May 21, 2008: Editorial: Lessons learned from the incident


By Brian Sweeney
The news last week that seven second-graders at Margaretville Central School were plotting to attack one of their classmates was difficult to digest. Unfortunately, in this day and age, the reports did not come as a total shock. There are way too many similar episodes occurring for most of us to be completely surprised by this type of story.
Officials at Margaretville Central School were understandably reluctant to discuss this incident. The fact is, though, this story is not necessarily a reflection upon the school district. On the contrary, when school officials were informed of the plot, they investigated and took the threat seriously. Police were contacted and the case is now being handled from a legal standpoint.
With hindsight being 20-20, it certainly is possible that school officials evaluating this occurrence will find areas that could have been improved upon leading up to this episode. If this is the case, it will be a valuable lesson learned.
It becomes very easy in cases such as this to point fingers of blame. The school system should not automatically be the scapegoat. District officials have vowed to reevaluate school policies and they have announced that proper steps are being taken to keep similar incidents from occurring. That’s a good start.

Parents’ view
On the other side, the parents of the students involved in this episode have probably spent considerable time contemplating the involvement of their children. It is all too easy to cite the influences of the “other kids” in such incidents. No matter how much blame is “deserved,” these parents must shoulder their share of responsibility for the actions of these seven- and eight-year-olds.
Nobody wants to think that their child is capable of the kind of violent deeds that were being contemplated. But these children were involved and the parents need to ask themselves why. Then they need to open the lines of communication and make certain that everyone has gained some insights from this episode and that this was a very regrettable, one-time event.
Did a similar story that occurred in Georgia a few weeks ago influence the plan of the local students? It would seem so. It’s doubtful that second-graders could hatch such a plot without a model. Fortunately, neither assault plot materialized.
Because of this fact, it is also simple to dismiss the “plans” as only that — and to insist that they would have never been carried out. We can hope that’s the case, but it’s impossible to know. The good thing is the threat was taken seriously.
Other than the fact that students had a common bond as classmates, the real story here is what it says about our society. Violence on TV, in movies, video games and on the Internet is pervasive. Even with technological safeguards in place, it is impossible to screen children from all of these harmful influences. But we must try. If we do, in the long run, some good can result from this bad experience.