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It was a normal school, with the same faces, the same groans, the same teachers, and the same sleepiness that seems to hang onto everyone in the morning. But things weren’t completely the same. Little did the students, the parents, and the teachers know that a 15-year-old kid had brought a pellet gun, with the orange warning peice painted black, to his school, and was completely intent on dying that day.
Penley, of Winter Springs in suburban Orlando, was accused of pulling the pellet gun in a classroom Friday and pointing it at other students before forcing one into a closet, then leading deputies and SWAT team members on a chase that ended in a school bathroom.
When he raised the gun at a deputy, a SWAT team member shot him.
Officers who had responded to the 1,100-student school believed the gun was a Beretta 9mm, and didn’t learn until after the shooting that it was a pellet gun.
The hospital had repeatedly refused to release Penley’s condition to reporters or even specify the nature or extent of his injuries. Police had said Friday that the boy was on “advanced life support.”
Sheriff Don Eslinger said the 15-year-old boy brought the gun to Milwee Middle School in his backpack. Eslinger said two students saw it and one persuaded the other to report it, causing a scuffle.
The alleged gunman ordered one of the students into a closet, dimmed the lights and ran from the classroom. He then went around the campus carrying the weapon, Eslinger said. Deputies eventually isolated him in a restroom, and the school was evacuated.
Eslinger said negotiators tried unsuccessfully to start a dialogue with the boy, identified as Christopher David Penley.
“He did not respond,” Eslinger said. “He refused to even comment. All he said was his first name. He did not drop the firearm.”
When the boy raised the gun at a deputy, he shot the youth, the sheriff said.
“He was suicidal,” Eslinger said. “During this standoff, and during the chase, the student said he was going to kill himself or die.” At one point, the boy held the gun to his own neck.
No one else was injured. The sheriff’s office confirmed later that the weapon was a pellet gun fashioned to look like a 9mm handgun. The tip of the gun had been painted black, covering brightly colored markings that would have indicated it was nonlethal.
It is indeed a sad story, and, as usual, is full of lessons for students and parents alike. We’ve looked at two teen killers in the past on this blog (one of which was accidentally deleted), and all of the stories have one central similarity–relationships.
David Ludwig killed his girlfriend’s parents. Patrick Armstrong killed his “friend,” who was a girl. And now, this 15-year-old gets himself killed because he’s depressed about a fight over a girl. That’s really warning number one when it comes to teens–watch out for the boy/girl relationship that can easily end up on the front page of Agent Tim Online. You really don’t want that to happen.
Almost all of these stories are about some young man deciding killing is the answer to the problems he’s facing, which usually involve girls. We can see many reasons for this, such as television and video games, which constantly speak of death, killing, and murder, causing the teen’s mind and soul to become immune to the revolting feelings that should come when you hear of a person being murdered, or watch it in action.
This is real life we’re talking about kids, not a video game or television. Everyone needs to wake up and quit living in a video game world.
The MySpace Part
Another interesting factor in Ludwig and Armstrong’s cases is that they both involve the word “MySpace.” Yes, that’s right, MySpace. That really awesome website where you can get a blog and meet lots of people. That place where you can send instant messages, and invite your buddies to read your site, and share thoughts about your daily life. And, of course, it’s safe…right?
You can read article after article on kids who thought they were safe–from parents and freaks–who ended up getting busted, expelled from school, killed, or fired.
Jose Aguilar, a 14-year-old freshman at Munster High School, talks about how much he loves his guitar on his Xanga.com blog and about his spot on the MHS junior varsity wrestling team. The guitar part is OK, but sharing your school puts you at risk, Willard said.
Jose said he wasn’t worried because he didn’t think random people would check out his blog.
“I kinda just think that the only people who are gonna be looking at it are like my friends,” he said.
Sites like Xanga, MySpace, and Friendster are accessible to everyone, which means you need to be extra careful about how you post. Any personal tidbit is an invitation for trouble. Anything that someone can use to track you down does not belong on the Net, Willard said.
Even if you don’t post that kind of information, there’s a chance people may still try to contact you. One in five teenagers is solicited online, according to the NCMEC.
If someone ever says ‘LMIRL’ — let’s meet in real life — remember one word: NO. Never, ever, under any circumstances meet somebody in person that you only know through the Internet. Those situations lead to nothing but trouble.
Melissa Darang, a junior at Merrillville High School who has a MySpace site filled with cheerleading photos, said she would never meet someone in person.
