Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York on October 18, 2015 · Page A34
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Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York · Page A34

Rochester, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Page A34
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One day in April of 1880, a cadet named Johnson Whittaker was found unconscious in his room at West Point. Whittaker, who was African American, had been gagged and beaten, tied to his bed and slashed on the face and hands. He said three white cadets had assaulted him. West Point investigated. Its official conclusion was that Whittaker did these things to himself. He didn’t, should that need saying, but I offer the story by way of framing a reply to some readers. They wanted my response to news that outside investigators have concluded a Cleveland police officer acted responsibly last year when he shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black kid who had been playing with a toy gun. Specifically, the local DA released two separate reports Saturday from two experts on police use of force. Both said Officer Timothy Loehmann’s decision to o pen fire on the boy was reasonable. A s one reader put it: “ What say you???” Isay a few things, actually. I n the first place, I say this is not an exoneration. That question is still up to the grand jury, though it’s fair to sus- p ect these reports might be a means of preparing the ground for a similar finding from that panel. I n the second place, I say these reports sought to answer a relatively narrow question: Was Loehmann justi- f ied in shooting once the police car had skidded to a stop within a few feet of the boy? They left aside the larger q uestion of the tactical wisdom of pulling up so close to someone you believed t o be armed and dangerous in the first place. And in the third place, I say this: Forgive me if I am not impressed by an official report. The experience of b eing African American has taught me to be skeptical of official reports. As an official matter, after all, Johnson Whitt aker beat, bound, gagged and slashed himself. As an official matter, no one knows w ho lynched thousands of black men and women in the Jim Crow era, even though the perpetrators took pictures with their handiwork. As an official matter, the officers w ho nearly killed Rodney King while he crawled on the ground committed no crime. As an official matter, George Zim- merman is innocent of murder. For that matter, O.J. Simpson is, too. Iam all too aware of the moral and cognitive trapdoor you dance upon when you give yourself permission to pick and choose which “official” findings to believe. And yes, you’re right: I’d be much less skeptical of officialdom had these reports condemned Officer Loehmann. What can I say? A lifetime of color- coded, thumb-on-the-scale American “justice” has left me little option but to sift and fend for myself where “official” findings are concerned. Indeed, the only reason I was willing to give credence to a report exonerating Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown is that it came from Eric Holder’s Justice Department, i.e., a Justice Department that gave at least the impression of caring about the civil rights of black people. Sadly, most prosecutors don’t give that impression. And that failure colors these f indings irrevocably. Last November, two p olice officers respond ed to a call of someone brandishing a gun in a park. R ather than position themselves at asafe distance and try to establish contact, as would have seemed pru- d ent, they screeched onto the scene like Batman and came out shooting. Tamir Rice, a boy who had been p laying with a toy firearm, lay dying for four long minutes without either officer offering first aid. W hen his 14-year-old sister ran up and tried to help her little brother, they shoved her down and handcuffed h er. And I’m supposed to believe they a cted reasonably because an official report says they did? Sorry, but it’s going to take a h--l of alot more than that. Official reports usually side with police officers We chose our syndicated columnists to present a diverse range of perspectives over the course of each week. Every day, we will offer a different viewpoint from one of these writers: E sther Cepeda Michael Gerson C harlesKrauthammer Dana Milbank Betsy McCaughey L eonard Pitts Connie Schultz C al Thomas LEONARD PITTS COMMENTARY . . . outside investigators have concluded a Cleveland police officer acted responsibly last year when he shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black kid who had been playing with a toy gun. Page34A Sunday,October18,2015 DemocratandChronicle. com The death of a child is especially traumatic for a parent. It goes against the natural order of life, in which children are supposed to outlive their mom and dad. When that natural order is broken, parents are l eft with an unfathomable grief. The death of a child by suicide only compounds that grief. As Democrat and Chronicle staff writer Justin Murphy reports, parents Dan and Michaela Cady of East Rochester are left with profound sadness and many questions three months after their 12-year-old daughter, Kennis