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, April 5, 2009

Article in Washington Post - Sunday, April 5, 2009

Marc Fisher from the Washington Post sat down with us last week after hearing about the circumstances around Josh's death and finding this blog. His initial email to us said:
I am a columnist at The Washington Post and I have written frequently over the years about the devastating and unproductive impact of the zero tolerance policies in the Fairfax school system. I've been alerted to Josh's tragic story through your family's blog and I wonder if it might be possible to sit down with Josh's mother to talk about what happened and how this terrible experience might be an opportunity to put new pressure on the school system to reform its approach.
We agreed to meet with him because we do have questions regarding the zero tolerance policies in FCPS and the way Josh was treated as a result. For those who are new to the blog, please refer to the following post to understand the circumstances surrounding Josh's death.

His article ran in today's paper; it is on the first page of the Metro section.

There is a place to post comments on the article and I've had to make sure that I was ready to read them, as it is inevitable that many would not find any problem or issue with the zero tolerance policies in FCPS. Perhaps, not having been subject to the School Board hearing process with our other three children, we would've agreed.

However, for any parent who has had a child suspended with the recommendation for expulsion, and the subsequent treatment as if he/she were a hard-core drug dealer or someone who has brought weapons to school, our contention is that the policy of a "one-size-fits-all" does not do justice to our young adults and the resulting punishment does not fit the crime. One of our main issues that was not really brought forth in the article as much as we would've liked is this: Why aren't there varying degrees of consequences that are aimed at teaching our young people about their choices? Shouldn't expulsion be reserved for those kids who are a genuine threat to the school community? Why isn't this question being asked on the teacher/counselor evaluations?

It is too late for Josh, but not for other parents and teens who are reading this blog. I would urge you to post comments to his article and decide at the very least, to demand that the School Board provide statistics on the effectiveness of this policy. Once the stats have been disclosed, the parent community can then determine if the School Board should look at what, if any, revisions are necessary.

This is an important issue for all parents who send their children to FCPS, as despite our best efforts to raise kids to make good decisions, anyone with a teenager knows that they are their own person.


Bill Frank said...

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Anderson:

My sincere condolences on the loss of your son, Josh. I lost my son, Alex, to suicide in 2007. While the circumstances were dissimilar, the pain you, my wife, daughter, and I feel is likely to be quite similar. I am touched by your thoughts and your efforts since you lost Josh. My best wishes and thoughts go to you both and all who know the grief of Josh's loss.

Bill Frank, Bethesda, Md.

ripjosh said...

Dear Anderson family,

I'm sorry it took me so long to finally write to you all. I just didn't know where to begin. I've been silent and have kept all my thoughts in my head ever since the day I found out. Josh was a great friend, never once did I think bad about him. I was a friend of his at Langley High School and I just began being friends with him a couple weeks before he had to leave and go to South Lakes. I remember he always spoke so highly of your family and how much he knew you all supported him. I remember when he didn't attend Langley anymore we hung out one night and he told me how terrible he felt for disappointing his family, especially his mother. Your son/brother had a very warm heart, I never met someone more amazing than him and I know I never will. I read the article in the paper today and as soon as I thought I had no more tears left in my body, they all just seemed to pour right out. I honestly still don't believe anything that happened and I don't think it will ever really sink in, because I don't ever want it to. I never had anything to remember him by, nothing to hold on to or look at but the pictures in these blogs. I wish I took more advantage of the time I had with him. My prayers will always be with your family.

-Shana Bahemat

Daljit said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Biggie-Z said...

(edited to remove personal identifying information)

Dear Mr and Mrs. Anderson:

I read the article today in Washington post and had tearful eyes all day.

My son, xxxxxxxxxx, age 17, attending [a Fairfax County] High School, was found in possession of less than 1 gram of Marijuana in his car along with a smoking pipe. This incident took place on March xxx. I was called by the school authorities. During my presence at the vice principal's office I told my son to be cooperative and to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. He admitted to smoking pot with his friend in his car on xxxxxx avenue and then attending class at his school. My son was immediately suspended. We were told to pick up his homework for regular assignments with a suggestion that there would be some leniency with the final decision if he completed his assignments on time.

We went for board meeting on March xxx and received the board's decision recently. The board has branded my son as a drug addict and has expelled him from regular fairfax county schools with a suggestion to attending an alternative school in xxxxxxx.

I am filing an appeal to this decision and am also launching a non-violent peaceful protest outside the board office in falls church starting wednesday or thursday.

I can be reached at xxxxxx to discuss.

