Portney’s Complaint

Portneys Complaint

Portney’s Complaint

Devon Portney

On Friday, January 19, John Odgren, a 16-year-old student at Lincoln-Sudbury High School, stabbed another student to death. 15-year-old freshman James Alenson received stab wounds in both his stomach and chest after an altercation with Odgren in the bathroom.

Odgren suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. According to his attorney, Odgren had been on several medications for many years, but had never exhibited violent behavior.

However, the Boston Globe reported that many students attested to the fact that Odgren had threatened his peers, and often talked about weapons, violence and killing. Students also said that Odgren was constantly made fun of and bullied. The words “made fun of” and “bullied” don’t quite encompass just how cruel high school kids can be, however.

As we all know, this is not the first or even second time a student has killed in high school. The shootings in both Red Lake, Minnesota and at Columbine in Littleton, Colorado seemingly would have forced everyone to sit up and pay attention. We even would have hoped that the Red Lake shooting could have been prevented by lessons learned from the Columbine tragedy. But alas, Americans have proven once again that history teaches us nothing.

As we know in all these school slaying situations, the offenders are students who have endured years of pain and hardship at the hands of their peers. While we know that students are too young to understand what their taunts can do to a person, those who are bullied are too young to prevent those taunts from severely affecting their psyches.

Now we come to the other preventative issue: the school. I am not sure whether the shooters in Columbine and Red Lake had threatened violence or spoke of their intentions prior to carrying them out. However, as stated in articles in both the Boston Globe and Herald, Odgren had previously threatened many students, often spoke about weapons and killing and had asked a teacher for acid in order to build a bomb. I don’t think the danger could have been more obvious if the kid walked around with a sign that said: I am thinking about being violent and I pose a danger to all of you here.

Why, oh, why could the school not have taken some sort of action to prevent this innocent freshman from losing his life? Odgren clearly has some problems. He admitted to police immediately after stabbing Alenson that he had done it, and said he didn’t want Alenson to die. It seems that Odgren did not understand the severity of what he had done, since he did not try to hide it or run away. Despite this, Odgren will be tried as an adult for murder. His attorney will bring in professionals to assess Odgren’s mental capability to stand trial (and perhaps also assess his mental accountability as well). Hopefully, a young man able to be rehabilitated through therapy and medication will not simply sit in prison for the rest of his life.

Odgren had spent much time in special schools before coming to Lincoln-Sudbury. In his previous schools for children with social and/or learning disorders, he did have physically aggressive outbursts, and as of now no one knows whether Lincoln-Sudbury officials had been informed of Odgren’s background. But his behavior at Lincoln-Sudbury alone should have been enough to warrant a bit of investigating into his behavior at other schools. That would have shed light on his previous outbursts, and perhaps could have prevented this tragedy. And clearly, there is nothing at all being done to decrease the amount of non-violent aggression in the form of taunts, insults and teasing that can clearly be parlayed into violent aggression and causes harm to innocent life.