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Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and independent consultant, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com.

Education Opinion

300 Kids Who Need a Lot More Than Saving

By Peter DeWitt — September 26, 2013 3 min read

Over Labor Day Weekend, there was a huge party at former NFL player Brian Holloway’s summer home in upstate, NY. Over 300 teens showed up to his house that sits on 197 acres of property. It was the perfect place to party because it was so secluded. According to Kelly Lynch (WGY),
More than 300 of them partied and drunkenly smashed windows, urinated on the floors, stood on tables, punched holes in the ceiling and stole a statue that was part of a memorial for the owner’s stillborn grandson. Oh, it gets better. Before, during and after the party, they tweeted about it and posted pictures of themselves engaged in this behavior.

According to the Albany Times Union, “Someone using Twitter hashtags #norespect and #bestpartyever invited everyone in the “518" to the 4,974-square-foot home on 197 acres off Route 43 on the night of Aug. 31.” For those of you not living in upstate, N.Y. “the 518" is the area code for that region.

How did Holloway let this party happen?

He didn’t even know it was happening because he lives in Florida and had not been to the home in quite some time. The large estate was actually on the market by Sotheby’s International to be sold for 1.5 million dollars.

None of us would blame him if he didn’t want to ever see upstate, N.Y. again. After all, according to NPR, Holloway said, “They caused more than $20,000 worth of damage.” However, Holloway is much more than an ordinary person because he did something that took a great deal of integrity.

As he watched his home being trashed via Twitter and Facebook, he created a website called “Help Me Save 300.” The page seems to be blocked now but Holloway posted the pictures that were being posted on the social networks. His intention was to help the teens who seemed to lack the integrity to know that they should not break into someone’s home. He wanted to know their names and wanted to ask them to come and help clean up the damage they did.

Lynch went on to write,

He is a better person than I would have been in that position. It takes class and compassion to see beyond the urine stained carpets, broken windows, damaged walls and blatant disrespect to reach out to your kids. He even offered to welcome these derelicts back to his house for a picnic, where they would work together to make repairs and clean up the mess they left behind. I don't know that the rest of us would have been able to react the same way."

Perhaps many of the kids and their parents would be embarrassed. It would be hard to show up to the man’s house after the party, but it was the right thing to do, after taking part in such a wrong event. Some of the kids could have been arrested, but Holloway wanted to get the help of their parents to see how wrong the behavior was, and through compassion get these teenagers to stop participating in that kind of behavior. The only problem was that, according to Lynch and many other reports, “One kid showed up. One, out of the 300 teens who were there.”

The Plan Backfires
About 50 volunteers from around the community helped Holloway clean up, and other teenagers who did not participate in the party lent a helping hand. Unfortunately, the parents of some of the teens who did attend the party and damage his property are now threatening to sue Holloway.

Why?

The parents are upset that Holloway posted the pictures of the teens using alcohol and drugs...the same pictures the teens themselves posted on social networks. Holloway has even received other threats since the incident. Apparently the parents are not happy with all of the negative exposure for their children.

Unfortunately for those parents they should wake up and realize those children brought the attention on themselves as soon as they broke into a house, damaged someone else’s property, which included the headstone of the owners stillborn grandchild, and they urinated...yes urinated on floors. It’s unbelievable that a parent would even defend that behavior.

Kids These Days
Too often we hear comments like “kids these days are different,” or “parenting styles have changed.” As much as there are many, many teenagers who do the right thing or apologize for doing the wrong thing, this situation does not help the perception that teenagers have changed. I want to believe differently because I see so many polite children, and work with so many great parents.

When the parents of these teenagers began threatening to sue Holloway, it showed the worst part of our society. It’s the part where people don’t take responsibility for their actions. It showed that too many of these parents do not hold their children accountable. What is wrong with the social-emotional state of teenagers who seem to think vandalizing someone’s home is ok, and instead of apologizing they get their parents to actually defend their actions? That’s pretty disgusting.

In the end, Holloway may not have saved the 300 teenagers who wrecked his house, but he certainly inspired many, many more by his compassion and integrity. And sadly, it’s time for parents and their teenagers to keep proving that kids have not changed all that much, in an effort to make society forget about the 299 in upstate, New York who didn’t take responsibility at all.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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