Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Open letter to the Fairfax County School Board

What you are about to read comes from the raw depths of a mother's grief. One of the ways that Josh's mom has been processing that grief has been to let the words pour out. One of the ways that Josh's family and friends have been finding some comfort and strength has been with this blog and the community that has grown around it.


Ultimately, Josh's family wants this to be a constructive process as we all try to make sense from a senseless, incomprehensible event. There *will* be more posts, later, that will try to discuss whether these policies work, how they might be improved, and how and whether these policies contributed to Josh's death. For now, we ask that you consider the feelings of the people who are most frequently reading this blog and the comments. There will be plenty of time for debate later.


We thought about tempering the emotion in this post so it wouldn't sound so angry, and even thought about taking it down entirely. One of the reasons we didn't is because we wanted to let Josh's friends and anyone else who might be dealing with this kind of loss to know that such feelings will come, and there is no "right" or "wrong" way to feel right now. We welcome your comments, but this blog is, most importantly, a place where family and friends can come together and remember Josh and grieve for him. Part of that process involves being able to express very strong emotions in a safe space, and we ask that you please respect that need while commenting.

From Josh's aunt, Monday, March 23 4:00 pm EDT
----------------------------------------------------



I blame the Fairfax County School Board's policies that dictated their treatment of Josh that led to his death.

These policies must take into consideration the fact:

- that these are immature kids in a harsh world and

- that there is a difference between dealing drugs and stupid teen use and

- that great damage is done when you yank a kid out of the community that loves them and

- that when you expel a kid and take away the opportunity to participate in an activity in which they excel and derive a lot of self-esteem and confidence from (in Josh's case, football), you are taking away a part of their heart, soul and passion which kills them on the inside and

- that it is tough enough for our kids to compete for college admission spots and when you expel a child, you effectively make that goal exponentially more difficult to obtain and in the case of Josh, more than he could bear and

- that the county should do everything they can to make sure that every kid who wants to go to college, despite their mistakes, should be able to do so and

- that those who have never smoked pot in their HS/college years should cast the first stone.

Josh wrote two sentences on the note that we found. I believe the first is directed to FCPS and I would like to know the answer.

"Why does it have to be like this?"

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

There should be extenuating circumstances for kids who are deeply invovled school activities, especially for a kid with no violent history, especially when marijuana leagalization is gaining support and could happen in the near future. I doubt any of the people on the education board have never used marijuana. They are fooling themselves if they think there is no blood on their hands.

brian stout said...

I wrote a letter to Stu Gibson of the FCPS school board.

Anonymous said...

At this time, marijuana is illegal and breaking the law should have consequences. I know everyone is in pain, but please don't use this horrible situation as a vehicle to attack the people enforcing the consequences we all sign off on at the beginning of every school year or justify using illegal drugs. I would guess that there are people on the board who have not used marijuana. I haven't.

Anonymous said...

No one has any right to play the blame game especialy considering the curcumstances. He made the choice to do the drugs. After getting in trouble at one school he should have seen that as a wake up call. He should have picked friends,family, and sports over drugs. The school can't make exceptions for jocks. The rules are laid out and thats the way it is. I believe parents should be there to help their children threw situations like this and not add on to it. Don't blame people for someone elses decesion.

Anonymous said...

I too was expelled from Fairfax County Public Schools for drug use (not dealing, as with your son) and my parents and I agree with everything you've written. The no-tolerance rule is tremendously unfair and in no way is helpful to the child. They need to know the extent of the stress put on the student as well as the family and the impact it makes.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, i see absolute minimal consideration to the effect an expulsion can have on a student. Josh's case is the worst case scenario and I truly believe that the administrators should assume this scenario to be a possible result of the expulsion. The rules are explicitly laid out and obviously enforced, but there is not only the disobedience to consider.. as you can see it is also about the effect it has on the student, the student's family and the student's friends. It's not about whether he was a "jock" or not, its about his involvement in the community, and his passion for the activities he took part in. Along with everything else, this should be a prominent part of the decision to expel a student.
Josh was an amazing person and he didn't deserve it.

Anonymous said...

Expulsion is for those who are a drain on the school. people who spread and deal drugs Those who do not give back only take. Its not about being a jock its about the type of peron you are. Those with good grades, and active roles in the community should be seen differently and given preferable treatment over dealers and low-lifes

Anonymous said...

It is amazing that hard core criminals, killers etc are given opportunities to redeem themselves in the legal system. High school student are young adults,with varying levels of maturity, like adults they may not always make the right decisions. The Fairfax County School Board members live in a box, they punish these kids more severely than the courts, these young adults need help and guidance. The FCSB members feel they are better than us the hard working parents that have kids that come before them. The zero tolerance policy needs to be reconsidered. Please provide an alternate option and counseling to our kids... we may end up with many others like Josh....Please accept my condolences.

Anonymous said...

