By Lauren Rosen, Guest Columnist
Lauren Rosen, LCSW-R is a licensed social worker specializing in adolescents and families. She works for Student Assistance Services in the Pelham Schools and maintains a private practice in Rye. [Full disclosure, she is the spouse of MyRye.com Publisher Jay Sears.]
Dear Rye Community:
I don’t think anyone who has heard about the events that took place a week ago last Friday, where 8th grade boys were “hazed” by 11th grade boys with paddles, would disagree that what took place was disgusting, reprehensible and very upsetting. Most people start to think to themselves, ‘how could this happen’ and it is very easy to look for who to blame.
Instead of taking that route, why don’t we come together as a community and focus more on the ‘how could this happen’ part. Let’s pull our resources together and make sure we can prevent something like this from ever happening again. I propose that all members of the community that work with/have concerns about our young people talk together – the school administrators, superintendent, teachers, coaches, law enforcement (both Rye Police and Westchester County Police), PTO/PO executive board members, Rye Youth Council members, City Council members, leaders in our churches/synagogues and most importantly, PARENTS. We have so many excellent resources – let’s not waste our time blaming, but instead, have the difficult conversations and figure out how to make sure this “tradition” ends. Now.
Young people need to know that the adults in their lives are making the rules and then enforcing the rules. There are consequences for actions. So why don’t we together spell out very clearly what is unacceptable behavior and what the consequences will be? Let’s make sure policy is written both in our town laws and our school laws. Then let’s make sure it is enforceable and enforced.
At our dinner table, we have discussed what happened. It was interesting for us to hear what our children had to say (we have three boys). Our nine year old was sort of shocked when his older brothers explained to him what had happened and he immediately responded, “Don’t you get in big trouble for that?” Our 11 year old seemed to focus on his own fear that this might happen to him one day, and he reported to us that some of the 8th grade boys he has recently befriended have promised him that they would look out for him when he was in 8th grade and protect him (as they would then be 11th graders). Our 13 year old was more cynical, repeatedly stating that this has been going on for a long time and “would never change”. He seemed to get a little caught-up in who was to blame, but seemed adamant that this was just “how it was and nothing anyone did would ever change it.” I, of course, was horrified that he could believe this, and I guess that is what started me thinking, ‘well, how do I show him that change can happen?’
So, I throw it out to you, the Rye Community. One of the things I truly love about this community is how we come together in times of tragedies (and unfortunately, there have been many). It is the essence of small town thinking – let’s help our neighbors. Why can’t we do the same thing here? Let’s take this terrible happening and do something about it. I propose some sort of town hall meeting, with a moderator, to begin the discussion of what we need to do as a community to ensure this never happens again. Let’s prove to our young people that change can happen and we can take care of them and protect them. Let’s make sure that nothing like this happens again. It would be nice to prove my nine year old right, that yes, you do get in really big trouble for this and that this type of behavior is unacceptable here and everywhere.