Taking Responsibility

One of my biggest rants about “society in general” is the lack of taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Within this is consideration for others, meaning, seeing how what you do affects other folks, and being responsible enough to fix your behavior.

All to often, that’s just not happening. From where I’m sitting (a way too overpopulated area) it’s getting worse by the day. Not to sound like the total curmudgeon that I am, but I think our young kids are missing out on this lesson the most.

Just yesterday I got up to date on the kerfuffle at the Albuquerque Biological Park.

Seems some kids from John Adams Middle School got into some trouble. A couple of APS’ finest had the opportunity to scratch into the thick clear plastic on several tanks at the BioPark Aquarium.

On one of the tanks the problem can be buffed off but it will always have a distortion. Another tank the thick plastic needs to be replaced completely. Estimated costs up to $30,000 to fix, with the Park only able to get the maximum allowed by state law of $4,000 from the parents of each of the kids (four students total so they’ll get up to $12k on their $30k problem).

In a April 19 opinion piece in the ABQjournal with no byline and in today’s piece by Andrea Schoellkopf, the press is coming down pretty hard on these kids, aged 13 or so, and as well they should.

But my question in all this is….where were the grown ups? Today’s article said they snuck away from grownups. What? And how did that happen? Were there enough teachers and parents on this trip? Today’s article says there was one adult for every five kids (per aquarium policy). So what happened?

I know pre-teens are cagey, but I would be real, real upset to hear that there wasn’t enough supervision available and my kid stuck off. Does this mean someone like a kidnapper could sneak IN? And what about security at the Bio Park? At the Monterey Bay Aquarium where I’ve spent some time, I could no more think, “sharp scraping object” much less get it within an inch of the glass before security or Aquarium employees would toss me out on my ear.

I fear the answer would probably be something like “lack of funding”.

I was heartened to hear the Principal of John Adams say they are going to go over their field trip policies. I hope that means what I think it means, taking responsibility for the fact that this *should* have been prevented and making sure it doesn’t happen again.

I don’t excuse the behavior of the kids. But they are 13 year-olds. Thirteen year-old boys are going to find some trouble, they just are.

Not a good explanation for what happened, but I think there are a few parties not stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility.

Meanwhile, parents and teachers at the school are going to try to hold bake sales and car washes to raise the rest of the money. Mayor Chavez has “commuted” the two-year banning of the school from the park to just the end of the school year (a move I disagree with, I think the Mayor is cutting the legs out from under the BioPark. But that kind of move is something I’d see my own petty management do here at work, so goes the way of politics).

There’s talk of garnishing the wages of the kids once they become adult to fill in the gaps. There is a lawsuit on the books. Righteous indignation reigns, particularly on the part of the Aquarium.

So far, I honestly don’t think the BioPark is stepping up and accepting their part in this. I think they need to review their security coverage and staff allocation. They rock at filing lawsuits against 13 year-olds and finger pointing…but where’s the discussion of how this can’t and won’t happen again? Where is their plan going forward? Seems to me whoever crows the loudest in a situation like this might be the one most in need of taking a good look at their own behavior.

Just my opinion, doesn’t have to be yours……

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  • Natalie

    Here are a couple of things your posting doesn’t mention:
    According to Superintendent Beth Everitt:
    “APS values our city parks and appreciates the educational
    opportunities provided by these wonderful programs,” Everitt
    said. “We take the supervision of our students on field trips very
    seriously. Our district standard for middle school chaperones is
    one adult per 10 students. The ratio for John Adams students
    during this field trip was one adult for every five students. Even
    with this ratio, some students entered the aquarium without
    getting wristbands and without a chaperone during a transition
    point of the trip.”
    (It sounds like these kids snuck into the park. It wasn’t just one school; it was 6 schools… that went in 3 schools at a time. During that transition, these kids snuck their way in and weren’t part of the original group. Not a good thing and, yeah, how in the heck does something like that happen? Where were the Biopark people?)
    *The Biopark requires a one to five chaperone ratio or the students have to pay full price.
    *Three out of the four “students”, according to APD, have gang affiliations. THIS pretty much says it all. Can you believe that? 13 years old and already gang affiliated! That should be a huge focus!
    *Two of these students were arrested for shoplifting in addition to vandalism.
    *The bathrooms were also vandalized.
    *They used a rock and screws to do the damage.
    *The four kids are banned for life but the school is banned until the end of the year. I’m glad to see this because I don’t think it’s fair that the entire school miss out on going to the park each year. The other kids were well-behaved and are doing something to try to make it better.
    *This is the same school that, last October, had a student claim there was an intruder causing the school to be shutdown and the SWAT team was called out. It was a prank by a mentally unstable, confused, young girl.
    *When you read about each of these kids, they are living with someone other than their parents due to them being in prison, missing, and in drug treatment programs. Clearly, these kids come from some compromised home situations. I really feel for the grandmother who has one of the boys and his two younger siblings, living on social security, and is just devastated that this kid has done this and she’s being sued.
    *In my opinion, the chaperones are not well-trained or potentially as commited as they could be. When I was in Chicago, we had 4 kids per volunteer, had to sign that we understood and would uphold the rules and responsibilities, and were constantly being monitored. It doesn’t sound like this was the situation on this field trip, whatsoever.