First off, I want the Anderson family to know that my prayers are with them. And in regards to this entire blame game...
-This is a blog to remember Josh Anderson for who he was. He may have been a a so-called "jock" because he was a devout athlete who gave sports a priority which gave him ultimate satisfaction. However, as a graduate from LHS I feel that the school board was "too harsh" in its rules and that once students are involved in drugs they are automatically expelled for usage. However, to all those school board memebers who read this...I want you to know that I know several students who both deal and use marijuana and I believe it unfair that Josh was the only one to get punished when others who were actually dealing should have been punished more severely. I agree with Josh's mom in saying that the school board is to blame because by expelling someone what chance do they have in the future? What college is going to accept a student who was expelled for drug usage even though he was the most well-mannered and genuine person ever? What employer would even look at his resume? What the school board needs to consider is that expelling a student DESTROYS their life completely and I would say that FCPS is to blame. I have never ever gone to a school that had such little tolerance yet is hypocritical in their own rules because so many kids who are dealing should have been expelled. Josh should have learned his lesson but in my opinion something like marijuana usage is not as severe as being violent or even harassment which I've had the delight of dealing with during my years at LHS. More importantly, this is a blog for JOSH to acknowledge what an amazing person he was and what a shock this has been to the community. So, I ask all those who write against his mother's letter to FCPS to refrain from being so ignorant and to be more open-minded. Because to look at the big picture...just pray that none of your loved ones have to go through something like this.

RIP Josh Anderson

Anonymous said...

I would like to first send my condolences to the Anderson family. Although I did not know Josh I know the pain of losing a loved one. He was obviously an exceptional young man and truly loved by many. Please know that my family will be praying for yours through this difficult time. I would like to also agree with the last person to post here... for those individuals posting negative responses to the Anderson's comments to the school board...how completley innapropriate for you to use THIS site to voice those opinions. This site was set up to remember their son. Please learn some decency and common courtesy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to the person who wrote the last comment. You are absolutely right, this blog is to remember Josh. My thoughts and prayers are with the Anderson family and all those who loved (and still love) Josh. I only knew him when he was in elementary school, seeing him briefly at church functions, and I remember distinctly being ever impressed by his maturity and how polite he was. He will be greatly missed and remembered forever. Jessica Cherry

Biggie-Z said...

5:39 -

I don't think Josh's mom is saying that there should be NO consequences to breaking the law. (Nor is there anything in this post that is attempting to justify illegal drugs.)

But when I was Josh's age, my school had a wider range of punishments ranging from detention to suspension and, ultimately when all else failed, expulsion. But back when I was a high school student, expulsion was used as a last resort, not a first one, and even then only when a kid had hurt or threatened to hurt another student.

Anonymous said...

In all honesty, I agree with Mrs. Anderson 100%. I'm a junior at Langley and I see the harsh punishment happening to my peers all the time. One of my friends described to me how the officials basically yell at the students. That isn't right at all. I honestly do believe that the school board was not only harsh, but I don't think they should have the right to strip Josh of passions---football, school, etc. In all due respect, I bet you that 50% of the students do marijuana in some form or another. And I would know, because I'm a student.....I hear just about EVERYONE at school talking about it all the time. While it is illegal and not healthy, reality is...a lot of kids do it. And you can't expel all of them, can you?
I believe that rather than punishing students....taking away their passions (sports, activities, etc.) and expelling them, they should be offered guidance...and help. Rather than just making them leave, these students need encouragement to pick up their lives and do the RIGHT thing. You can't just make them leave the school and their friends that they love. That does nothing for the kid besides isolate them. FCPS, if you honestly want to help your students find a better light, offer care, help, and guidance. Not strip them of their passion, future, and love. This only leads us to lose hope and feel that we are bad people...and that there's no future for us. So please FCPS, think about your policies. Josh was my friend and it tears me up that a public school board put him through this.

Biggie-Z said...

6:27 -

No one is saying that there should be "exceptions made for jocks," but rather, that before enacting draconian rules and enforcing them blindly, that the rule makers think about the possible consequences of their actions.

Anonymous said...

This site stopped being used as a remembrance when a letter was posted placing blame on people who are apparently not to be defended. Lack of open-mindedness can be defined as having an opinion contradictory to your own. Accusing someone of having "blood on their hands" can't possibly fall under the heading of "decency and common courtesy." Maybe the letter and opinions should be removed so that this site can return to focusing on the positive aspects of this short life and save the analysis of school policy and Josh's decision for a more appropriate venue. Obviously both sides deserve further study in hopes that, if the expulsion was the cause of the death, we can find a better way to help kids make better choices.

Anonymous said...

I didn't personally know Josh but i was touched by his story and I wanted to help out. About a month ago i got expelled for drug use at CHS. They treated me very unfairly and so far my life has been very stressful dealing with everyone and everything. The school board limited my school options and its very hard fitting into other schools. I totally agree with what you said and my parents and I are going to take action to FCPS. You will hear back from me in a week or two. I also want to tell the anderson family that I am praying for you and we love you. Things will get better along the way.

Rest in Peace Josh.

Anonymous said...

First. Josh was no person who deserved to be expelled. He was an amazing person who got caught up in the wrong things. I am a student at langley high school and in joshs grade, one of his friends and i can honestly say there are so many drug dealers ..DEALERS at that school who are a danger to our school and who should be expelled. josh was not a danger.. he was a joy he made everyones lives better. i know cannot sleep because i cannot believe some of us are saying he should have seen it as a wake up call and that he made the choice to do the drug. I know the anderson family realizes their son was such a blessing to this world and it was not his fault. As a teenager who has had my share of depression.. it is not his fault. he is like every other teenager in any highschool who is facing peer pressure and facing difficulties with identifying themselves. Josh was not a drug deeler and was not a threat to our community or school. All of you this family just lost their son, please do not say how it is their sons fault for all this. Noone needs that. Josh was an amazing person, truly. and we all just need to stick together in this difficult time. josh i miss you. and i will continue to pray for you and your family.

you were an amazing kid, friend, and person and we all wish you were still here.. eventhough you will remain in all of our hearts forever

god bless you anderson family

Anonymous said...

do not use this site to voice your opinions on the school board. remember josh.

