Last friday two young girls agreed to meet off-campus from their school to fight one another here in the City of Long Beach California. According to witnesses the fight only lasted about a minute after which each of the girls went home.
Later that evening Joanna Ramos, 10 years old, complained that her head was hurting to her parents. Within hours she was dead. Today the coroner ruled her death a homicide as a result of blunt force trauma.
Part of my work involves visiting many of the schools here in Long Beach and I take pride in the honor of being able to serve our community in this capacity. I did not know the little girl or any of the children involved. I am touched because just a day prior to Joanna’s death I was in a classroom talking to 10 and 11 year olds about the choices they make having unimaginable consequences. During these classroom visits I feel a sense of urgency to reach as many of our children as I can to get them to begin thinking critically and see one another as allies rather than adversaries. Among many young girls there is a mantra of confrontation ignited by words as benign as, “She was looking at me!” There is even a trend among our youth participating in an activity known as “Bumping.’
“Bumping” occurs on campuses when a child will purposely bump into another child as a signal that they are challenging them to a fight. The two children involved in the bumping ritual agree to meet somewhere off campus and fight one another.
I don’t know if this is what occurred with Joanna Ramos but it is a pattern of behavior among our youth that adults in the community seem oblivious to.
What is not happening, and may not happen even now, is that the right questions are not being asked and answered. The death of Joanna Ramos is an indication of much greater systemic problems in our schools and communities. We are very good at asking the questions and treating the symptoms after the fact. That does not serve our children well at all. In fact, it is a disservice to function from a reactionary stance when it comes to our children.
Here is one question that should be asked: “Why do our youth feel compelled to engage in violent behavior?”
I assure you that there is no innate capacity for violence in “any” child and I am willing to stand by that statement against any evidence to the contrary.
As I continue to visit more schools and classrooms, this little girl’s death is going to weigh heavy on my heart.
I will ask one more time, “Why do our children feel compelled to engage in violent behavior?”
I think the truth is more frightening to us then we care to admit, which is why questions such questions as these continue to go unanswered. If we answer questions such as these then we are forced to have to do something about them.