Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On the stabbings at Franklin Regional High School

It's more than a little surreal when the top national news story is a student going on a stabbing rampage at the high school where you graduated.

Over the next few days we're going to find out a lot about Alex Hribal, 16, who (allegedly, though there doesn't seem to be much doubt) attacked dozens of his fellow students before being wrestled to the floor around 7:15 a.m. at Franklin Regional.

The school in the aerial videos looks a lot different than the one I graduated from back in 1984. Looks like they've put a nice new entrance on it. Not sure how many new wings there are - two, maybe three? Hard to tell it's the same school, really. I haven't been there in years.

On my class Facebook page, people were talking about what a shame it was, and how much youth culture has changed. Lots of spirit and solidarity. Lots of determination not to let one troubled kid take the meaning of our school and our happy memories away from us.

I have no idea why Hribal snapped, but I think it's a lot easier for a teenage boy to snap than it used to be. He can fall a lot faster and a lot farther down the rabbit hole, and he's a lot more dangerous when he does. If a kid is drawn to alienation and sociopathy, unlimited quantities of the stuff are just a Google search away. Parents are busy, school personnel are busy, too, and hemmed in by all sorts of rules and protocols.

Friends can turn on you if you become needy or weird in a certain kind of way, or maybe they just don't get it, whatever "it" is. A crowded high school hallway can be the loneliest place in the world.

Maybe it'll turn out that Hribal was bullied. But even if that's the case, it can't possibly be the whole story. Kids have been bullied since the dawn of time. There have to be other factors that close off hope, close off all your fellow feeling, and make you think, all right, I'll start stabbing people, that'll show 'em.

Here, by contrast, is a remarkably well-adjusted young man:

Who the heck asks a high school kid if he thinks he's a hero? "Hell, yeah, I'm the man." Ian, the student being interviewed, said the right things, but it was a dumb question. He knows he did well, and he's pleased to be on TV - look at the half-grins that slip out - but he also knows you're not supposed to pat yourself on the back, and he doesn't. Good for him. Overall, he's poised and serious.

Watch how matter-of-factly he answers the last question:
Interviewer: "Do you ever think it will happen at your school?"
Ian Griffith: "There's always a possibility. There's a possibility at any school, at any time." 
He's right, of course. But it's incredibly sad that a high school student should have to know that. In 1984, I sure as hell didn't.

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