Category Archives: From the Editor’s Notebook

Communication is the Best Defense in the Fight Against Bullying

By Detective Daniella Quinn

 

It has to be a very painful and scary thing for parents to learn that their child is being bullied. As parents, you may find yourself pondering the tough question: Do I intervene on behalf of my children or hold back and let them work out the problem themselves?

DBT Bullying 1At times, it wasn’t until after the fact that parents learned their children were being bullied. And I think that’s probably true more often than not —  kids go through these things and never tell their parents.

One in 10 teens tells parents if they have been a cyber bully victim. Less than one in five cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement.

Bullying is a repeated and hurtful act of someone intimidating or hurting another person.  This behavior includes taunting, teasing, spreading rumors, social exclusion, hitting or pushing, taking or breaking another’s property. Cyber bullying is online harassment to include sending mean texts, emails or instant messages, posting nasty pictures or messages about someone else.

In this fight against bullying and cyber bullying, communication is key. Parents should:

  • Talk to your children and explain to them what bullying is and that it is unacceptable
  • Teach your children about how to resolve conflicts peacefully and accepting everyone’s differences
  • Always keep open communication with your children; know their friends and most of all know their concerns
  • Encourage your children to not be afraid and report, to any trusted adult, any bullying that occurs to them or even if they see it occurring to someone else.  Let’s get the children to begin to speak up for one another and help their peers
  • Ask questions daily about what your children are doing in school; monitor their Internet and cell phone activity, set rules and guidelines for its use.  As a parent of a child using social media, educate yourself about the Internet and its various forms of communication and use parental controls.  Importantly, take the time to look at the social media conversations, the pictures/videos on your child’s profile page and make sure your children are aware of the consequences of any negative posts or comments.

There are, of course, a million forms of bullying, and sometimes the worst thing adults can do is look the other way. We’ve seen the worst cases where teenagers have used social media in horrible ways that has resulted in their peers committing suicide.

Though bullying is as old as classrooms, it is only in recently that states have moved to address this issue with legislation. Previously, this was simply the domain of schools. In 1999, only Georgia had an anti-bullying law. Today, every state except Montana does. In the past 14 years, states have enacted nearly 130 anti-bullying measures, half of them since 2008.

Spurred partly by the Columbine shootings in 1999, when it was reportedly that the suspects had been bullied, states began rapidly addressing bullying, according to a 2011 U.S. Department of Education report. Victims in 18 states now have legal recourse either from schools that fail to address the issue or from the bullies themselves.

The hopeful news is that in my lifetime, schools and law enforcement have become much more aware of the dangers of bullying and the need to be proactive. The bad news is it is still not enough.

Remember that bullying is not only wrong; it’s a crime and should be reported right away. Now is the time to stand up against bullying. Let’s continue to work together to keep the children in our community safe.

 

 

 

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Fix our Nation’s Broken Mental Health System now

C. Ron Allen
Editor-in-Chief

Earlier this week, the country was shocked to learn that a gunman shot and killed 12 people at the Navy Yard, a U.S. Navy command complex building, in Washington, D.C.

The tragedy sparked yet another so-called “national conversation” about gun control, igniting predictable passions on both sides of the heated debate.  And as with any national tragedy, calamity or disaster, there is overwhelming bipartisan outcry to fix our nation’s broken mental health system.

We heard this following the tragic elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December. Yet despite this consensus, it appears that Congress has not taken any tangible action.

On Tuesday, the Senate’s Democratic leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, opened speeches on the floor of the Senate chamber with an echoing litany of praise for the military and first responders and well wishes for the wounded and the families of the dead in the Navy Yard shooting. No legislative remedy was suggested by either man. Reid segued abruptly to a defense of the Affordable Care Act and excoriated Republicans for persisting in their efforts to strip its funding.

I spoke to one of my Congressman’s staffers this week only to learn that “Gov. Scott said he didn’t want the money from President Obama.”

This isn’t the only obstruction to the Affordable Care Act coming from the Sunshine State. Since the law was passed and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Florida officials have turned down health grants allocated through the law, they decided not to expand Medicaid, and have prohibited the state insurance commissioner from regulating insurance premiums.

Some county officials have been getting around the state-ordered obstruction of navigators, though. Pinellas County health officials said because their facilities are county-owned, they wouldn’t have to follow the ban.