Josh's mom said...

To those anonymous people who are posting against using this blog to discuss school policies that may, in fact, do more to harm our children than help, all I can say is,look at this site and 1) understand that 90% of this blog is about remembering Josh and 2) ask yourself, does this look like a child that was a threat to his fellow students?

I believe the county must have policies to suspend and expel children who are engaging in behaviors that pose a real and genuine threat to the well-being of their fellow students. To me, examples of this would be dealing drugs, violence, etc.

Drug use is different. I am not condoning this behavior, but as parents and adult members of the school community, we need to face the reality of this issue. Kids who use drugs and are caught at school with possession, need help. If they are "dumb" enough to bring it on campus; can't we see this as a sign that maybe, in their subconscious way, they want to get caught and get help?

Kids that get caught should have a hearing. But instead of it being conducted by two people who have never met the child prior to when entering the room, and are basing their judgements on the papers that sit before them, and on the student's responses to their drilling (when they are so scared they can barely talk), there has to be a better way.

Instead, those who are determining the fate and future of our children should be the administrators, counselors, SROs, teachers and adult leaders of activities that the student is engaged in at their school - i.e people who know the student and can assess in their own hearts, whether or not this child is a real and genuine threat to the school community. A representative of the school board should be in attendance, but more as a silent observer, for how can they make a judgement on someone they do not know?

I believe that the school community is the better judge of whether or not a suspension/expulsion is necessary.

Kids need help, but they need it within the love and support of their community. And together, with parents, we should be able to provide this to them.

Believe me, if we thought Josh was a threat to the well-being of any child at Langley or South Lakes, we would've taken him out.

Anonymous said...

I was at the funeral on Saturday, and it was heart breaking to see the effects of the trauma of Josh's death on the hundreds of young adults who attended. In the wake of such a tragedy, it is natural for you, as parents, to want to place blame on someone -- in this case, you lay the blame at the feet of the Fx Co School Board for its rules. However, the blame for your son's death lies in his poor decisions -- decisions to act in violation of rules that are put in place to protect all students. Breaking the law has consequences, and Josh decided to take his life instead of facing and dealing with them. If the consequences for violating a zero tolerance on drugs/alcohol are not strictly and equally enforced, they have no meaning or effectiveness. My heart goes out to you at this tragic time, but please do not use your son's death as an excuse to blame a policy that is in place to protect all our children.

Anonymous said...

The County needs to undertake an honest review of its explusion policies. We don't need bureacratic answers now, we need honest analysis. We need success rates, failure rates, statistics, pros and cons, assessment of what other parts of the country do. After much effort from the community, Fairfax County is reviewing grading policies and late start options with great vigour. I call on the county to stop agonizing over these simple issues, decide what is best for the kids and then immediately turn to this more critical review.

It is not enough to tell the family that "we followed our policies" and "Josh just was a trouble kid" and "I (school board member) never smoked pot." The county needs to review the policies that impacted Josh's life.

We want answers to the following:

- does the current policy help kids?
- what are the success rates?
- what would the county consider a failure of the system? Is Josh in this catagory?
- what are other parts of the country doing in these circumstances?
- are other practices more successful in rehabing kids?

Fairfax County has no other option but to undertake this review. The only question is how it will be initiated. Will the community have to fight the system to get this assessment completed? Or will the school board show some leadership and announce a review tomorrow? I hope it will.

Anonymous said...

Expulsing a student using drugs is not a policy to protect other students. It is a policy to avoid dealing with the problem by getting rid of the person with the problem.
I have never done any drugs and I am never going to agree with expulsing a child for this kind of poor decision making. They need help and how does expulsing them help them? If your answer is that they learn there are consequences, then you are not thinking about how much more difficult you make for them to leave the drugs and go back to enjoying life without them.

Alex Lang said...

This is just awful. I know how unfair the FCPS school board is first hand. I was expelled for distribution without any proof or drugs on me. All they had was a witness's statement.
R.I.P. Josh

Anonymous said...

I didn't know Josh or his family, however I know friends of his and they are like family to me. My deepest condolences and prayers are with Josh's family, friends and loved ones. I graduated from SLHS in 95 and it saddens me to see how the faculty/ board members refuse to see how this type of punishment can have a drastic affect on a child's life. I truly believe that when our youth resort to drugs and violence, that is a cry for help. There were so many other avenues that could have been taken but were not. So I pray that the board will review the policies and begin to guide and lend a listening ear to children that may be in the same situation. Just for a moment, stop and think........ "What if this was my brother, nephew, cousin let alone my CHILD?" Now back to reality, how does it make you feel? Where does your blame lie? Especially, when you know that your child is talented, athletic and could have a bright future ahead of them. As Mrs. Anderson stated, everything seemed fine the night before. Clearly, when the faculty saw different they should have reached out to him as opposed to neglecting and isolating him. As parents, we raise our children and pray that they make the right decisions, but just as we are, they are imperfect. Children these days face so much peer pressure from the world and they endure a lot more than we did. Some of them are so private with their lives, hold things in and then the pressure begins to builds up and it's more than they believe they can handle. It's important that Josh's family and our youth know that God will never put anymore on you than you can bear. I know that it is easier said than done and the road looks rocky right now, but you must believe it for yourself. Be Blessed, and my deepest condolences are with your family. I want to leave two scriptures for the board/ falculty to meditate on: Matthew 18:21-22 21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 2 Corinthians 2:5-11
5If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

Biggie-Z said...

