Standing With Heather Colbert’s 15-Year-Old Son, Brutal School Beating Must Be Addressed

If there is ever a reason to finally address the continuing level of violence at Madison Public Schools it follows Heather Colbert sitting down with WKOW News and speaking about her son. The high school student was confronted by a group of students on school grounds who were making fun of him. Soon he fell victim to a savage beating which resulted in “three teeth in the front of his mouth that was actually jammed up into his gums”.

I do not often need to stop the DVR and rewind to fully take in the enormity of what was reported. But the brutality of the attack and the thoughts of this young man considering suicide reached out and touched me so that I needed to replay the news story a couple of times.

“He’s been very depressed. He has talked quite a bit about committing suicide, not wanting to be here, because he feels that he’s ugly with the way that his teeth look right now, said Colbert.

It really ripped at me when it was reported, “He can chew with some difficulties. We’ve been trying to get him mostly to eat softer foods than anything”. 

I will reach out to this teenage student through a letter and offer my support as I know too much about bullying and suicide. I also know the feeling as a teenager of not always having the smile desired. That is what I will do for him, in an effort to make a difference.

But it is also imperative to ask that will the larger community do to seriously address the violence that harms students, undermines classroom learning, and smears the entire school district? Not for the first time do I advocate for a common-sense and most logical tool as a step in the resolution to this violence.

At present, three teenagers are facing charges after the January fight which left the 15-year-old’s smile significantly damaged. But how did we get to the point where something this vile could have occurred at a school where taxpayers ante up a fair amount of money so education can be imparted to our youth?

Many in this city, myself included, strongly urged the Madison School Board to not fall for the protest crowd’s mantra calling for the expelling of educational resource officers– city police–from our four public high schools. The board shunned logic and common sense and ousted the EROs–sadly, perhaps the only adult disciplinarian some students have in their lives.

The city was told that if we had police officers in the schools it would feed the “school-to-prison pipeline”.  Good Lord! It sure looks like some teenagers, such as this savage beating underscores, are more than able to take that path all by themselves, and are doing it most willingly.

It must not be forgotten that the community-minded EROs did have a large degree of popularity from many families in Madison. What proved difficult was to find the bandwidth to respond when it came to engaging with those who would shut down a street to make a point. Let us be clear as to the facts. The EROs, when in the schools, broke up many large-scale cafeteria fights and disarmed students bringing loaded weapons to school.

The case with this 15-year-old student again demonstrates why it is important to have such men and women in our schools to keep the students and staff safe from those who wish to inflict violence on others. Threats that we know all too well come from within and outside our schools.

Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes, a former school resource officer (SRO) said that he’s working to curb escalating school violence, saying that SROs can alert when there’s a potential school threat.

“We cannot prevent something when we’re not there at the time of occurrence, and that’s what I think one of the benefits of having a school resource officer,” said Chief Barnes. “When things were about to happen, people will come to me and say, ‘Hey, maybe you should look out at lunchtime,’ and then I could bring people in and try to defuse those situations. I think we can do that in the school system.”

“I do feel that if an officer were there, it would help the response time for police to be there to interrupt any situation that’s happening,” said Colbert.

This issue is no longer a question we can leave to the shouters in the public square. I know the vast majority of city residents and taxpayers know our schools should be places of learning and not sites of multiple examples of violence. We should never have a student needing to find money to restructure his teeth after being seriously beaten and deformed at a school. The citizenry must stand up collectively and demand that police again walk the halls of our public schools.

Enough playing to the loudest shouters on the street who truly have no idea what is required to make a classroom ready for learning. They have not a clue as to what a teacher endures to get just a short period of a class period filled with learning.

Folks, we have to set some serious boundaries. Enough coddling of the violent ones in the schools who have no intention of learning, and who prove with the number of police calls only a desire to act disruptively, again and again.

I stand with Heather Colbert’s son. Will you please do the same?


And so it goes.

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