Friday, April 25, 2008

What Should Happen to the Kid Who Tried to Poison Her Classmate?

A big story in the news recently, being discussed, among other places, on Metafilter, is that of the middle-school student who put peanut crumbs in the lunchbox of a child known to suffer from potentially-deadly peanut allergies, just to "see what would happen."

The picture to the left, from this story's coverage, is deliberately misleading, by the way: one of the students was a girl, and both were in middle school, not cute little tots as the somewhat inflammatory photo suggests.

Did this girl, this thirteen-year-old, really understand the consequences of her actions when she left peanut-butter cookie crumbs in the lunchbox of the other student, who she knew had allergies? Are the consequences, including possible death, being exaggerated in this case? Many kids these days do suffer from life-threatening allergies which could lead to shock and even death, while other allergies are much milder. The fact that the potential victim (who luckily discovered the peanut crumbs before touching them or eating any of his lunch) suffered from allergies was well-known.

According to the news coverage, the "bully" knew the victim and, according to her friends, wanted to "see what would happen."

I can picture how this started as one of the girls in a circle of friends joking, "Hey, I dare you to bring peanuts in and see what happens!" Just a dumb, harmless remark--until one of them actually does it, the whole idea having spiraled from some silly joke comment into a potentially life-threatening act. Was this girl actually intending to kill the allergic child or honestly ignorant of the potential consequences? I'd like to know what the almost-victim thinks. The "bully" maybe even imagined she would come forward if the kid was in real danger and point out the peanuts in the lunch box, ending up as some kind of hero for saving the victim's life.

The reality is that middle-school kids, and especially middle-school girls, run the gamut from best friends one day to "I hate you, I'm covering your MySpace account with profanity" threats the next. Very real consequences arise out of absurd situations at this age: where I live, we actually had a girl in the high school die after being stabbed in the chest by another girl. How did something like this happen? They were fighting over a boy.

This made me, the Mom of two boys, want to run and yell at them: Make sure you are very clear on who is your girl-friend and who isn't--and seriously, don't even consider someone who would carry a knife around as "girl-friend" material!

It can be scary as hell being a parent these days.

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