Please read this post for a more reflective view:

http://rememberingjosh.blogspot.com/2009/03/mothers-grief.html

Anonymous said...

How dare anyone that does not know Josh post your negative comments on here.

Since you do not know the young man we are referring to (which you must not) your opinion is irrelevant. You should be ashamed of yourself.

When you have a child who passes away, then you can give your two cents on the situation and how Mrs. Anderson should feel about what happened. Until then - keep your comments to yourself.

Jessica

Debbie Calvert said...

I have to say I am shocked and disgusted by some of the self righteous, judgemental and unforgiving attitudes written above by 'anonymous' writers, have the courage to speak truthfully but remember that none of us are perfect, I, like many young kids experimented with drugs when I was a teenager, there have to be strict rules, but there is also room for understanding and offering help to young people who find life difficult enough without being bombarded by snobbery and prejudice from institutions that accept nothing less than perfection, it seems! Sue, hunnie, don't you dare feel guilt for this tragedy, you are a wonderful mother, you are no more to blame for Josh's death than I was for my son dying of cancer. I love you so much and know that you will use your strength now to fight to get the changes needed so that this never happens again to another young person. If I can be of any help let me know. And for some people about type on here, think carefully before you speak, there is a heartbroken, grieving Mother reading all of these posts. X Be kind and treat others as you would like to be treated. x

Anonymous said...

This family prefaced their post by asking readers/commenters to be considerate of their pain at this time. Every person commenting needs to know that this family is GRIEVING. They are allowed to GRIEVE. Grieving is healthy, normal, and very, very intense. Part of grieving involves anger and blame towards anyone and anything that could have affected the person's life in an adverse way. I cannot imagine anything in life more painful than losing a child. If you have never lost a child or a loved one, I personally do not think you have any right to share your opinions with this family. Emotions felt in grief are most intense and need to be expressed without fear of retribution from readers/commenters. Maybe the family should have written, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" instead of "whoever hasn't used marijuana". This family needs comfort, love, more love, and more comfort. Their emotions do not need to be judged AT ALL. Their world will never be the same, and that breaks my heart.

Anonymous said...

Josh was an amazing kid with an amazing heart. Nothing changes that. This is no place for a debate and anyone who truly knew him knows he did not deserve this. He was of absolutely no threat and was one of the greatest people to be around. We love you Josh! You (and that incredible smile of yours) will be with us forever.

MB said...

I posted on here already, anonymously, I'm the one who said that this blog is to "REMEMBER" Josh for who he was and I stand by that statement. First and foremost, this blog is dedicated to the memory of Josh thus, to say "positive" things about him.

Josh's Mom: I just want you to know that I'm in total agreement with you and I feel that it is your right as an American and a mother to post whatever you would like on this blog. No one can stop you from saying what you feel is true and to blame the FCPS. I would say that most of who have written on here are in agreement that expulsion on the first offense is ridiculous and all who commented that supported the FCPS are just speaking out because they don't like the fact that people disagree and they see it as a direct attack. So, Josh's Mom...I'm sorry I don't know your name you are right and you should keep fighting for a change because FCPS needs a change for the better.

To those who wrote positively about Josh:

We should all remember him now. He was an amazing guy who wouldn't harm a soul and thus, I feel that not only was his expulsion unfair but unjust. He is in a better place now and we have to make a sincere effort to keep his memory alive.

To those who wrote negatively about this situation:

It's time you let this issue go and you stop defending it because this blog isn't for you to compete with a mother's attempt to seek reasoning for her son's death. You need to consider that if you had this happen to YOU with one of your loved ones you probably would be devasted too especially if they were this young. As mentioned, there are NUMEROUS drug dealers or users at Langley High School and of course you're not going to expel all of them because if you do I'm sure most will avoid going all together. I think that action needs to be taken NOW because FCPS is ruining the lives of those who are expelled. It is my belief that Josh ended his life for the simple reason that he saw he had no options and that the "road ended". But who wouldn't think this way with FCPS creating a name for you that screwed up everything for the future?

-I honestly don't think it is right to expel a student for use when I know EXACTLY who the dealer was and he (the dealer) should have received worse consequences. Furthermore, I encourage everyone to go against FCPS and make a change to the rules because this should never happen again.

* Peace be with the Anderson Family.
We miss you JOSH!

Anonymous said...

I did not know Josh; I do not know the Andersons. I am a mother and a grandmother. In those capacities, I cannot imagine how horrible it is to lose a child. To me, it sounds as if this young man did little more wrong than get caught with pot at school. Yes, it is against the rules. But, virtually taking away someone's identity because of this sort of infraction is, to me, incomprehensible. The ultimate consequence for this punishment was that a bright young light was extinguished. How naive can the FCSB be in thinking casual drug use is isolated to a few students? In which bubble do these people exist? Certainly, there should be a punishment for getting CAUGHT at what I would assume half the student body does; however, you don't need to expel a student for this.

I offer my condolences to the Andersons. They sound like fine people -- and fine parents. I hope your pain is somehow lessened over the months and years that follow.

MB said...

To Josh's Mom:

I already wrote on here and although it was anonymous I want you to know that I was the one that said that we should use this blog to remember Josh. I feel it is your right as a mother and an American to give your opinion of the school board and to seek reasoning for Josh's death. You should be able to voice your opinions and people should respect what you write.

To those who wrote positively:

Thank you for helping out in this time of need and for supporting what Mrs. Anderson wrote.

