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Ronan Murder a 'Teachable Moment'—Letter

Resident calls on town leadership to teach Ronan murder.

Editor's note: Donna Dudley presented this letter to the Board of Selectmen Tuesday. After hearing it, we thought it would be appropriate to present to the community as a whole. It has been edited only for format.

I bring an unorthodox subject to you tonight. As a town, I believe we have a monumentally important, teachable moment in front of us.  I’d like to talk about drugs.

There seem to be a lot of misconceptions out there about who ‘does drugs’ and who doesn’t. I believe the public needs to become better informed about this complicated problem and to be better informed by the town about how you are addressing it and the ways in which the average person/parent can help, beyond the obvious.

I include alcohol in my definition of drugs.  I can tell you exactly what kind of student does or experiments with drugs & alcohol:

  • Honor roll students\Average students
  • Athletes/ non-athletes
  • Kids that have been thru Dare & Decisions
  • Kids that are natural risk takers
  • Kids that are struggling with their sexuality/ kids that are not
  • Kids that are struggling with stress, anxiety and/or depression/ kids that don’t struggle with anything
  • Kids that are easily influenced by peers, / and kids that are not

Good and decent kids make bad decisions, use questionable judgment, get involved in things over their head. Part of the reason they do this is because they are teenagers. I believe It is our responsibility as a community to help them—to try and minimize the harm they may do to themselves and others, to provide avenues for them to redirect, and to always be hopeful for them, when they cannot be for themselves.  

These are not throw away lives. Examples abound of kids who struggle with some of these things, but manage to pull it together in young adulthood.

I believe the town leadership, collectively, has an opportunity and a duty, that arises from our recent tragedy. The shooting death of Joe Ronan. I am heartsick over this. It feels to me as though the entire community is heartsick over this.  We need to take this tragedy and do something that makes a positive difference and not just talk about it in hushed-tones with in our respective cliques.

My short  list of “Leadership” would include:

  • Board of Selectman
  • RCASA
  • School Committee
  • Every school principal in Reading
  • Law Enforcement

For example: are the kids going to start high school without any discussion of this within school? Will they be given any opportunities for processing or dialogue between themselves in a safe school environment? Will this real life example be incorporated into the Decisions class which every freshman is required to take?  If not, why not?

How is the leadership of Reading planning to use this tragedy as a catalyst to shine a greater light on the issues of youth drug experimentation, use, abuse, etc., and what are we collectively, as a town, doing to address it, and to garner greater involvement from the general public? 

Are we going to squander this teachable moment?

A. Horch September 19, 2011 at 01:36 AM
Another lacrosse player to join the track team to serve out his punishment. The parents are thrilled that the AD provided this option. Parents, How's this a lesson? I don't fault the AD on this one. How about some community service as part of the minimal MIAA penalty instead of this sham?
vaccaro_resign September 21, 2011 at 04:16 AM
A. Horch - how do you not fault the AD? While the parents certainly could and should have pulled their son, the point is that the decision should never even reach them. If the AD were doing his job properly, and supporting the intended guidelines (not loopholes) of the MIAA, this student would serve his punishment immediately. The current AD has his priorities completely out of line with what best serves our children and community. Do you really think the Ronan family still cares that Reading won the Super 8 in 2008? Let's get our priorities in order. The AD makes ridiculous concessions and arrangements, particularly for kids who have the potential to bring him some type of athletic glory. He needs to be removed IMMEDIATELY and replaced with someone who understands the danger of letting violence and drug use continue with no consequence for the elite Reading athletes. They are setting the tone for the entire high school. Have them removed from their teams immediately for whatever length of time their offense deserves, and mandate that the time be spent doing community service. The real trick would be getting the AD to apply that rule unilaterally. The current AD would never risk a championship, but that needs to change if we have any hope of addressing these issues.
Karl Weld September 21, 2011 at 04:56 AM
How about Reading adopt some stricter guidelines than the MIAA. Apparently the state guidelines leave a lot to be desired in terms of sending the right message to our STUDENT-athletes. Is there some reason our School Committee can't pass a policy with some sharper teeth in it than the apparent short-comings of the MIAA "standards"?
AnonLikeU September 21, 2011 at 12:40 PM
We need all the stakeholders to be in alignment with what the community wants. If there are concessions being made for athletes, (and I would say that letting a lacrosse player 'sit it out' in track for the season is a concession), that would need to stop, because it undermines and dilutes the wishes and desires of the community. This is where the school system leadership needs to do its part.
A. Horch April 12, 2013 at 01:34 AM
Nice letter. Too bad, nothing ever came of it.

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