Just recently, I attended Open House at one of our schools where I spoke to some parents about KOP, formerly Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network, a mentoring program that I volunteer with.

The most striking thing that happened was the parents, the mothers, who talked to me about their children who suffered from depression and bipolar disorder. Never had these women seen me before, yet it was obvious they were grasping for help, reaching out to anyone who could provide them hope for their babies. Some of these stories were truly heartbreaking, and after leaving that meeting, I became committed to fight to better our mental health system.

CRA & Associates, my media relations company, will host a series of seminars and forums to address mental health issues in economically depressed and minority communities.

The first community forum, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Saturday, Oct. 26, will focus on recognizing mental health issues in youth and how drug abuse coincides; the role of law enforcement and options for counseling.

CRA & Associates has taken up this cause with KOP and Boca Raton-based Breaking the Silence, an emerging mental healthcare series for high school students. Taking it another step, our experts want to address the community as a whole. Partnering with the Delray Beach Police Department also helps deliver information from the view of law enforcement. The idea of these mental health workshops is to open the communication lines to mental health issues, which are often not discussed in depressed communities, especially black or African American. Too often depression goes unrecognized, thus, self-medicating takes on the form of street drugs and alcohol.

Most of us know someone who has struggled with mental illness, but who feels uncomfortable talking about it.

Whether it is a friend, neighbor, or family member, mental illness impacts all of us in some way. But we are uncomfortable talking about it.

Unfortunately, too many Americans suffer in silence rather than getting the help they need. One-third of those with mood disorders do not receive the treatment they need, and fewer than half of those with severe mental disorders receive treatment of any kind in a given year.  This is unacceptable.

We must reverse what has become the status quo for too many mentally ill individuals, unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, hospitalization, and the rare yet devastating tragedies that have occurred in Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Newtown, and now in D.C.


Little kid, big car

That combination can lead to serious accidents if children and motorists aren’t careful. And as students head back to school – some walking or riding their bicycles – I join our local law enforcement officials in urging drivers to watch the road even more carefully.

Starting a new school year can be an overwhelming experience for a child, especially in a brand new school with new class mates and teachers to cope with. If starting middle school, many children will also have to make a longer journey that they are less familiar with and may walk or cycle on busier roads or use buses on their own for the first time. Young people tend to think that road accidents will never happen to them, so road safety often seems a low priority compared with the other pressures of starting a new school year.

Parents, please talk to your children about the safest route to school and warn them of any potential hazards.  Please ensure they can be seen, give them brightly colored, fluorescent or reflective clothing to wear, and if riding a bike, have a helmet on. If you need a helmet, let me know.

Take a moment to explain other road safety issues such as how to behave on a bus, where to cross the road and to always wear seatbelts in cars.

Let me offer these advices to you:

Motorists: hang up that darn cell phone. Distracted drivers can impair the critical skills essential for safe driving.

Be aware that there will be an increase in children in the area of all our schools when the new school term begins. These children may be unfamiliar with their route so please take extra precaution.

In fact, slow down and obey all traffic laws. Be on the lookout for children at and near bus stops, and always stop for a school bus that is picking up or dropping off children.

As a reminder, motorists must stop in both directions for school buses while they are picking up or dropping off children. Traffic must also stop in both directions on a four-lane undivided highway when the buses display red flashing lights.

Drivers on a divided four-lane highway travelling the same direction as the bus must stop and wait until the flashers are off before continuing. Passing a stopped school bus is considered reckless driving.

Children: watch the road. Don’t dart out into traffic from between parked cars or walk behind buses, because drivers may not see you, even if you are wearing a Hannah Montana backpack that’s bigger than both your parents combined. You should never cross a street unless you’re at an intersection.

If you’re walking to and from school, you should rely on crossing guards for help crossing the street safely. If there is no crossing guard, use the walk-light button and wait to cross the street at marked crosswalks.

Crossing guards:  That Glo guard’s vest is a very pretty vest, but it is not bulletproof. Even with the vest on and a stop sign held high, they will often seem invisible to motorists. I have written stories of school crossing guards being run over by errant drivers.

Never argue with a child. Most children are well-behaved, but we all have a few bad apples. By the time a child gets home and tells his or her parents what the mean crossing guard said, Mom and Dad go to the police, and you have a whole mess that nobody needs.

