Talk about a heartbreaking story. At the end of February, a 10-year-old girl named Joanna Ramos died. Joanna, who loved to sing, dance, and watch soap operas with her mom and sister, died from blunt force trauma (as in, she got hit hard and a lot) to the head. Joanna had been looking forward to her 11th birthday on March 12, and even planned for her sister to curl her hair for the occasion. Joanna was a lot like you. She was a lot like your little sister and your best friend.
Joanna died after a pre-planned fight with another girl. “They took off their backpacks, and they put their hair in a bun, and then that’s when they said `go’ and that’s when they started hitting each other,” Joanna’s classmate Maggie Martinez told the Associated Press. The fight was reportedly about a boy.
Joanna went to her after school program with a bloody nose, but no one suspected anything more serious — that is, until Joanna got home. Her mom took her to the hospital after she started throwing up and complaining of a headache. She wound up having a blood clot in her brain and died.
What’s more disturbing than the fight itself, is that it was publicized and treated like an event. Maggie told AP that she and other girls tried to stop Joanna and the other girl from fighting, but were held back by boys who wanted to watch. The trend of girls fighting first caught national attention in 2010, when a clip of girls brawling went viral on YouTube.
Also last week, 17-year-old T.J. Lane brought a knife and a gun to school in Ohio, killing three students and seriously injuring three more. School violence is no joke.
Not only were lives of the victims lost, the lives of the killers (and let’s be honest — we doubt the girl Joanna fought with meant to actually kill her) are ruined forever, too.
Violence isn’t cool, period. There are better outlets for anger, and nothing is worth risking your life or anyone else’s. Thankfully, most of you know how to avoid dangerous situations–but unfortunately, it’s still easy to get caught up in something scary without meaning to. Homicide and suicide are responsible for one in four deaths of people ages 10 to 24. That’s a huge amount — and we want it to go down to zero!
Here are some tips on staying safe.
*Report any and all threats you hear, even if they seem like they might be a joke, to an authority figure.
*If you hear rumors of a fight–even if you’re not in it — report it to an adult immediately. You can save a life!
*Use your head. If your gut is telling you to get out of there, get out of there.
*The best self-defense isn’t a jab to the eye or a kick to the groin. It’s a swift exit. The safest thing you can do is leave.
*De-escalate the situation. This means to talk or act in a way that keeps a bad situation from getting worse. For example, if you were being mugged, you could hand the mugger your wallet instead of putting up a fight and risking your life. Similarly, if a bully is harassing you and calling you names, pretend to agree — you’ll catch them off guard. Then change the subject: “I think the bell’s about to ring!” and high-tail it out of there. It also works if you simply keep from losing your temper. Remaining calm gives you control of the situation.
*If you’re in a dangerous situation, use your lungs. Yell “police,” “call 911,” “back off,” etc. Using calls to action are more likely to get attention than simply yelling “help.” It also helps to yell, “Nobody called 911 yet” — it will get people to do something without assuming someone already called for help.
*Your goal is not to win the fight. It is to get away. If you stun or de-escalate your opponent or attacker, use that opportunity to run like hell.
*Don’t try to be a hero. If there’s no possible way to get out of the situation, be as agreeable as possible, especially if a weapon is involved. They won’t fight as hard if you don’t put up a fight.
*Use empathy. People are not punching bags. Violence is never excusable, but a lot of people who get violent say they were picked on in school–so be nice, even if everybody else is making jokes. People are less likely to freak out when they know they’ve got a friend.
Have you ever seen or heard about violence at school? How does it make you feel? What did you do? Tell me in the comments!