If you hadn’t heard yet, late last week a story emerged out of New York State about a house party gone bad. It wasn’t your typical college kids trashed the frat house story. This one was different. It involved a retired NFL player, a second home, 300 high school kids and really bad parenting.
The party in question happened a few weeks ago on August 31st, in Stephentown, New York. Stephentown is in in Rensselaer County on the border of NY and Massachusetts. It is a small town and per the 2010 census it has a population of 2903 and a median income of about $61,347. On the face of it, it sounds like a nice place to raise a family. Given what happened, I’d rethink that. 300 teens from several different high schools broke into the farm house residence and its adjoining barn and held a huge party. The teens were drinking, drugging and having “fun” vandalizing the property. They posted pictures of themselves partying on their social media, including Instagram and Twitter.
The home is owned by former New England Patriots player Brian Holloway. He had the property on the market, and had raised several of his children in the area. He now lives in Florida. His son saw the Twitter posts and notified his father where they both watched, in real time, the trashing of the property. The damages were in excess of $20,000 and included the theft of several items that were irreplaceable. One item, the statue memorializing his stillborn grandson, was recovered. Others were not. The teens’ vandalism included spray painting the inside of the home, urinating on floors and rugs, punching holes in walls, ceilings and floors and breaking furniture.
Most people would get angry, but instead of calling the police, Holloway decided to help them instead. Using the power of social media and a website he started called helpmesave300.com he gathered about a third of the names of the kids who attended and trashed his home. He could have prosecuted them, but he wanted to help them off the path of what he saw as self-destructive behavior. He then threw a party to clean up and repair the home and raise money for veterans, inviting the teens and their parents to come and help. Four out of 300 showed up.
If that wasn’t disgraceful enough, the parents’ reactions to Holloway’s website was anger and threats. Threats of bodily harm and threats of lawsuits. The parents reasoning was that putting little Johnny or Jane’s name will hurt their chances to get into a good college.
This last part of the story made my blood boil! You know what will really hurt your juvenile delinquent’s chances of getting into a good college? A criminal record! Holloway didn’t press charges, and was more worried about their drinking and drugging than what they did to his property.
I have to say I’m shaking my head. I am the parent of two teens. I know they do stupid things and have poor judgment at times. I also know several things about my teens. They had rules and consequences for breaking them. They were held accountable not just for their successes but for their failures as well. They are both smart, honor roll kids, involved in their school, church and community. They are empathetic, respectful, responsible and not afraid to call out others for doing the wrong thing.
What I saw from those kids told me quite a few things about them and their parents. First, they were given few or no boundaries as children. My children would never be caught at a party like that or vandalizing the property of another. They know that if they did, the police record that would follow would be the least of their worries. The pictures and tweets posted showed a shocking lack of empathy or respect for anyone. The language used was horrible and showed that the kids didn’t care about consequences, just about having a good time.
Second, the disgusting reaction of the parents was extremely telling. They don’t hold their children to any level of responsibility. They blame it all on the victim – how DARE he try and hold them accountable!
These parents created an atmosphere in the upbringing of their children where consequences for wrong doing were absent, and making excuses for their failures wasn’t. By threatening harm or legal action against a person whose property your child was responsible for damaging is pathetic. If I were in Holloway’s shoes, every threat would lead to the arrest of the teen whose parent made threats. I bet threats would stop rather quickly. Lawsuits filed would be countered with one for actual damages and punitive damages for failing to supervise their teen. These parents SHOULD be held responsible, they created the mess by their poor parenting.
The real hero here is Brian Holloway. Throughout all of this he has maintained that he is willing to help and protect the teens who hurt HIM. He could have left it up to the authorities to arrest the lot of them and make them pay restitution. Instead he offered absolution and a way to fix it without a record. It’s more than sad that 296 of them don’t see how amazing that really is.
Scariest of all, those 300 will be inflicted soon enough on the rest of us. Unfortunately, we have to reap what others have sown. God help us all.
Image: Screenshot; CNN via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOOYKYJUxWQ