When I saw a headline trending on Facebook yesterday, I was overcome with a feeling of dread. "Sixteen-year-old girl beaten to death in high school bathroom in Delaware," it said, and as I clicked over, I could barely handle what I was reading. It turns out that Amy Francis-Joyner, a 10th-grader, was in a fight, allegedly over a boy, when another girl joined in. The victim reportedly hit her head on a sink during the attack and was transported to a local hospital, where she died of her injuries.
This is the stuff of nightmares. I have two teens (and two who are not teens), and I cannot imagine the hell the victim's mother is going through. Her daughter woke up, got ready for school and went out the door. She either drove herself to school or grabbed a ride — things she has done hundreds of times before. It was just a simple, ordinary day. And now her mom will never be able to talk to her, text her or check in on her ever again. Those dreams she had for her daughter? Gone.
From my own experiences as a mom, I found out that sending a child off to school takes a ton of faith. Faith in the child's own abilities, faith in the safety of the buildings themselves and great faith in the adults who will be watching over them. I also found out that I become more confident as my children age, develop strong friendships and become more personally responsible. The teenage years can often be a breath of fresh air, as our kids can feed themselves and get themselves to school without help from us.
At times, though, being a parent of a teen feels extremely vulnerable. This is the age when there is more risk-taking and hormones raging, and they also feel they will live forever. Also, as I myself have experienced, kids can be completely cruel, and bullying was something I lived with and have hoped like hell my kids would never have to deal with.
As you start to see your child grow her own wings and take her own path through life, it's extremely bittersweet. When I put my eldest on a bus to work at Yellowstone National Park right after he graduated from high school, it was one of the most agonizing things I had ever gone through — it felt like pushing a baby bird out of a nest and hoping for the best. But at the same time, I was bursting with pride that he was able to get himself a thousand miles away for a job.
So to read about a teen girl who gets jumped in the bathroom and dies as a result — it's almost too much to bear. I also feel a certain sadness for the mothers of the girls who sprang the attack on the victim. They too will experience pain they never thought possible.
To be sure, this isn't a modern problem. Too many times I see online commenters diving into the blame game, talking about "kids these days" and that "parents are raising a generation of terrible people." The fact is, kids have always fought in school. I'm willing to bet that back in the day, kids fought at school, and sometimes kids probably died as a result.
This situation, though, is so horrifically sad. It feels pointless, and it feels very wrong. Sure, it was simply a situation "over a boy," but to those girls, it was a big deal. I hope that the rest of the student body can heal from this tragedy, and I sincerely hope that justice prevails.
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