Be fair, friendly but not familiar, with children. No hugging, especially in the age of cell phones. I recalled the case at one of our elementary school where a motorist saw a guard hugging a child and got on the cell phone to police to report witnessing inappropriate behavior. It turned out the guard was the child’s grandmother, but police still had to investigate.

Our children are our future and we need to do everything to make sure they are safe as they strive for the education they need to prosper in life.

We want everyone to arrive and leave school safely. Please drive carefully. Until next week….

 

C. Ron


17-Year-Old Graduates From College FAU

While most 17-year-olds are contemplating which college they plan on attending in the fall, James Martin is thinking about where he wants to attend graduate school.
Martin, of Marimar, Fla., just received his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Florida Atlantic University during a ceremony Tuesday. The baby-faced teen was by far the youngest graduate in his class of 1000 other students; he was also one of the most accomplished, finishing with a 3.9 GPA.
“James Martin, Suma Cum Laude,” the announcer said at the ceremony. That he is so young is a fact that does not elude the young scholar.
“It’s funny, because I have a really young face, so they all knew this kid doesn’t belong here,” Martin said. “They end up seeing you almost as a peer because you study like they do, you work like they do and at the same time, you’re interacting.”
While Martin is clearly a super-talented young man, his mother, who home-schooled him as a child, admits that her son was not always so studious. “His early years, he tended to be a little lazy,” Joan Martin said. “He daydreamed a lot and then, about 12 or 13, he started getting really serious.”
Martin was so serious that his improved habits landed him on FAU’s campus at 14-years-old. It was a successful journey that didn’t go without its challenging moments, however.
“It’s been some nights, man,” he said. “It’s been some nights where I’m just like, ‘Ugh!’”
While Martin is not sure of what his next steps will be, he does eventually want to pursue higher education.
“In a couple years, hopefully, I’ll be on my way to getting a PhD, and so that would be a tremendous blessing,” he said. “In another eight years, I’ll be a professor somewhere.”
Martin said he hopes to come back to South Florida and teach at FAU or the University of Miami after he receives his PhD.
Congratulations to another fine young man doing great things!

Even in Death, my Friend Gave Hope to the Hopeless

By C. Ron Allen

Editor

 

BOYNTON BEACH, FL – Palm Beach County has lost a champion with the passing of the Rev. Lance Chaney. I find myself questioning God – as I do quite often these days – why did he have to call home so many of my dear friends so soon?  But then, I’m reminded that it is not man’s plan, but God’s will. After all, we all are on loan for just a while.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bro. Chaney shortly after he arrived in town in June 2002. One of his parishioners and a dear friend told me that he was a member of my fraternity. So I made it my duty to meet him within days.

He was so excited to meet me and we had lunch at one of my favorite local dining establishments. We’ve been friends since. He has spoken to my mentoring program at both Atlantic High and Village Academy on numerous occasions. And among the things I admired about him was his ability to make everyone feel comfortable.

He was a people’s preacher. The students could relate to him although he was a pastor. He spoke to them from a biblical perspective but he broke it down to where each student understood the purpose of his or her existence. He was clear, insightful and persuasive but not loud. He was gentle. That is the way he was as a man and as a pastor.

He was a visionary and it was in his DNA to help those with less means. Before taking the helm at St. John, he led the flock at Greater Antioch Baptist Church of Rock Island, Illinois for 18 years.

There he helped establish a health clinic and bookstore. He served on the school board, the NAACP Board of Directors and more. He started the Quad-City Wide Church Softball League, the “Hoop In The Hood” 3-on3 basketball tournament and Double Dutch contest.  He also formed A Place For Us Ministry to help bi-racial families develop and grow in the worship services. He changed lives, he won souls for Christ. And he attracted hundreds of new worshipers.

So when he moved his family to Boynton Beach, he didn’t slow down. It was not in this husband and father of three to coast.

rev chaney 1Unlike many, he practiced what he preached. He quickly immersed in the fiber of the community, serving as speaker and panelist at civic events. He was active in supporting the Save Darfur Coalition and The Haiti Relief efforts, he served on the Correction Task Force for the Criminal Justice Commission of Palm Beach County and on the boards of Genesis Community Health, Inc., and the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. He was chairman of Pathways to Prosperity (the church’s non-profit rehabilitation center) and Day Star Academy of Excellence, among other community endeavors.

His congregation grew from about 800 to 3,000.

