of crimes they didn't do! It's never a rational reaction but that doesn't mean people have to be crazy to do it.

The emotional impact of the prospect of 3 years of your teenager's life in jail, which means loss of any chance of a normal education and a good start in life, plus, as you rightly pointed out, the dishonour on oneself and one's family, is not something that can be underestimated.

It is such a shame he didn't turn to anyone else, and I can only feel for the mother who must be destroyed by guilt and anger herself.

I survived. This kid didn't. Does that make me a better person? No. It just means he didn't change his mind at the last minute. Many people go through trauma, and don't kill themselves. Are they better people? Less mentally ill? Luckier? I don't believe so.

ArkhanJG, thank you for saying that.
posted by funambulist at 4:58 AM on April 9, 2006


On March 30, an administrator questioned Soltero about the walkout, Mercado said.
The administrator told him he could not attend graduation, that his mother would be fined $250 for his truancy, and that he could be jailed for three years, Mercado said.
Soltero phoned his mother with the news.
"She said, 'Anthony, didn't I tell you not to go to the walkout?'
"She said, 'Stay home, I'm on my way,'" Mercado said.
When she arrived home she found apology notes from her son, and his body with a self-inflicted bullet wound to the head from a gun his stepfather had hidden in the garage, Mercado said.
He was brain dead, but his body was maintained until April 1, when his heart and other organs were donated, said Deputy Steven Foster of the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner office.
From the Riverside Metro (Registration Required.)
posted by yeoz at 5:03 AM on April 9, 2006


I think people are missing the threat against this kid's mom.

There are the parts of us that deal with threats to ourselves. They are not infinitely strong, but they are there.

Then there are the parts of us that deal with threats to those we love. These parts operate...differently. It violates the Geneva convention to threaten someone's family -- such a thing is that psychologically traumatic. So you have an action that is banned, even in wartime, being used against a 14 year old?

If true, that's pretty astonishing. Threatening the kid with three years of jail is pretty terrifying, but threatening his family is a much more severe action. It's certainly not something you see regularly.
posted by effugas at 5:09 AM on April 9, 2006


(on the re-read)

Perhaps a $250 fine doesn't rise to the level of a family threat. Does anyone know how common truancy fines are in this area?
posted by effugas at 5:11 AM on April 9, 2006


funambulist : "if such issues were there, the principal might not have known about them, but then... it makes you wonder what kind of contact such an authority had with the kids under his... authority."

While I agree with you overall, regarding this particular sentence, whenever I see statements like this, I wonder what kinds of situations everyone was raised in. For a school councellor to not know about big issues would definitely be a problem. For a "home room" teacher (if those still exist), I can see some expectation that they would know. For a standard teacher, it really depends on the teacher, class type, etc. But an assistant principal? My high school had 2,000 kids and, I believe, 3 or 4 assistant principals. I think, perhaps, I said a single sentence to one assistant principal in my 4 years there. I would be amazed if any of them had known my name. That isn't a problem, as knowing all the social issues of all 2,000 students isn't even their job. That's why schools hire councellors (admittedly, most councellors don't really do their job, but that's a problem with councellors and the folks who hire them, not APs). If APs happen to know whose parents are going through messy divorces, whose have siblings in trouble with the law, who have emotional problems, that's absolutely fantastic, and going way and above the scope of their job, but them not knowing it doesn't make me wonder what kind of contact the AP had with the students.
posted by Bugbread at 5:49 AM on April 9, 2006


The administrator told him he could not attend graduation, that his mother would be fined $250 for his truancy, and that he could be jailed for three years
I wonder ... could the administrator have been telling the truth? I mean, the first two sound somewhat plausible punishments for truanting. Is there a local law somewhere where, potentially, for truanting, a kid could be locked up for (up to, one would hope) three years? If so, that's more fucked up than an administrator making it up...

Maybe they've got some draconian punishment for persistent truanting that does actually involve jail, and the administrator was deliberately mentioning the absolute worst that could happen to scare the kid ...

As for threatening the family? What? A $250 fine is a threat? Dude, in Britain parents can be imprisoned if they don't control the truanting of their kids. I don't think mentioning that truanting could see the parent getting a fine is that OTT.

The only thing which sounds totally whack is the three years, and I wanna know where that's coming from.
posted by kaemaril at 6:41 AM on April 9, 2006


effugas : It violates the Geneva convention to threaten someone's family

Which Geneva conventions are you talking about? Are you talking about the most commonly referred to two, the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War?
Or was it another one?

In either of the above conventions, it does not explicitly forbid threats to somebody's family. In actuality, it forbids threats outright in the case of POWs:

POWs, article 17 : No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

And in the case of civilians, article 27:
Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.