To those who wrote negatively:

You need to stop playing this "blame game" now...this is a time of sorrow for the Anderson family and you need to have a little more consideration for them and in my opinion as of most of the other commentors on this blog I feel FCPS is to blame and it is time for a change. You also need to realize that if your writing on this blog and saying things like " Josh should have known better" you have no idea what the Andersons are dealing with. And imagine if one of your loved ones went through something like this and someone kept saying things like "they should have known better". You have no respect if thats the case and then you should stop commenting.

GOD BLESS ANDERSONS! RIP Josh

Anonymous said...

I sent the following letter today:

March 21, 2009

Dear Fairfax County Public School Executives and Members of the Board:

Today I attended the memorial service for Josh Anderson, a 17 year old boy that took his own life earlier in the week. This event was overwhelmingly sad and had a profound impact on me. Josh was friends with my daughter. While I did not know him well, he has been a guest in my house and I thought he was a pretty nice kid. By all accounts he was.

When my daughter told me about the events that lead up to his expulsion from Langley I thought that the zero tolerance policy was fair and it made sense to me. I grew up in an affluent community that was very similar to the Langley pyramid and saw many lives ruined by drugs. I have had family members that were on the edge of the abyss but fortunately did not go over. When I think about the people that I have known that could have succumbed to a life of substance abuse but did not, in most cases it was because they were embraced by their family and their community. They were not banished.

This event has caused me to change my views on the zero tolerance policy. Expelling Josh from Langley started him on a short and painful journey that ended with his death. We will never know, but this might not have been the outcome if he was allowed to remain in Langley, surrounded by his friends and spared the pain of being banished from the community he grew up in. He made many new friends at South Lakes. I was very impressed by the love and support shown by his new friends at his memorial service. However, he apparently was not able to face the prospect of expulsion again.

I do not mean to suggest that the zero tolerance policy caused this troubled young man’s death. I know that it is far more complicated than that. I am just asking that we reconsider the policy in light of recent events. I can understand expelling a student that was found to be in possession of a large quantity of drugs. I would also agree that two strikes should result in expulsion. I am no longer sure that a student found with a small amount of marijuana should be banished from the community without any further thought.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and consider my thoughts in the proper spirit. I know that the entire Langley and South Lakes community is grieving over the loss of young Josh Anderson.


Sincerely,

Anonymous said...

First and formost I want to say that if you are reading this Tim and Sue it saddens my heart that anyone could be so low, so insensitive, so heartless....but this is the lack of feeling that is governing our school systems and hurting our children. What you said was true, it comes from a broken heart that these people obviously do not understand because they have no heart! I worked with teenagers for over 15 years and I have seen their tears, their frustration, their fear, their confusion and their deep depression. They are so vulnerable...they do not have the experience of years of knowledge about this world as we as adults do! Their school, their activities, their friends and family...that is their world. They are taught they must get good grades, they must exceed in sports etc in order to get in to a good college to continue their education in order to amount to something as an adult. This all is overwhelming and scarry at times to them and even much smaller situations can push them to dispair. Depression among teenagers is hugh....and most do not understand it at all!! They do not know how to communicate the enourmous feelings inside or even know how to ask for help. There for they are left to figuring out things for themselves! Most of these kids try to "self medicate" to ease the constant pain they feel inside. Some just use alcohol and drugs to "have fun" and "be cool" but MOST get their hands on it to try to escape a little of the pain and confusion that they feel. Everything is intense to teens! WHY do you think there are so many who give up? Many try but do not succeed the first time. These are the fortunate ones who many times have sounded the alarm with their dispair and get help that they did not know was there....that they did not know how to ask for.

Josh was one of the most kind hearted kids I have ever seen out of thousands of teens I have know and worked with. He loved his family and friends more that words could express. He was even kind to all animals as biggie wrote. He had a special communication with even the animals. He was a beautiful son, brother, grandson, cousin, student, fellow classmate, teammate and friend.

His life was not in vain, nor will he be forgotten. He will live on in our hearts. Just as Ambers death created change.."the Amber alert" and has saved countless children's lives, may this horrible tragedy save other teen's lives. There was over a thousand people at the funeral who's lives will never be the same. There are thousands of people all over the world who's lives have been touched over the years by the Anderson Family. In London, Boston, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, DC, and other places where Tim and Sue served in the ministry for their church. In places like California and countries such as Korea where members of their families live. Lives at work and school and sports teams that members of their family have been a part of. There are countless people contacting me daily by phone, email, facebook, etc. wanting to send their love and support. These people are heartbroken for your loss, for our loss....Josh was loved by more people than we will ever know.

I am glad your letter sparked such a responce.....may it cause more anger, more outrage, more people rallied to bring about change!!! May this death cause parents to talk more to their children, children to share their thoughts, hopes, dreams and yes even and especially their heartache, fear and pain! May friends realize how important they are in the life of their own friends to love, support and encourage them.

I personally know many school teachers and parents who are printing Sue's letter right now to take into their schools to advocate change in these policies!

Tim, Sue, Tyler, Emily, Lauren and Gillian and to your extended family and friends who's hearts are breaking as mine is tonight....my constant prayer is for God's love and comfort your hearts and to surround you with the peace that passes all understanding! May Josh live on in all of us and may his death bring about change that will save the lives of many!

All my love to you!

Anonymous said...