“That isn’t very smart to me,” she said, adding “I have seen people around though like at the fair or at the mall, and I think to myself ‘that person has a MySpace.’ Kind of weird.”
How does she know that? Pictures. When you post your picture somewhere — anywhere — on the Internet, there’s always going to be a risk that someone you don’t want to see them will find them. If you really want to put pictures of yourself out there, make sure they are not inappropriate or the kind that could get you into trouble. Use good judgment.
Also use your head when it comes to what you write on e-mail, instant messaging and Web site postings. It may seem like no big deal, but they are permanent records of conversations with people. If you can’t be certain the person you think you are talking to is for real or if the person could possibly use what you say in a negative way, then don’t converse with him or her. Even if you write something as a joke, beware. It could be used against you.
There are times when those kinds of exchanges can be used to your advantage. If you are having trouble on the Net, printing out the conversation or saving it to your hard drive is the first step you should take. Using that as evidence when approaching your parents, or any other trusted adult, can be really important.
When someone you know is giving you a hard time, it’s often referred to as “cyberbullying.” It can be just as hurtful as bullying face to face, and often even more so. Though you might feel the need to retaliate and try to cyberbully the person back, it’s best if you go to your parents first. In the most severe cases, it’s best to get the school involved.
“Schools have to be aware it’s happening. They have to educate the kids that just because it’s being done online, you’re still doing something that’s wrong,” said Bill Bond, resident practitioner for safe and orderly schools at the National Association for Secondary School Principals.
If somebody approaches you in an uncomfortable way — uninvited instant messaging, unsolicited posts — you also should go to your parents or another trusted adult. If you don’t feel comfortable going to them, go to the Web site www.cybertipline.com. The site is run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and has links to report every kind of crime. (Source)
Fairfax County, Virginia, is waking up to the dangers of MySpace and Facebook as well:
Fairfax County will hold seminars on the subject for parents this week, and Arlington County, at the suggestion of a parent who is a computer safety consultant, plans a similar meeting next week.
Meredyth Cole, assistant head of school at Madeira, said officials there were “shocked and amazed” to see how many students use Facebook, which began for college students in 2004 and was expanded late last year to include high school students.
Besides the most obvious danger — adult stalkers enticing teenagers into face-to-face meetings — Cole warned that personal information posted online can also be read by college admissions officers and future employers.
“We are trying to figure out how do our school rules relate to this type of behavior,” Cole said.
Some colleges have expelled teenagers for violating codes of conduct after discovering photos of underage students posing in front of kegs or writing about drinking binges, and employers often look up job candidates on the sites, said Parry Aftab, an Internet lawyer and the executive director of Wiredsafety.org.
What is scary for many of us is this: our friends all have a MySpace, which easy to find, easy to read, and sometimes easy to hack into if you know them well enough. I decided to go in and do a little investigation. My mom has done a lot more than I have, but here’s what I’ve found.
Almost everyone…no…everyone, puts a picture of themselves on their profile. Usually fine, yet it can pose a problem, especially when you consider the fact that most of the kids post not only their pictures, but also post their city, state, and country. Others post their telephone number, their school name, their full names and their friends full names, wonderful details about themselves, and other things that just shouldn’t be there.
For Christians, MySpace poses a huge problem for teens. It is not only a threat to your safety, but a trash dump with bad ads and bad people.
â€œThere is ample research to suggest that disclosing secrets or talking about strong emotions improves physical and psychological health,” says James C. Hamilton, associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama. â€œTeenagers are typically very concerned about appearance and reputation, and these blogs and online discussions allow teenagers and children a sort of intimacy in conversation and communication with others that preserves their anonymity in ways that face to face conversations canâ€™t.”
In other words, conversations on these blogs are candid, deep, and can show the “real you.” These blogs lead you to complain about your parents, share, rant, show joy, and cuss. It’s a community–a community of growing teens lacking in adult experience or maturity and freaks who are trying to stalk the kids.
Teens equals disaster when they gather together in one place where no one is encouraged to be the best that they can be morally. Girl/Boy relationships many times start there, and when you think back to the beginning of this post, that is not usually a good thing.
The Bible tells us that “Bad company corrupts good character.” We are to “flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
These blogs can be a danger to the health of teens, as we’ve seen, providing a teen hang out, which always equals some type of trouble.
When we ignore what the Bible says–He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm–we’re going to end up with serious problems. There has to be a reason for schools blocking MySpace and reasons for parents becoming alarmed.
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