Cady, died by suicide. A ccording to the report, there are allegations that Kennis was bullied, in particular, by two popular girls with 8,000 Instagram followers bet ween them. A rumor, for instance, was allegedly started about Kennis’ s exuality and that rumor was spread on a fake Instagram account. In the past decade, we’ve seen the tragic national headlines from rep orts of a young people whose suicides were linked to a bullying incident. Though teen suicide is relatively rare, suicide is the third leading cause o f death for 15- to 24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year-olds, according to the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry. N o matter how rare the occurrence, however, one teen suicide death is too many. Schools, parents — all of us — must remain vigilant about the e ffects of bullying and suicide. No matter how uncomfortable the topic, parents must not be afraid to ask their child if they are considering sui- c ide. R esearch has found thatasking the question won’t push a teen into doing something self-destructive, and may, in fact, reveal hidden issues. A nd none of us, schools in particular, should brush off cyberbullying and the pain it may cause the target. T he days of bullying being limited to the lunchroom are long gone; the advent of social media has amplified the intimidation and humiliation of bullying, making it unlike the teasing endured back in the day. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide,” says bullying behavior and s uicide-related behavior are closely related. A 2010 studyshowed that cyberbullying victims are twice as likely to die by suicide, while cyber- bullies themselves are 1.5 times more likely. I n response to highly publicized suicide deaths linked to bullying, the New York state Education Department began requiring all public schools to file reports on incidents of bullying, harassment, intimidation or menacing in 2012. The Dignity for All Students Actspecifically assembles b ullying and harassment incidents. A s reported in the Democrat and Chronicle , 42 Rochester-area schools i n 14 districts told the state they had zero such incidentsin the 2013-14 school year. This is an eye-raising revelation. Given all that we know about adolescence and bullying, it seems unlikely that a school could have zero inc idents of bullying or harassment. M ore likely, some schools may be struggling with understanding what i ncidents to report. School administrators must ensure that staff fully understand what and how to report bullying incidents. Bullying cannot be swept under the rug and discussions about suicide s hould not be avoided. These conversations may be tough but they are n ecessary. A child’s life could depend on it. Stay vigilant on bullying Parents, schools must have tough conversations about bullying, suicide The elephant in the room You cannot pick up a newspaper (or an iPad) today without reading about some new initiative to address the problems in our city from poverty to joblessness to gun violence. The common solutions tend to involve tutoring, mentoring, workforce t raining and early childhood reading as priority initiatives. This focus on “re” education reinforces what the data show, namely that our city school district has for decades failed to educate the city’s youth. But what is curious is that these groupsonly ever call for incremental fixes. There seems to be some unwritten r ule that resigns all to accept the failed city school system as an unchangeable given.There is an elephant in the room muting the voices of reform and all signs point to the immense money a nd power derived from a school budget. The money allotted to the school district funds much more than just teacher and administrator salaries. Unlike the suburban counterparts, the elected school board members have their own income line item and teacher unions are a significant downstream recipient that allows them to fund the re-election campaigns of friendly legislators. The elephant is not just cre- a ted by the school budget however, as the countless number of agencies serving the uneducated poor receive funding that is proportional to degree of poverty and homelessness. In short, t he “system” that guarantees a paycheck for many in Rochester i s protected by those that share in its largesse. The next time you read about the re-educational initiatives, stamp in your mind the proverbial rearranging of deck chairs o n the Titanic. If our collective goal is to save the children of our city, then we all must first understand and recognize the need to disregard if not eliminate the elephant in the room. JIM RYAN EDITORIAL BLOGGER BLOGATORIALS More Online To read this and other blogs, click on O pinion and go to the Editorial blog. CARTOONIST’S VIEW Opinion “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.” FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION EDITORIAL BOARD Michael G. Kane, President and Publisher Karen M. Magnuson, Editor & Vice President/News Julie J. Philipp, Senior Engagement Editor Sheila Rayam, Community Engagement Editor Len LaCara,Erica Bryant Anna Valeria Iseman and Jim Ryan Jr. Community Members

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