My heart breaks everytime I think of what Josh's close friends and family have to go through. But my heart glows when I think of this has brought our school and community together. I believe that if Josh's family and friends want to write how they feel on this beautiful blog they should be able to do so, without the negative opinions and lables of others. RIP Josh, and Keep your heads up. Everything happens for a reason, and my eyes are wide open. I appreciate life so much more thanks to this young man.

Anonymous said...

First, my heart and prayers go out to not only the family of Josh, but also to the many kids I know, who have been touched by this tragedy. I, too, believe this zero tolerance policy has gone way over the line. These are our KIDS. They aren't prisoners, although sometimes it seems that they're treated that way at Langley High School. I am sickened that Langley was happy to provide grief counselors for the kids who were impacted by Josh's death, but no one there seemed interested in counseling JOSH, when this kid was obviously broken by the intolerance and punitive nature of the administrators. Hopefully, Josh's death will remind the "decision makers" that these kids are HUMAN BEINGS; they have feelings and they need our help and compassion, NOT a system which wants to purge itself of any kid, who doesn't live up to their unrealistic and unattainable standards. I have a 17 year old son, I used to believe that we were fortunate to be in the Langley pyramid. Now, I tell people to get their kids out before they're hurt by this outrageously callous system, where punishment, not help is all these young people can count on there.

RC said...

i got expelled twice. and i got in trouble for yelling at a teacher, since im a probationary student bc of my past my principal is forcing me to drop and and get my GED....which sucks.

you're right its not fair, and im not going to lie, i've thought about taking my lofe a few times. its alot of stress bn expelled.

i sucks that i have no chance at a good college.

Josh's mom said...

RC,
My heart goes out to you. If you want to talk to someone, please send Emily an email and she will give you my personal email address.

Josh's mom

Anonymous said...

RC-

Even though it is incredibly unfair that our society has made us believe we must get into college the first time around after graduating high school to amount to anything, please don't fall for this.

I truly believe we all make mistakes and we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves. I personally know people who have not done well in high school, but then picked themselves up and worked hard- ending up in some of the best colleges in this country and then going on to have a family that loves them (ie. my dad!)

Your chances are not ruined- you have your whole life ahead of you!
I believe you have so much to offer this world- whether that be going to college and getting a job that way- or finding a job you love some other way. Don't let society's pressures pull you down. Break the mould!

Anonymous said...

Rules are ruled, drugs have no place in public education. Expulsion is usually reserved for those who bring drugs on school grounds or are on/using them at school functions. Yes, there are a lot of people out there that use drugs, be smart and keep them out of the schools and in your home. You can't blame the school board for a kids decision to break the law. There are a lot of great kids that made mistakes and paid for them and redemmed themselves later in life. The tragedy is that he thought going to college was the be all and end all. Fact is the college that you went to, or even lack thereof has little to do with life's later successes. He was a great kid and had a great future, sad to see that someone did not tell him this would pass and life goes on.

Sharon Hartnett said...

To Sue and Family of Josh,

I am so sorry for your loss. My daughter Kate posted a video on U Tube of their kindergarden class. It reminded me of seeing Josh as this darling little boy way back when. And it breaks my heart that this is where it ends for him here on earth. And I also feel a depth of grief that can't even begin to compare to yours in your loosing your child. I don't know that there is anything more difficult in life. My prayers are with him and for you as a family in this most difficult time.

Mostly, I have seen your girls around before college. Your family has been so active in sports and helping others. I remember you as a kind, loving mother who always had good values and plenty of heart for her children. Please never doubt yourself. We all are the best we can be, and yet none of us are ever perfect. Only God is... and you are not to be blamed. Josh was blessed to have you as a Mom, and you are to have had him as a son. One day you will meet again in a way where no loss is felt, and only the love will shine.

Regarding Fairfax County, I completely hear what you are saying and I agree. It does seem like a harsh policy not only for Josh, but for others who have made similar mistakes. Teenagers try things and test out boundaries and experiment with life against the authority. Sometimes they just feel lost and make dumb decisions. They have to do this in order to find out who they are, and to become wiser and more independent. I agree that there needs to be consequences for alcohol and marijuana use, but from what I understand the school board has been rather severely punishing verses being supportive towards troubled kids. This zero tolerance rule is overboard. Our family did sign our pledge... but honestly I never felt that I was completely in sync with it. I would rather help the kids than make it hard on them. Also, I do think there is a community issue here as in most schools. How many children are doing the same thing that Josh did and are they receiving social help as a group of peers/friends? How many kids are partying and there is no supervision? From the other posts and things I have heard from other parents, it seems that this is common. He is just one the children that was caught.

I have often wondered why the school system does not put the energy into social education as much as academics. I wrote the PTA, the Principal, and one of the Top people over two years ago, suggesting that they implement a program to help kids socialize, so that they could get to know others who are different than them better and to help resolve some of the isolation problems that exist in all schools. I had been inspired after seeing a program on an afternoon show that seemed to really make a positive impact in different High Schools. I never received a response after three letters. Kids need to know that people care and that there is help at the end of the tunnel. They need support from their families, friends, school and community.

I am so sorry that Josh felt alone and without any hope. But I do believe that he knows now from where he is how well loved he is.

And though I haven't seen you in years, I know that you are a great Mother. Peace be with you~



Warmly,

Sharon Hartnett

Amber-Mae said...

I am so sorry to hear this. My thoughts & prayers are with you...

Wright, C. said...