No explicit mention of threats against the family, but I think it can be safely inferred :)
posted by kaemaril at 7:00 AM on April 9, 2006


bugbread: wouldn't that be one of the reasons schools have files on pupils? If a teacher had concerns about the health, wellbeing and stability of a student wouldn't that be flagged somewhere?
posted by kaemaril at 7:03 AM on April 9, 2006


knowing all the social issues of all 2,000 students isn't even their job

bugbread, you're taking that quote from my comment out of context.

I didn't say that every principal everywhere should know about the personal stories and issues, if any, of every kid in their school; I know that's not possible even with the best of intentions.

I'm talking of this case, and the starting point here is a principal who threatened one of the kids in his school with 3 years of jail for something that is not even a crime, and that is already an abuse of power regardless of the personality and reaction of the kid, and whether or not he had issues, which so many here are speculating about as if that somehow excused the principal from the responsibility of his bullying.

Well, all I'm saying is, even if the kid did have serious emotional or even mental issues, then it would make it even worse - in my opinion, and from an ethical point of view, not a legal responsibility one - as it makes the principal even more callous and arrogant.

Not just towards this kid (whom after all he must have talked to at least a couple of times to issue his threat and that's probably more than the face to face encounters he had with most of the other kids). Towards kids in general. Among which you can always safely bet there's kids with issues. Or even, god forbid, simply emotions, sentiments, and legitimate fears and legitimate wishes to be treated with dignity and not to have their and their family's name covered in shame.

Can I just express the sadness at how disconnected from his schoolkids as human beings a school principal must be to come up with something like this? How does he considers them, all little potential criminals that need a good scary lesson before they actually commit any crimes?

Like others already said, a principal or teacher has a position of authority on kids and their entire work involves dealing with kids, so at the very least, they should know the difference between being an authoritative figure that will be respected and being a lying bully.
posted by funambulist at 7:59 AM on April 9, 2006


also, let me clarify, lest it seems like I'm advocating some "let's all treat each kid differently based on their own personal issues outside school" model of 'special emotional needs' education - no, I think all kids should be treated the same, which means, they should never be threatened with jail for something that isn't a crime...
posted by funambulist at 8:08 AM on April 9, 2006


funambulist : Couldn't agree more, but truancy has always been kinda a no-crime crime. For example, in Britain, parents of repeat truanters can actually be fined and/or imprisoned for failing to ensure their children attend school.

Also, a quick google found this :
http://www.scusd.edu/child_welfare/truancy.htm

It's not the area in this case, but I assume it's gonna be roughly similar for most places. Couple of points stand out: I hope those two points aren't cumulative, sheesh.

Absolutely no mention of criminal penalties for the kid. I wanna know if that school district is somehow different and does actually have criminal penalties for students, or whether the administrator's an evil git.
posted by kaemaril at 8:35 AM on April 9, 2006


he was on probation due to the pocket knife thing---does that mean that 3 years in jail is the punishment for violating probation? and would skipping school for one day violate it?

(and it turns out he and his mom were citizens)

thanks, yeoz, for finding that article.
posted by amberglow at 8:35 AM on April 9, 2006


From yeoz's link:

Soltero and his mother are U.S. citizens.

Well, at least that bit is answered.

Also, the kid did tell his mother and she freaked out on him because he had disobeyed her (and the school) by attending the walkout, and he had been on community service and probation for bringing a knife to school.

Maybe it is possible the AP was telling the truth, at least about the truancy fine and not attending graduation, because of the kid's previous dustups with authority.

Oh, and the gun was his stepfather's, "hidden in the garage."

Sad, sad, sad.
posted by Gator at 8:40 AM on April 9, 2006


and there's another small item, in the Daily Bulletin, but with even less info.
posted by amberglow at 8:46 AM on April 9, 2006


funambulist : "bugbread, you're taking that quote from my comment out of context.

...I'm talking of this case, and the starting point here is a principal
who threatened one of the kids in his school with 3 years of jail for something that is not even a crime, and that is already an abuse of power regardless of the personality and reaction of the kid, and whether or not he had issues, which so many here are speculating about as if that somehow excused the principal from the responsibility of his bullying."

Funambulist:

Yeah, sorry, I may have been unclear. I agree with your general opinion. I just meant that that particular issue (whether or not the AP not having knowledge of the kid's background indicated some sort of problem in the AP's normal student interactions) didn't seem unusual. Even in the context of what happened, I don't see that as true. There are problems with what the AP did, I just don't think that's one of them.

funambulist : "even if the kid did have serious emotional or even mental issues, then it would make it even worse - in my opinion, and from an ethical point of view, not a legal responsibility one - as it makes the principal even more callous and arrogant. "

I guess what I'm saying is if the AP knew about possible emotional issues or mental issues, then, yes, it makes the AP more callous and arrogant. However, your comment seemed to indicate that the AP not knowing these issues indicated some sort of deficiency, and that I don't agree with.

Again, I'm agreeing with what you're saying, for the most part. I think the threat was out of line (assuming it was a threat and not just a statement of some fact that was already decided...for example, if there were a "three strikes" rule that mandated 3 years jail (highly unlikely, but I'm being hypothetical here), and this was the kid's third strike, then telling him that he was going to jail for 3 years wasn't a threat, just a statement of fact. Of course, even within that hypothetical, there could be plenty of problems with how he framed that statement ("You're going down, son! In the clinker for 3 years, motherfucker! Hope they rip you a new ass!"), but that's a hypothetical within a hypothetical). Sorry, long digression...Assuming that 3 years of jail was not a signed-and-decided deal, and that the AP indicated that it was, then, yeah, the AP did something really fucked up. We're totally in agreement there.
posted by Bugbread at 8:47 AM on April 9, 2006


Off topic, is this guy's job title "assistant principal" or "vice principal"? Both get used in the parent article.
posted by Bugbread at 10:15 AM on April 9, 2006


bugbread, ok, all understood.

I guess what I'm saying is if the AP knew about possible emotional issues or mental issues, then, yes, it makes the AP more callous and arrogant.

Yep...

However, your comment seemed to indicate that the AP not knowing these issues indicated some sort of deficiency

No, not really, that's not necessarily implied in the first statement.

Just, you know, mine was a general sentiment that one hopes school authorities in direct contact with children and teenagers would keep in mind that a) they're dealing with kids in the first place and b) among them many are also bound to have additional issues as well as the 'issue' of being teenagers.

Which again I don't mean as a sort of let's-mollycoddle-them-all, of course, when a kid *actually* does something wrong, I'm all for a firm approach but even then it always has to be also fair and proportional and sensible... abusing one's authority and becoming a bully is the worst most counterproductive thing an adult can to do a kid.

It's such a sad story even without the political overtones.
posted by funambulist at 10:33 AM on April 9, 2006


.
posted by Skwirl at 10:47 AM on April 9, 2006


Did the press conference happen? Any further information?
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:44 PM on April 9, 2006


there's a little more at Kos:

Nativo Lopez, the President of the Mexican American Political Association, spoke in Ocean Beach, California this afternoon. He verified that this did happen and that Anthony's mother will be giving a press conference tomorrow.

The young man was born here. But he identified with the fight for immigrant rights and had become a leader in his middle school among many students, some of whom were immigrants. When the school phoned his mother, he was chastised. His mother had not understood what he was doing. Being chastised both at school and at home was apparently too much for him.

Tomorrow, Nativo told us, Anthony's mother will ask other mothers to support their kids and not to make the same mistake. We should support our children, stand with them, march with them, run interference for them with school authorities and the police, and attempt to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

That sounds right to me. I don't know how "a little child shall lead us," if we're not willing to follow.

Anthony Soltero, presente! R.I.P.

posted by amberglow at 6:16 PM on April 9, 2006


Joey: The original posting had no mention of a press conference, only that the mother would speak to the community. Dunno if that's what the kos thing means, or whether there's now an additional conference scheduled ...
posted by kaemaril at 6:20 PM on April 9, 2006


Goodness, gracious what a society we have. As far as I can tell, the AP acted consistently with his role--to enforce order and to make the student aware of the consequences. Much like a police officer, he doesn't make the law, etc. etc. Now, don't get the ideqa that I think that he handled this the best way--but he certainly is not the proximate cause of the youth's suicide.

And I don't want to blame the victim or his family, either, but it does seem, ever so slightly, that he may have had discipline problems at home, too. And an unlocked gun with ammo at home? NFW is that the AP's problem--or concern. I am amused and amazed at how those who are looking for the AP's punishment seem to think he should be intimately aware of the full record of each child--especially the possibility that the boy might kill himself. If the child did have counseling--inside or outside of school--that information is confidential.

But also, I think, that those who would consider suicide a solution have already decided that this option is better than any of the others, and ceertainly some segment of the population does feel that way. No intervention is going to be foolproof in that regard, adn noone can say what will positively trigger or prevent such a course.

When I was in high school, we organized protests against standing for the national anthem (Vietnam era protests). We disrupted school over warrantless locker searches. We routinely cut school to march--or sometimes just to screw around.

The VP of my school threatened me any number of times with failure, with juvinile detention (Gonna send you to the Audie Home, boy! was a familiar refrain). But I was an honor roll student and I politely told him to shove it. Not in those words, but I said--you do what you have to do, I'll do what I have to do.

My parents taught me to question authority. I taught my sons to question authority, and that included mine.

