NSB and DeLand student threats symptom of family breakdown

The country is in a recession. People are struggling to keep their homes out of foreclosure. Job layofs are a daily threat. Should it then really come as a surprise that the most fractured among us are children? The Columbine-type threats at New Smyrna Beach High School and a talked-about murder-suicide plot at DeLand Middle School really hit home.
Perhaps the two boys punished for making Columbine-type threats with scrawled messages on the bathroom walls were just looking for an easy way to scare school officials into canceling classes for a few days.

Though authorities have determined the threat was not real and the offenders dealt with, there are underlying reasons why children like these act out.

This You Tube generation with X-Boxes, skate boards and i-pods are not demonized by modern technology and the digital any more than a Baby-boomer teen whose first car was a Camaro with a fancy tape deck.

The difference maker is parents.

When the parents substitute these gadgets for time with their kids, bad behavior is assessed to these modern toys.

Whether married, divorced, widowed or alone, their lifestyles greatly influence their children.

These days, children have become a disposable commodity. Divorce is passe. Stay-at-home mothers are the exception and fathers who see paying child support and occasional visitation as forced obligations have become commonplace.

It's not only parents who struggle with those obligations, but older children as well, who find more solace with their friends.

Peer pressure among emerging teens is intense.

You can feel it when you drop your child off at school in the morning. Their are the mini packs, the loners, the flirts, the bullies.

Once these threats are made public, the fear magnifies -- real or imagined, so NSB High School officials and law enforcement are doing the right thing by beefing up security, holding assemblies and getting the word out to parents as they did earlier this week and again Thursday after last week's episodes.

A seventh-grader at DeLand Middle accused of being the mastermind of a plot to carry out a massacre said after a court hearing Tuesday that that he suffered "emotional depression" from being bullied at the school.

The 14-year-old told reporters: "Someone threatened to slit my throat with a razor blade. That was very scary."

As a journalist who has reported on many a tragedy, the circumstances presented in court always stand out as shocking, but the underlying causes stand the test of time: And that is the breakdown of the American family.

Everyone has their own space and when it's invaded, problems erupt. Dad's drunk and mom's having an extramarital affair. Little sister's having sex and Junior's smoking pot.

Sound extreme? Visit Volusia County's juvenile and family courtrooms. Count the number of violence injunctions among the warring parents or thir boyfriends or girlfriends.

Circuit Judge James Clayton has seen more than his share of fractured families in crisis. I covered one of his cases a five years ago where a 16-year-old NSB boy got into fight with a 13-year-old Edgewater boy, fatally kicking him in the head while he lay in a prone position at the New Smyrna Beach skate park.

The offending boy's mother begged for mercy, saying her son's "sweetness" was gone, due in part to the killing and before that a difficult home life with a stepfather who drank. She said she was in the process of divorce.

The judge, recognizing the violence, and the fact that he had tested positive for marijuana when first brought into custody, gave him the maximum sentence of nine to 12 months in a high-risk juvenile facility.

Clayton also ordered the boy to cooperate in making a 15-minute video describing the costly mistake he made.

"This would be shown at middle schools and high schools so others could see the unforeseen consequences of such action," Clayton said.

The propensity for violence is strong enough that school and law enforcement officials in recent days are justified in taking all precautions available when threats are made.

Parents, grandparents, older siblings, neighbors and friends all need to work harder to deal with troubled kids.

Don't blame divorce, You Tube or X Box for the lack of parental care.