The death of a 16-year-old student at Mount Abe has sent shock waves throughout that school community, the town of New Haven and closest neighbors. Her suicide is particularly troubling because its cause is likely connected to senseless cyber bullying, hateful speech, and indiscriminate meanness cultivated by a culture of online anonymity. After grief, better education at the school and among the community is the appropriate, if inadequate, tonic.
It will be inadequate because, as a community, we can never eradicate all aspects of meanness, of hate, of indiscriminate bullying. Today’s online world only makes it more anonymous and more difficult to detect.
To that end, activities that bring students together in social settings are enormously important. Joining a school sport team is one of the most successful programs because it creates a team dynamic that is supportive. Academic options like math club, debate, forensics, art and many other activities can do the same.
What parents and other students should grasp, in the wake of this tragedy, is that being home and online in the sanctity of one’s room is not always the safest place to be.
One would also hope the effort at Mount Abe will be to embrace this tragedy as a wake-up call, and tackle the issue with openness, frankness and a full-on commitment to ensure the school culture is respectful and supporting of all students — that’s a tall order, but its importance cannot be overstated.
Angelo S. Lynn