Soltero's reasons for commiting suicide went to the grave with him. You can call for suspension of the AP, but I think you won't prevent another death by doing so, and I think that our litigious society that wants to punish somebody for something every time there is a clash between authority and resistance has got its collective head up its ass.
posted by beelzbubba at 7:17 AM on April 10, 2006


meanwhile, some schools across the country are giving credit, not threatening kids with jail and non-graduation, etc.

Excessive threats not backed by law or rules are not the way an administrator should be dealing with kids--it wasn't the right way in the 60s and 70s and it's not the right way now. I'd like to see the school policy manuals that state it is proper--anywhere.
posted by amberglow at 7:26 AM on April 10, 2006


amberglow : "Excessive threats not backed by law or rules are not the way an administrator should be dealing with kids"

That's true, but have we established that the threat was not backed by law or rules? The kid was on probation, so might the "3 years in jail" statement have been not an unbacked threat but a statement of fact?

(Not defending the AP, per se, but I don't want to base conclusions on premises which might not be true)
posted by Bugbread at 7:51 AM on April 10, 2006


frick
posted by Smedleyman at 9:21 AM on April 10, 2006


AP Wire/Contra Costa Times: Friends remember Ontario teen who killed self after walkout-- ...On Monday, school district officials released a statement but failed to address whether the incident occurred.

"The district expresses its sincere sympathy for the student's family and friends," the statement read. "Out of respect for the family's privacy and because litigation is being threatened against the district, we can't comment any further regarding this very unfortunate incident."

District spokesman James Kidwell declined further comment.

Mercado said Soltero excelled in school, often getting A's and B's in his courses.

"There was nothing else in his life to indicate anything was wrong," she said.

posted by amberglow at 4:38 PM on April 10, 2006



when you're a kid, stuff that school authorities say to you can have a lasting impact.

i spent my teen years as a ward of the court, bounced from foster home to group home to a boarding house and was dumped out onto welfare at 18 before i finished high school, of which i attended five due to them moving me all over. still, i managed to finish high school on my own at age 22, while working full-time at shitty minimum wage jobs.

in what would have been my final year, i was seconds late to English class and the asshole teacher wouldn't let me in. i went to the principal's office. he didn't care that being kicked out of the class would mean i'd have to go back in September to take that one class which would mean no university.

he just pulled out my file and said: "how many years is it going to take you to finish high school? look at how many schools you've been to. what are you, some sort of con artist?".

what a fucking asshole. i stood there stunned and a quarter century later, i still get upset when i think about it. and they wonder why some kids go postal, either on themselves or others.

still, i ended up not needing that course at all. i did a year of volunteer work, in Katimavik, a Canadian government youth action learning program where they send you all over the country for 9 months (at that time, 7 now) and pay you a buck a day and take care of your expenses like food and lodgings and travel, then i came home and a very good university let me in based on that.

oh yeah, i grew up to be a WRITER, so fuck that English teacher and that principal, but at the time, i was just devastated when they shit all over me like that. the stress and the pain they caused me was just awful.
posted by TrinityB5 at 5:46 AM on April 11, 2006


very cool, Trinity...how do you think you would have reacted at 14 to what this guy said to the kid?
posted by amberglow at 6:31 AM on April 11, 2006


Coverage from Democracy Now. School district is not commenting on what actually happened.
posted by cushie at 9:37 AM on April 11, 2006


update diary on Kos about the service: Anthony Soltero and Palm Sunday - the service for the 14 y.o. activist
posted by amberglow at 7:46 PM on April 11, 2006


i'm not sure amberglow. i would have been mad for sure, but i would not have killed myself. i'm just not that kind of person. people who say smack to me just make me think words like ASSHOLE in my mind as i give them the lethal stare of death. and also because i do have a bit of a stubborn streak which probably comes from putting up with shit when i was younger.

plus, my crazy fucked up mother once told me: "of all my kids, you're the one most likely to kill itself". bitch did me a favour telling me that, cause i wouldn't want her to be right. now, it's not that i have never thought about suicide, because i have for sure, but those dark thoughts are never in relation to what other people say to me.

usually when i get ideas about offing myself, and i do from time to time, in relation to thinking i have a shitty life, one little part of me realizes that it's not all bad and that many people have it worse and some would change places with me, well, i just put my head down until the feeling passes. and it always does.
posted by TrinityB5 at 1:12 AM on April 12, 2006


i feel that way too, Trin, but at 14 i wasn't as able to. I don't many that are at 14.
posted by amberglow at 9:37 AM on April 12, 2006


Hmmm. According to some accounts, the kid never even went to the protest -- they cut class but came back to the school for lunch.
posted by Gator at 8:59 AM on April 15, 2006


According to some accounts, the kid never even went to the protest...

Shocking!
posted by jdroth at 1:22 PM on April 15, 2006


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