Casualties of a System of Ineptness

TK is sixteen. He is the youngest child in a family of four. His siblings range in age from twenty-four to sixteen. His parents are well-educated, slightly upper middle class people. People describe them as ...

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TK is sixteen. He is the youngest child in a family of four. His siblings range in age from twenty-four to sixteen. His parents are well-educated, slightly upper middle class people. People describe them as a happy, well-adjusted, All-American family.

They live in a beautiful North Shore colonial home in a wonderful neighborhood. Their children have had an excellent education in the local public school. The two college age children are attending two fine private universities. Each year the family skis in the winter and goes away on a summer vacation.

Mom and Dad have been happily married for twenty-six years. Mom has the blessing of being a stay at home Mom. Dad is home most nights for the mandatory family dinner.

Objectively, TK's parents have done most things right as parents. They have been firm but fair. Their children including TK would say they have a reasonably close-knit family, with fairly good communication among all family members.

By the time TK reached high school, the family nightmare had begun. Throughout elementary and junior high school TK was like his older siblings. He was a polite, attentive young man and a fair athlete. He had an excellent academic record.

Once he reached high school, things started to change. His once very stable, predictable group of friends started to shift. He started to hang out with boys his parents had never met. He started to ask to do things he had never done before. He became more secretive. His schoolwork started to deteriorate.

His Mom confronted him about these observable changes. TK blew them off saying she was too hyper and overprotective. He assured his mother he was fine. He promised to be more attentive with school.

By November of his sophomore year, TK had quit the football team for no apparent reason. He was well liked by his coach and his fellow teammates and had started on all the special teams. When questioned, he said he was bored. He said that football demanded too much time and that he wanted to try new and other things.

When the mid-year report came in late January, TK's Mom was shocked and appalled. Not only did all of TK's grades drop, but his teacher's comments indicated that he was missing homework and projects, and for some classes, attendance was a problem. His Mom immediately checked the attendance box on his report card and noted that he was absent fifteen days. As far as she could recall, he was not absent for one day. Thus, she went ballistic. When she confronted TK, he claimed it was a mistake and that he would take care of it the next day in school.

Needless to say, that was not satisfactory for his parents. The next morning Mom and Dad went up to school for an unscheduled meeting with the principal. They got an earful.

Not only did TK cut fifteen days of school, in fact the principal alleged that TK was smoking pot with some other boys on campus. He could not prove it because when security came towards the boys they ran. The principal proceeded to tell TK's parents what a marked difference he saw in TK as a student and as a person. He was still respectful, but besides the cutting, he was coming to class late, falling asleep and not handing in assignments.

TK's parents were devastated. That night after dinner, they confronted TK. He was evasive and blatantly dishonest. He accused the principal of being out to get him because he did not like TK's friends. He said that his teachers were picking on him because he was not like his older brothers and sisters. His parents were not buying any of his rhetoric. They pressed harder and finally he broke down. He confessed that he was cutting, that he hated school and that he was smoking pot.

They were shocked and almost speechless. Then TK proceeded to tell his parents that he was seriously considering dropping out of school and working. He thought that somewhere down the road he would take his high school equivalency exam. He went on to tell them that he had no intention of giving up his pot use. When they tried to engage this issue, he only became more belligerent. He said they could not make him give it up.

This once picture perfect family was on the verge of disaster. They sought the support of his school. He refused to talk to the school guidance counselor and social worker. His cutting got worse. By February, he stopped going to school altogether.

TK was smart. He would get up for school, get ready and even get on the bus. Once he got to school, he and a group of misguided friends would cut out and do whatever for the day.

School continued to fall apart with no way to salvage it because of his age. Everywhere his parents turned for support was an exercise in futility.

As the winter days passed, TK's Mom became more alarmed. In addition to literally dropping out of school just by not attending, TK started to drink. His parents found empty beer cans in his knapsack and in the bottom of his closet. He even started to smell like beer when he came home at night.

It became increasingly difficult for his parents to maintain any kind of relationship with him because he continued to estrange himself by the social choices he was making. His Mom was cleaning and found drug paraphernalia in his coat pocket.

The person TK was becoming was almost non-recognizable. Everywhere his parents turned for help ended in frustration. It was now apparent that TK had developed a full-blown drug and alcohol problem. He was living at home and acting reasonably civil, but was adamant that he did not have a problem and needed no help.

What do parents do in this case? They were watching their bright, talented son die a slow, merciless death. Both school and the social welfare system have enabled this process of slow death to continue. Until TK gets caught breaking the law, no one can make him go to school or make him get help for his addictions.

There is something wrong with a society that says its' children are its' national treasure, but does little or nothing to protect them.

The emancipation law needs to be changed to sooner, not later. The bureaucrats that are blocking the implementation of this law need to be held accountable for every teenager we lose as a casualty of this system of ineptness.