This past week has been difficult for Bridgeport.
On Tuesday, a young boy was killed. 15-year-old Jayson Negron was fatally shot by police, after a block-long pursuit in an allegedly stolen car. His body was left on the street, handcuffed and uncovered for over 7 hours.
I wanted to share with my readers a Facebook message left by Bridgeport teacher Alex Torres, who reflects on his classroom in the aftermath of the tragedy:
“Today I didn’t teach my curriculum and instead had a talk with every class about what happened last night.
The kids sat and heard what I had to say and didn’t offer much of a response. Many kids knew the boy who died but were confused about the circumstances, which I filled in with the little that I know. I spoke to one student in particular who has admitted to me previously that he wouldn’t be surprised if he died on the streets of Bridgeport.
I love my kids more than I love my job and as a teacher, I have to put my students in front of my profession. So I had an extremely candid conversation with him after class.
When the rest of kids left and we had the room to ourselves, I said: “You and I both know that could have been you last night”. “Yep”, he said. We then proceeded to talk about his life. We spoke about how he is a 15 year old kid with no one to care for him. No one to go to when times are tough and he needs consolation. We spoke about how he has been taking care of himself since he was 12 by working on the street and getting involved with gangs. How he sleeps at his relative’s house occasionally but just on a mattress in a room he called the computer room.
He comes to school each day as a survivor, but he can’t conform his reality to the rigorous academic life that we are trying to reach him through. So, he is a behavior problem and easily labeled a bad kid, probably with bad parents, and no direction. But he isn’t. He is, objectively speaking, incredibly intelligent. He thinks differently than others, is charismatic, and interesting.
So why should a kid like that have to end up a victim of violence in Bridgeport? Why is he so willing to accept his fate with complete resignation, when he has so much value as a person? Why aren’t we doing more to reach these kids?
I don’t have answers but if anything I’ve learned how I need to stay here, regardless of the shitty salary and the constant stress. These kids need help and I need to be bold enough to reach the ones who are hardest to reach.
If you read this whole post, you must care enough to do something too.
School based programs need volunteers, money, support, etc. I don’t have the kind of information of how you can help, but you have to actually get out there and do something.
All kids in Bridgeport are good kids, some are just victims of their situations which make them appear to be less than that. They all have value, they all matter, and we need to start treating these kids better, not resigning their fates to bad parenting, or lack of motivation, or anything else. They are children who need the support that you can offer.”
I think Faith Acts for Education Executive Director Jamilah Prince-Stewart has one of the most poignant responses: “The hard truth is that we did not protect this child. And in the midst of our anger, sorrow, fear, and confusion, we have to take collective responsibility for this tragedy. For the multiple failed systems and bad circumstances that led to it. We know what happened last night is bigger than the actions of one child and one officer.”
A child was killed. The fatal decisions made last Tuesday night were a symptom of much larger issues — one that we are all a part, but we can also be the solution.
Alex Torres is a fourth-year teacher at Central High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His facebook post was featured originally in the Connecticut Post, and published here with his permission.