In October 2007, he started the church’s prayer circles and “Jericho Marches” to reclaim his neighborhood and rid it, little by little, of drug dealing, shootings and other crimes.

Church members marched twice weekly, met and reached out to addicts and homeless people they found on the streets around the church before services on Wednesday nights and after services Sunday mornings.

He did this back in his hometown of Rock Island as his childhood friend, Troy F. Bland, knows quite well.

“I knew Pastor when he was just Lance coming to the baseball park during the summers in the ’70s watching us play baseball,” Bland told me recently. “He is my older sister’s age. (I believe he was a graduate of the class of 1975).  But although being a few years older than myself, I only remember him being supportive to all of the younger ball players.”

After recovery from drug abuse, Bland wrote a play for a neighboring church and Rev. Chaney asked him to do the same for Easter at Antioch.

“It was great and during the production rehearsals and time spent, I grew to know that he had a genuine heart for God,” said Bland, who now works in the information technology field and lives in Colorado. “Our relationship became great as he kept me busy during a critical time in my recovery, allowing me to get past the roughest stage. I am blessed to know him before and during his calling. I do believe that he did make changes to this world for the better.”

Indeed he did.

When gun violence crippled the city some years ago, he was pivotal in putting together a rally. He called for the arrests of the shooters and he instilled hope. He was the voice of reason the community needed to hear.

“We all have a race to run and Pastor Chaney finished his course,” said Vice Mayor Woodrow Hay who is also on the ministerial staff at St. John. “We are better because of him.”

He represented many, especially after he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer during a routine check in June 2008.

I recalled him telling me how wonderful the experience was and how it helped him find the importance of his family and the strength of his faith. And even then, he wanted to help.

“I need to be a voice for those who have the disease and are fearful,” he said. “My brother, I need to let them know there’s hope, that it is not a death sentence. Our technology has come a long way and when I connect it to my faith, it gives me strength to survive.”

That’s the kind of person my brother and friend was.

As one of his parishioners and good friend said recently, “You felt like you could accomplish anything after speaking with Reverend Chaney.”

He gave hope to the hopeless.

 


What do we Have to do so George Zimmerman and Others get it? Not all Black Boys are Dangerous

Just minutes after the verdict, my fingers searched for the keyboard. I wanted to write about how black America must find a way to get people to see our boys and tell the difference …

… between thugs and altar boys.

… between gangsters and kids in the National Honor Society.

… between pimps and boys too shy to ask the girls they like to the prom.

But I realized I was cruising the streets of Delray Beach so I pulled into a gas station and prayed. Because that’s not the proper response to the Zimmerman verdict.

Here’s the proper response: Why do I have to convince the George Zimmermans of the world that not all black boys are dangerous, that not all black people are dangerous?

Who else has to do that?

When I look at Charles Klinek, a brilliant University of Miami Law School graduate who’s studying for the bar and who should run for office someday, I don’t see Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer who raped and dismembered 17 guys over 13 years. I see my friend Cyndi Klinek’s kid, a guy who would make any mother proud.

When I look at Facebook posts from my white friends about their boys, I don’t imagine any of them growing up to be Adam Lanza, who killed 20 little children and six adults in an elementary school. I see my friends’ beautiful boys.

Is this a wake-up call for Black America to do more? Or is this a wakeup call for all of us, of all races, to stop assuming, stop guessing, stop profiling and stop stereotyping? Please don’t quote King if you don’t believe King. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked us to judge people by the content of their character. We try, some of us. But some of us are still aiming at color so we can find ways to assuage our fears.

Black people have spent a century trying to make America understand what life is like for black boys. Black America has watched as an irrational fear of all black boys becomes acceptable and leads to some black men being imprisoned wrongly and longer than any other men or women. Now it has led to a precedent for future encounters: If you fear a black male, you can kill him in self defense. Dang, one more thing to load onto the backs of good black boys who already have enough to deal with.

The Zimmerman verdict, like the O.J. Simpson verdict 18 years ago, came after a trial lost by prosecutors who could have done a better job of explaining what was true and what wasn’t. The Zimmerman trial was decided by six women who, in all likelihood, aren’t raising black boys.

Black America does have a duty. We must continue to teach our boys to grow into good men. We must continue to reach out to the minority of black boys who aren’t — the thugs and punks who make life hard for our innocent boys, the ones who go to Sunday school, who make straight A’s, who want to be senators, who kiss their mothers and love their sisters.

