From Band, Boy Lashed Out, School Official Testifies
A Tale of Two Bands and One Mother's Response. The following
article appeared in the Detroit Free Press. The response was
posted to a parent listserv.
by Jack Kresnak, March 11, 2004, Detroit Free Press
For more articles like this
He practiced trumpet and drums because more than anything, he
wanted to be in his high school's "drumline." But every move the
16-year-old Murray Wright High School sophomore made pushed him
further from that goal.
The boy had been disciplined four times this school year for
fighting, skipping classes and threatening the band director.
After being suspended for four days, he returned to school on
Jan. 22 to learn that he could no longer be in the school's band
program, a school official testified Wednesday.
The boy and two friends told police they didn't know why they
vandalized three Detroit schools, but school officials and
prosecutors said that the boy who was banned from the band may
have led the other teens, 15 and 16, on the rampage at Murray
Wright, the Detroit School for the Fine and Performing Arts and
University Public School. Damage was put at about $300,000.
After a Wayne County Family Court hearing that concluded
Wednesday, the boys, all students at Murray Wright, which had
$100,000 in damage, were designated to be treated as adults if
they are convicted on multiple counts of burglary and malicious
destruction of property worth between $1,000 and $20,000.
The designation by Chief Referee Thomas Doetsch means the boys
could face prison, but only if they fail to benefit from
rehabilitation programs in the county's juvenile justice system.
If convicted, they will be released from court jurisdiction at
age 21, unless they misbehave. None of the students has a
The property destroyed on Jan. 31 at the Detroit School for the
Fine and Performing Arts topped $200,000, principal Denise
Davis-Cotton testified Wednesday.
But Davis-Cotton said the real damage was in the psyche of the
students at the school.
"We all had mental strain, anger and anguish," Davis-Cotton
said. Band classes were canceled for weeks; several performances
Then, on Feb. 8, when Murray Wright students discovered their
school had also been targeted by vandals and that the day's
classes were canceled, many students showed up at Performing
Arts school, with the belief that students there had retaliated.
Davis-Cotton said Murray Wright students yelled through windows
threats, such as: "We're going to shoot you," to students inside
the school. Many parents arrived to take Performing Arts
students home, she said.
Doetsch cited the fear and trauma inflicted on students, faculty
and parents at all three schools as a reason to designate them
for adult treatment.
The boys, who face a preliminary examination in juvenile court
March 30, are each being held in juvenile detention in lieu of
$60,000 in bonds.
A Mother's Response......
This is just so sad knowing how much my son was helped by having
music and the band as his outlet for letting off steam and his
source of self worth in his own mind. He also had three very
supportive and understanding teachers who I believe made a
tremendous difference for him. They were and still are a
positive influence in his life.
Dan has Tourette Syndrome and had always been a challenge to
raise. His self esteem plummeted because adults were always
talking to him in angry voices and telling him to "stop that".
He found it hard to trust many adults. He was also a Special Ed
student and struggled with schoolwork.
When he was three, he banged on pots and pans along with his
music. One day we bought him a small drum set. He beat the heck
out of that playing all the time. We bought him a practice pad
and he impulsively sat on it breaking the stand.... but he never
When he was in middle school we bought him a real drum set. He
practiced non stop until we couldn't stand it anymore. I learned
more than my husband how to tune it out. I knew how important it
was. The neighbors couldn't stand it and moved out. He knew they
couldn't stand him either. He told me so.... my heart broke
because he was right.
When he was in middle school he sold the old drum set and we
bought him a used Rogers set. He continued to practice. His
grades improved and he seemed happier. One day I watched the
high school jazz band play "A Few of My Favorite Things". Dan
played a drum solo that was awesome. After the number everyone
in the audience gave him a standing ovation. The smile on his
face was priceless. I stood there clapping with tears running
down my face. One Dad in the audience said "That kid has
attitude!" and he meant it in a good way. Many people made it a
point to let me know how great Dan sounded. They shook his hand
and congratulated him. I was so happy for him. He had come so
I wonder what might have happened if he wasn't able to play the
drums. He goes back each year to help the marching band's drum
section. They call him the Drum Nazi (in an affectionate way) I
tell the kids that he would never make them practice more than
he would. They agree.... Last year the percussion section was
voted as the "Section of the Year".
Tonight I am going to watch him perform at South Lyon HS during
the Michigan Color Guard Circuit competition. He is in the
Northcoast Academy Drum Corps and plays the snare. So far they
are in first place. He is now almost 22 years old and working 3
different jobs. One of those jobs is as a percussion teacher.
(One of his old music teachers, Dr. Philips, showed up at the
South Lyon Competition. He was so excited for Dan and very
impressed by the whole group. I feel very blessed to have such
wonderful people surrounding my son even today!)
If you want to know if Positive Behavior Support could have
helped that boy and if I think the whole situation could have
been avoided.... I have to say....YES! I am willing to bet that
if he had someone who believed in him, something to do to
improve his self esteem and give him a better outlet for his
energy, I believe the whole situation could have been avoided.
Vice Chairperson in charge of Education
Michigan Tourette Syndrome Association
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