I posted an Anonymous comment earlier on in the blog, but now I feel that some people are just being heartless and insensitive and it saddens me that this world is so cruel. I didn't know Josh, but know teens that are friends of his. (I used the present tense "are" because his spirit will be ever present with the ones that love him, know him and long for him). To you who choose to be negative, heartless, self centered and insensitive hiding behind "Anonymous", it is my prayer that you will not have to experience the type of hurt and pain that Josh's family, friends and loved ones are currently dealing with. You should be ashamed of yourselves. If the blame lies on the School Board policies, then, take the blame, find out where it MAY be failing our youth and fix it. There are guidance counselors that offer counseling on school related things, how about offering counseling dealing with everyday life as well. If I remember correctly, his Mother also blamed her own self. Do realize that some teens choose not to share as much with their parents specifically because of that reason. (they are "Parents"). Anderson family, Rachel and friends of Josh, you are not alone and my heart definitely goes out to each and every one of you. Josh seemed to be a great teen with a bright future that was snatched away from him and may have thought that the pain was something that he could deal with on his on. Our children need other individuals that they can talk to and open up to besides us at times. In my past, I definitely felt at times that I needed others to listen to me, whether be my friends or other adults that I could confide in. Understand that Josh's family and friends are grieving right now and that is vital to their health. It is a process that they have to go through. Please have some decency and respect for this family. The Bible says in Luke 6:37-42 37"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
39He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Wright, C.

Anonymous said...

no tolerence is harsh and un godly. I htin about the mistakes I made as a teenager. it go to the point where my mother told menotto bother to apologise any more. I really was sorry but i seemed to just keep making mistakes. I think that is what happened with Josh he really felt overwhelmed. The Bible say even Jesus felt that way, he probably flet he had made one too many mistakes.

People who work with teens need to understand that they are emotional hormonal beings and they do things taht are unresonable, they maek mistakes big mistakes. I dont thin it is right to break rules but I don'tthink it is right to break a person either. It sounds as though he couldhave been worked with. he wasn't rude or arrogant or disrepectful. Some peopel drink alcohol and get drunk he got high. When the law changes and it will the school board will have to change its position.

I think it is natural to want to blame someone for all of this pain. I am saddened that Josh took his own life he must have been afraid and felt lost. He simply didn;t see a way out. That is the tragedy he didn't see a way out. he should have been given an option. People who work with teens need to be less rigid and more fluid I understand the rule bit I honestly do but we need more tolerant loving people in charge of teens

I am so sorry I really am

Anonymous said...

I am a parent of two children at South Lakes High School, one an honor student and cheerleader, and one a recovering addict. In Josh's honor, I will do my part....I will read the Student Rights and Responsibilities (SRR)booklet and I will edit it so that my opinions about expulsion, suspension, behavior etc. are heard. We aren't raising robots...we are raising children in a very, very crazy world. In the past, I have rushed through the paperwork without reading much of it--FCPS can now live on my schedule...and, my kids can forego the pizza parties and extra credit that is promised if they turn in all of the paperwork by the schedule set by FCPS. We can't bring Josh back, but we can, as parents, refuse to accept the policies that are set by FCPS if we disagree. Many of the policies outlined in the SRR are vague and unreasonable. I know I can't change the system on my own, so I urge ALL parents to read what we sign before sending it back to the school. Let's work together in a postive fashion to change things....let's do it in Josh's honor!

Josh's mom said...

To the parent of the two SLHS students and to all parents who are reading this blog - we totally and completely agree with you. I just posted our School Board Hearing experience and neglected to mention that in the expulsion packet is the signed SRR. Since Josh was the baby of the family, I do not have an opportunity to do as you suggested, but I hope other parents will do so. I would hate for you to get into a situation similar to ours and have an unamended signed form in the packet.

LeAnne A. said...

Tim and Sue: I have been reading your blog daily. I am very glad you posted more details of what happened as I have been trying to understand what could have led to this. I wanted to speak with you more about it when you were ready. So thank you. I am truly saddened by what I have read. I have never been through that or been close to anyone that has experienced what your family has endured. With all of the money in Fairfax County, I would think that there would be an intermediate step in the process. Not automatic expulsion on a first time offense. There should be counseling and community service offered and expulsion as a last resort, not a first resort. He had no prior history of trouble. I have one more going into high school and I will stand and fight. I am not in anyway condoning the use of pot or other drugs, I just feel that the zero tolerance, one strike, policy is too harsh for our vulnerable youth.

Please let me know if there is any help you need with anything.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with Josh's mom. Even though it was illegal what he did, why wouldn't someone try to help him instead of just kicking him out? If the school's really wanted to kick everyone out for smoking marijuana, there would be almost no one left. They should have thought in his perspective, and tried to help him.

Anonymous said...

My life has been touched by the Andersons. Together with Lauren and Tyler, we were among teen group at our church.
I remember them well, and Josh was just a tiny guy at the time.
They are a loving family. I moved half way across the world, and yet in our church there- a world away from Virginia, their love and example as quiet leaders was spoken of. I will always remember the time I knew each of you.

And now I find myself back in Virginia- hearing of the Andersons once more. And their family's love continues to inspire me.

I want you to hear from yet another person that I am sure you have done all that was humanly possible to love and care for Josh.

We all try our best to live this life. With a grandmother, father, and now boyfriend who have struggled with depression- I understand that this life can seem dark and consuming at times- and sometimes for reasons that really are out of our control. (As much as we want to feel we are always in control).
Just as Josh's mother has so eloquently written, we all do need help from each other at different points in our life.

May your soul rest in peace, Josh and your character continue to inspire everyone to love one another, quietly and unconditionally.

Anonymous said...