But while we’re doing what we do, we must demand that the George Zimmermans of the world work harder not to shine the same flashlight on our good children as they do the thugs they think they know. And we have to hope that all good people of all races with good intentions will help.


Trayvon Martin's Death Should Inspire Better Laws

Someone asked whether I was watching the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin trial.

And that has been the problem since the nation learned that a neighborhood watch captain chased an innocent 17-year-old and shot him to death, because “These assholes always get away.”

It is a shame that the defendant and victim have both been on trial. It is a shame that a jury heard neither testify.

But Zimmerman didn’t have to testify. His attorneys cannot erase the final moments of Martin’s life and the beginning of Zimmerman’s hell, when he chased a boy because he was black.

“This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something,” Zimmerman told a the 911 dispatcher whom he called after seeing Martin walking back to his father’s home from a store.

“He’s just staring, looking at all the houses. Now he’s coming toward me. He’s got his hand in his waistband. Something’s wrong with him.”

Zimmerman followed Martin, who was talking on his cell phone.

“He’s coming to check me out. He’s got something in his hands. I don’t know what his deal is. Can we get an officer over here?”

Then Zimmerman decides to become hunter.

“These assholes always get away,” Zimmerman said to the dispatcher. “Shit, he’s running.”

“Are you following him?” asked the dispatcher.

“Yes,” Zimmerman said.

“We don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher said.

Zimmerman didn’t listen. Instead, he went after Martin, who was not the aggressor but a frightened teen trying to get away. And that is where he made his mistake.

It’s called Neighborhood Watch, not Neighborhood Stalk and Kill.

The trial was not about whether George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. He confessed.

It’s not about whether there was a crime. Martin died.

The trial is about whether George Zimmerman had the right to commit murder.

His attorneys offered two defenses. First, there’s Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which gave Zimmerman the right to protect his property and himself.

Problem was Zimmerman’s ground kept moving. He decided that Stand Your Ground meant Chase Your Ground, even as he later tried to convince police officers that he feared Martin.

And Zimmerman’s attorneys interviewed a combat expert who said Zimmerman picked a fight he couldn’t win. Since he was losing, he felt entitled to shoot Martin in self-defense. Yes, that expert said it with a straight face for $125 an hour. Martin was stronger, bigger and was beating him.

And that is what is most important about this case: If George Zimmerman is found not guilty of killing someone he was losing a fight to, does that open the floodgates for similar cases?

Second, when the police tell you not to do something, is it optional? Should the police officers have said, emphatically: “Do not follow him!” Would that have worked with Zimmerman who was already on a mission?

Trayvon Martin was in the fight of his life last March, confronted by a stranger because he was a black teen and the neighborhood had had problems with black teens before.

Trayvon Martin lost. He didn’t get to see his 18th birthday. His last conversation was with a friend who apparently didn’t even think of calling the police or his family. But how could she have known that Zimmerman was hunting Martin?

Now, George Zimmerman is in the fight of his life. Six women must decide whether an inept neighborhood watch volunteer should get away with killing a kid.

No matter what the verdict is, yelling, screaming, being overwrought, will not bring Martin back.

We don’t need to march. We need to improve laws anywhere that allow murder.

This is the system we have, the one we sometimes curse, sometimes cheer, sometimes change out of necessity. Any minute over the next few days or weeks, we will learn whether the system works.

I have lived in other countries and I have been around the world three times, by far, this is the best.

If the nation can rally and millions of people put on hoodies as people did in honor of a kid who didn’t have to die, then those same people should rally to ensure that all laws are of all people, by all people, for all people.

We cannot look back at this case. We don’t have time to argue the details of that night, all speculation because Zimmerman was caught in several lies.

Whatever happens to Zimmerman, his life will never be the same. He will always be that guy in Florida who killed a kid. It will haunt him, mark him. He may as well put it on his résumé.

But what of Trayvon Martin? It’s time to separate the teen from George Zimmerman and make a heartbreaking death mean more than sending a racist to jail.

We have to protect the next Trayvon Martin.

When we make the laws better, make life better, for the rest of the Trayvon Martins, then we will make a difference.

There was an Amber before there was an Amber Alert.

There was a Megan before there was a Megan’s Law.

It is time to lift up Trayvon Martin as more than a victim.

Even in his death, he can save more lives.