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Bridges4Kids LogoCut 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
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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 criminal record.

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 were canceled.

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 stopped playing.

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 far.

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.

Barb Schmatz
Vice Chairperson in charge of Education
Michigan Tourette Syndrome Association


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