Sent from a neighbor to Janie Strauss, our school board rep.:

I have been neighbor's with Tim and Sue Anderson and their 4 children for almost a decade. I have seen all their children grow up (boy do I feel old!) and the wonderful parents with strong family values that they are. I am outraged at the way the family and their son Joshua Anderson was treated due to drug violations.

When I learned about Josh Anderson's death, I was completely shocked. How could such a strong family, with wonderful children have this happen? Life made NO sense at this point. Then the "information" about possible drug use was flowing from different neighborhood sources. I heard many INCORRECT rumors about him selling drugs, again very shocking to me.

What was equally shocking in all of this, was my "education" about how FCPS handles drug users and their policies. The "strong" policies that FCPS feels are necessary and the expulsion of CHILDREN that have used drugs and in Josh's case - made stupid mistakes. This was crazy.

Although FCPS did not "force" the suicide, I believe the actions the school board/Langley, etc, take were unwarranted in this type of situtation and there is plenty of blame to be placed on our prestigious school system.

I STRONGLY SUGGEST AND BEG you and your fellow board members to examine Josh's situation and revisit these policies. Do I want my children exposed to drugs at school? Do I want drug users just to get a ""slap on the hand"? Of course not. But I would NEVER have suspected that a student like Josh, or any student, would be expelled with the situation he faced. There are better options.

From personal experience, I can tell you that I was surrounded by friends and family members in my high school years that smoked marijuana. I do not support breaking the law and drug use, but the reality is that MANY children will experiment with this.

Here are some examples:

1. My family member is a successful anthesiologist and tenured professor, chairing a department at a pretigious Ivy league university that many Presidents in this country have attended. This person has conducted research, written boooks and travels around the world giving lectures about new medical methods which are saving people's lives.

2. Another family member is a successful optomitrist, wonderful father and husband and very active in his Church. He has volunteered several times to spend a week in impoverished third world countries, providing free eye care. He leaves his family while he travels internationally to some dangerous places to help those who need it.

3. Many of my siblings' friends were in the Gifted and Talented program in High School, and they engaged in "casual" marijuana use. They are college graduates, some from Ivy league schools, doctors, lawyers, specialists in their fields, etc.

The only difference between those above (and many other people) and Josh Anderson is that he got caught, and the school system went overboard with how they handled the situation. And the obvious, that the other people are still alive, and were allowed to continue their chosen paths, despite smoking marijuana in high school.

Please change your policies - it is a life and death situation. I would also like to know if anyone on the school board including Superintendent Dale attended the service and have visited the family.
Diane

Jan said...

Deepest sympathy from us across the Atlantic in Fair Play for Children - 'Let's Make The World Fit for All Our Children to Play In". We picked up this story from the Washington Post.

I've worked with kids for over 25 years, taking an old British double decker bus converted as a play centre into neighbourhoods after school. Our two nations do have a lot in common. We were in their territory and we had a policy of No-Ban. Yes, sanctions, yes requirements for behaviour. Even codes devised by the kids -boy can they be harsh! But bannings just weren't even sensible. We have seen kids who don't do school, we have seen kids screaming with anger because, at home, they are abused nightly (or so the rumours go).

The kids want to be with us. They stay - and grow, some for 14 years, I have 2 natural children and many others who adopted me. So I find banning kids from school incomprehensible in all but a very few cases. And in every one of those there are tragedies you don't want to know - but you should know.

As for weed/pot whatever, the kids know adults use it (at some stage that's where a kid got it in the first link in the chain). They are warned about its consequences medically - and see adults do far more harm to themselves with cigs and booze. It's crazy. Put them all within a tight legalised framework where it is not in the hands of the criminals 'zero tolerance' is supposed to tackle.

As for Josh, it's sad but he won't be the last because we are obsessed with demonising the young as some explanation of the mess we have made of society.

This absurd justification that he made the choice. So it brings a death sentence, is anyone condoning this outcome? Adults fail not kids. They are learning. Because he would be expelled, this was what we can expect? Hell of a cruel idea that.

But his parents are right, we have to turn this world upside down and put children at the centre of our communities and neighbourhoods. We certainly need an end to situations where such a beautiful kid feels it necessary to do this.

Bless you all especially Josh's family.

www.fairplayforchildren.org

Anonymous said...

I read this article in the Washington Post on Monday and I wanted to send my prayers and condolences to the family of Josh Anderson. Though I did not know Josh Anderson individually I can sympathize greatly with the situation. I am 27 years old, but 2 of my 4 siblings are just 16 and 15. I know from their social life that mistakes with things such as marijuana are very common and I do hope the school board will re-examine discipline. While I am not defending the use of any drugs, it is not a terrible unheard of offense. I would think discipline should be tough after drugs, but not gorunds for expulsion. Once again though first and foremost I send my regards to the family and they will be in my prayers.

Me Too said...

To all of those critical of Josh and his family, thank your lucky stars you have not been in a similar situation, because if you have been in a similar situation, you are sympathetic. Not all teenagers are so resilient, they need help and support, not criticism and expulsion. It's not as simple as "don't do the crime if you can't do the time." These teenagers are still kids.

My son was expelled from FCPS and he has not been the same since. We are trying to support him still to get over the humiliation, depression, and isolation he still feels, even after being allowed back into school after one year.

Thank you to Josh's parents for their bravery in going public. May be, may be, we can get the school board's attention.

Carlin said...

As someone who was involved in a similar situation during my high school years I offer my deepest condolences. God bless.