God bless and give you the strenght to cope with this terrible, shocking but easily avoidable tragedy through love, compassion, forgiveness and understanding.



Anonymous said...

I thought Marc's article was fabulous and a big hug to Sue and Tim for the strength it took to work with Marc on the article.

I sent an email to Janie Strauss expressing my disatisfaction for the zero tolerance policy I wanted to share her reply with Sue and Tim. Janie has always been very considerate and promptly replies to my emails. (I hope the blog administrator will not allow any personal attacks against Janie.)

My follow-up to her was to ask who is the correct person that can address these concerns and CHANGE the zero tolerance policy!

Dear Diane,

We all mourn the loss of Josh. This was a terrible tragedy! Certainly everyone who knew and loved Josh look back and ask how this could have been prevented.

With regard to drug policies, a number of years ago the Virginia General Assembly gave school boards more leeway in what we can and can not do when drugs come on school grounds. School Boards and lobbied for greater discretion and were pleased when it was granted.

Many things can be taken into consideration in these cases - and our bottom-line goal is to help the student get his life on track. Students can be given a fresh start in another school and a new peer group. If the infraction is more serious, students maybe assigned to one of over 20 alternative programs. If a student is successful, he/she can return to a regular program.

Today's students are trying to grow up in a world with a lot of stress - high expectations for academic and social success. We see kids loading up with schedules that many adults couldn't cope with. Several generations ago, there may have been more room and time for the teen years to unfold. Today the sense of competition beyond high school as well as the positive desire among our children to please their parents, teachers, and community sets up both positives and negatives.

Sadly, we can't bring Josh back and replay his too short life.

Janie Strauss
(received on Monday 4/6)

Coach Huber said...

Can we have more information on the protest being organized by Daljit? Thanks, Coach Huber.

Coach Huber said...

I submitted this to Marc Fisher to post on his blog:

I am a football coach at South Lakes High School and had the pleasure of knowing Joshua Lee Anderson. I was appalled and disgusted by some of the insensitive and ignorant comments posted about Marc Fishers article about Josh and his family. Some of you even had the nerve to post negative comments on his personal blog. You don't know anything about Josh and his family and it is arrogant and insulting to speak as if you do.

I am tempted to name names but you know who you are and I won't stoop to your level, you will have to answer for your actions someday.

I felt it was important to post a few comments of my own. Let me start by saying, I believe it was Albert Einstein that said, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing". Many of the readers felt that by reading a thousand words about someone that they were knowledgeable enough to make judgments and assumptions about them.

Some of you missed the point of the article all together, it was about the inequity and harshness of the policy and the negative effects it has on MANY young people in the area. I found it humorous how many of you read things that weren't even in the article, did I miss something? Others just blabbered nonsense and chose this opportunity to spout their opinions while hiding behind a user name. Your lack of compassion and understanding scares me and I hope you don't have children of your own and if you do I pray that nothing like this happens to them, you would probably be the first ones in line condemning their actions.

Let me address specific comments made by some of the mindless masses. Josh was referred to as being "unstable", having "mental illness" and having "substance abuse and other serious issues". Did you know him? Do you know the first damn thing about him? What about his parents and family, did you know them? Many of you placed blame on them as if you saw dysfunction on a daily basis. Perhaps we should question your parenting, didn't they teach you about compassion for your fellow man, especially in a time of need? Or just the basis lesson of "if you can't say something nice,don't say anything at all"? Stop pointing fingers and look in the mirror!

He came from a large and loving family that spent a lot of time together, his parents were at every football game and yes, he did visit his brother in Georgia. His brother and sisters came home often and many family vacations and dinners were had. Sounds pretty normal to me, another point of this story that was lost on the ignorant.

Josh was a bright, caring, loving, funny, charismatic and handsome young man that could also lay a serious hit on you on the football field. He was far from "unstable", was of very sound mind and very carefree. Yes he smoked pot occasionally and made a few mistakes, after all he was a VERY normal teenager.

Part of the tragedy of this story is that his suicide came as a shock to all of us, his parents, his family, his girlfriend, his friends, his coaches and even his counselor that he saw regularly. If there had been obvious signs of "mental illness" don't you think we would have done something about it? He was driven to the point of suicide in the past two weeks of his life and suffered in silence, part of the mystery of depression. Depression is debilitating and no matter how much "courage" one may have you are powerless over it. Again, don't speak about what you don't know.

