I had a really vivid nightmare a few months ago. One of my kids and I were on a roof of a house, when they suddenly lost their balance and fell. I tried to catch them, but I didn’t. I watched them fall and land gruesomely on the hard ground below. This image stuck in my head, and even now, I’ll randomly remember it and get chills. What’s even worse, though, is this feeling that, despite me trying to hold on and protect my kids from the evils and dangers that exist in this world, as they get older, it’s getting so much harder to do this. I’m losing my grip, but I don’t want to see them fall.
I say this because I’ve been thinking a lot about a horrific incident that happened here in Hamilton this week. As of this writing, the full details aren’t completely clear, but a 14 year old kid named Devan Bracci-Selvey was stabbed to death outside of his downtown high school, in front of his own mother. Two teens have been charged with first degree murder, teens who allegedly bullied this kid since the start of the school year. How the bullying escalated to the point that it culminated in killing someone in front of their own mother’s eyes is unfathomable.
Like most of the community, I was shook when I heard about this tragedy. Things resonate more when they are so close to home. I mean, yeah, I mentioned my stupid nightmare, but to actually helplessly watch your child die in front of your eyes in such a sadistic way is unimaginable. Like most parents, it made me think about my children, too. Everyone that I talked to about this tragedy all had the same conclusion:
This could have happened to my kid.
I nodded in agreement every time that I had heard this. It makes me wonder, though, why do I nod at this conclusion? It’s almost like we’ve come to expect the worst-case scenario, and live our lives based on that.
The other day, I found J and KJ playing “school lockdown” with their stuffed animals at our house. Two little kids making a game with some teddy bears, out of running and hiding for their lives, in the event that some bad person wants to do something bad to them. J’s school had practised a lockdown recently, so in her seven year old head, she thought it was no biggie to explain it to her two year old brother. When I suggested to J that they play something else, she was confused. In her mind, a lockdown was just as normal as doing math work, or drawing pictures, or anything that she does throughout the course of a school day.
And you know what?
She’s not wrong in thinking this, because that’s the way things are nowadays. It’s important and necessary…but it’s still kind of heartbreaking.
One of the criticisms of Devan’s situation already is that “the system” failed him. If he was being tormented for months by these people, and he went to the appropriate authority figures for help, why wasn’t more done to protect him? If my kids were being relentlessly bullied, or being relentless bullies, I don’t know what exactly I’d do, to make it stop, if my kids weren’t able to, on their own.
Bullying has been around since the beginning of time. I get that, and educating kids about bullying and its effects is key. But what if who you’re dealing with goes behind being a bully? Is the kid who gives wedgies the same as the kid who decides to bring a knife to a school and commit cold-blooded murder for God know’s what reason? Which system is at failure here? The school system that Devan went to, trying to get the bullies to leave him be? What about the system that didn’t recognize the signs that the bullying teen was disturbed, and needed to be helped before he kills someone? That goes beyond the school and starts at home, no? Was this an extreme example of bullying, or the deplorable work of a depraved young individual who should have been diagnosed and stopped a long time ago?
Did we all fail Devan?
Not long ago, J and I drove past a candlelight vigil for Devan that our part of Hamilton had put on. J didn’t know what had happened, or what a vigil was, so we talked about it for a bit, her voice full of surprise and sadness. She asked me why the ‘bullies’ did that, and I had no good reply for her. I don’t know, man. I don’t know. I’m just trying to make sense of something that makes no sense, looking for answers that may never be answered. I don’t know why Devan was targeted to be the victim of torment which eventually cost him his life. It really could have happened to any kid, and that’s a scary thought.
R.I.P. Devan Bracci-Selvey. While your story isn’t unique, unfortunately, hopefully your senseless death is not in vain and we can all come to grips with ensuring that a tragedy like this never happens again.