    Do you read Duke City Fix? (The link is on my blog if you need it.) There was a thread about this which had over 80+ comments. I cannot believe how mean people were about these kids and how it all digressed into such a name calling event. Clearly, this issue has divided the community regarding who is responsible, the action that should be taken, etc…

    The bottom line is: these kids were left to their own devices, need to be held accountable, and APS (including the individual school) needs to review their field trip policies.

    It’s bad enough that school volunteers used to have to pay $34 a year (for a background check) in order to volunteer… that just recently changed, thank God.

    I don’t think funding is the issue. I think it’s policy and communication that are the key issues to this situation. APS needs to get its act together and parents need to be more aware of what’s going on with their kids.

    All the way around, it’s a horrible situation but pretty indicative of what’s happening in our schools and in our society.

    I’m hoping some positive and creative solutions come out of this… in the long run.

    Great post. Thanks.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Natalie, thanks for the additional info. From my past, I know a bit about that school and could have guessed the kids were probably gang affiliated, but didn’t want to make that assumption.

    I also was heartsick to read the stories of these kids. They’ve all had it rough. I kinda didn’t want to throw that in there.

    At the end of the day, I just feel like the school is taking responsibility. The parents of the kids are being forced to take responsiblity (whether or not they can financially) but the damn aquarium gets to spout righteous indignation to every media outlet and I’ve yet to see anything from them saying “yeah, we could have managed this better”.

    The media eviceration of these kids is tinged with something ugly. I don’t want to say racism….or anti-lowerclassism. I can’t quite lay my finger on it….but it’s not pretty. I just got real put off by all the comments from the aquarium.

    I always appreciate your thoughtful comments. I wasn’t sure how my post would go over given the circus that’s surrounding this story.

    I need to go think about this some more….

  • Natalie

    I think you do have your finger on it… I wouldn’t say it’s racism because there were both white and hispanic kids… but I would say the gang situation, which, btw, is just swept under the rug here in ABQ, is a scary thing for everyone AND these kids all come from low income, single parent homes.
    Poverty is the common denominator.
    It absolutely kills me that all of these supposedly intellectual, “better-offs” can just go off on these kids as if they are some heinous offspring of the “undesirables.” This could have been one of their kids given the peer pressure.
    No one should be calling anyone names. Yet, that’s what many people do; they blame “society” as if they aren’t part of it (certainly not the lower eschelons) and think the police should do something about it or the schools… the schools have an awful lot to do when it comes to “educating” our kids. I agree that the BioPark hasn’t taken enough responsibility for this incident. You KNOW all of the responsibility would be squarely on their shoulders had this happened any time other than a school field trip. So, why aren’t they taking any responsibility? I’m guessing they are being advised by Marty’s advisors… and it’s all a big political trip, dontcha know. Marty and APS have been at each other for years and now there’s a reason to either renew the finger pointing or come together. Between this BioPark thing and Virginia Tech thing… the mayor, Chief Schultz, and APS have gotten together to discuss safety. Not much has come out of it yet.
    I really feel for these kids. Is it an opportunity for them to learn something? You bet. Should the parents be held accountable for their behavior. You betcha. Should we break these people down even further than their struggles? No. No. No. Who does that help and what do we have to gain? That would only serve to push those kids closer to a gang structured “family” and easy money.
    Yeah. I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot. I have three kids in APS and one of them, who goes into middle school in two years, is already pushing the envelope through peer pressure. It’s really, really rough to compete with that and keep this kid on the right track.
    Your letter to Jim Belshaw is right on.
    Keep on writin’, sister friend.

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