Someone commented that he had "turned to drugs" because of his "deeper problems". He smoked pot, he wasn't strung out on heroin, living on the streets, robbing and stealing to get his next fix, he smoked pot. Yes it is illegal and harmful but so was alcohol back in your day and those rules changed after public outcry and resistance. And no, if he was 18 and had been caught outside of school he WOULD NOT have gone to jail. He would have been written a ticket and gone home, later paid a fine and done community service. Again what did Einstein say?

Since I mentioned Albert again let me comment on the phantom things that some read in the article. A few of you mentioned the frivolous lawsuit. What lawsuit? Did you even read the article? A few of you asked on more then one occasion,"What was he doing up at 12:30 on a school night"? Again, did you read the article? If you had, you would have known that he was on suspension and didn't have school the next day! Why do you think that you have credibility if you can't even get the facts straight? Some of you argued about condoning illicit drug use and drug liberalization. Again, you missed the point of the article, we weren't saying that what Josh did was right (and yes we are very aware of the rules) the point of the article was the inequity and harshness of the policy and does the punishment fit the crime. Many commented that this was his "second chance" and he was punished appropriately. Again, does the punishment fit the crime? If Josh had come to school high on crystal meth (that's a new, bad drug for all the old folks out there), with a gun, threatened a freshman or teacher with it and spray painted anti-Semitic symbols in the locker room wall he would have received the same punishment. Again, does the punishment fit the crime? If a harmless, quite, sensitive young man with everything going for him screws up once, even twice, even a hundred times maybe he needs some guidance and not expulsion. That is the point of the article that so many missed.

A few of you commented on the NOVA mentality, arrogance and entitlement. All I can say to that is, come visit sometime and see how wrong you are. Blanket statements like that are arrogant, entitled and lack mentality.

Lastly I would like to address the people that attacked Josh's brother. He was trying to ask in a very nice way that you have some sensitivity and compassion in this very difficult time and that he opened himself up to "reactions of the community". What community? Certainly not a community that we are part of and please tell me where that community is so I make sure I steer clear of it. God only knows if my car broke down in that "community" I'm sure I would find myself alone and scared, very scared!

To all of you that are hiding behind your user names and want to comment on this, too bad, you said all you need to say. To all of you that showed your support and said some very nice things, Thank you and God bless you.

with love, Madison said...

I have found my way over here via a mutual "blogger" and want to extend my sympathy -- as a parent of teens and 20-year-old-survivors-of-teen-years -- my heart breaks for you. And also applauds you for your ability to express your anger and the reality of your loss. Without coatings of any type. I hope that what you have written reaches great distances, and that those of us who are parents in other school districts, in other states, take a moment to examine "zero tolerance" policies and be FULLY AWARE of the regulations at our own children's schools. That you give many of us the knowledge and courage to object when necessary. To be vocal. I am with you, in heart and spirit ... life is too fragile and too fraught with obstacles to hang onto draconian attitudes.

Anonymous said...

For some reason I missed reading the comments from Coach Huber until tonight. I have no way to contact you except to post a note on the blog to you. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you said! I can only imagion the remarks you are responding to. I have not read those remarks but I know the Anderson family have and they were very hurtful.

I applaud your statements to these heartless people! Thank you for taking a stand for Josh and for the Anderson Family. People are so heartless. And yes, it is scarry because we tend to get back in life what we give out. So they have much pain coming there way and they better hope to God that someone has mercy on them.

I met you on Good Friday when we were all visiting Josh and I think you are an amazing man! When I saw you walking up with your Bob Marley shirt knowing that Josh loved his music that meant so much to me. Your children adding to the flower petel quilt was moving to me as well. They must be wonderful kids.

I have thought about your comment many times about wishing you would have had conversations with Josh about his music. That meant so much to me as well that you loved Josh so much! I saw the tears in your eyes and the pain in your voice as you spoke. It made me so happy that Josh had such a great Coach in his life. I know he was talking to me about you this summer when he told me how his coach had really welcomed him in to the school and how much he admired you.

Thank you for your continued love and support to the Andersons! Thank you again for speaking out to these heartless people and saying what needed to be said.

Thank you for the wonderful example you are!

Sincerely, Roxanne

Anonymous said...

Tonight as I attended a FCPS student play, Companion". I had trouble enjoying it. The students were delightful, but I was troubled by the school's approval of the subject matter. The play was rated "PG-13". In one scene the student actors were (acting) getting stoned, cussing and asking: should I roll another one? It seemed a rather enjoyable drug-induced evening. I could not help think of Josh. I could not help but wonder about all the students in the audience. Given the harsh penalty and price students pay when such behavior is real. Why are such messages sent in a FCPS school play within a FCPS school?

Josh...I am very sorry about how you were treated. My heart is with you, your family and friends.