One of my students is dead.

Lance was in my art class during the 2001-02 school year. He was a complete slacker and pothead, but an awful lot of fun in class. I’ve only met a couple of other students who worked so hard at failing art. He was smart, funny, and knew how to give me a hard time without crossing the line into being a jerk. I still remember the eye-rolling, forehead-slapping argument we had over getting him to use color in his self-portrait.

He had two favorite t-shirts. One of them was a Superman t-shirt, blue with the red and yellow S emblazoned across the center. The other was a Mr. Bubbles shirt. I have no idea where he got it, but it always cracked me up when I saw him wearing it.

This past school year, his younger brother, Eric, was in my English and Writing classes. Eric adored his older brother, and - unfortunately - seemed to be following his examples in earning grades. Even though he could answer almost any question I through out to the class, he barely managed to pass any particular quarter.

Lance is dead.

I just found out today. It happened two Saturdays ago.

Apparently, pot wasn’t the only thing he was indulging in. He got his hands on a shitload of methadone and overdosed. I don’t know the whole story, but he must have gone into respiratory arrest. An ambulance took him off to the nearest hospital, still nearly an hour away.

At some point, he told his mother, “Don’t worry, Mom, I’m SuperLance.”

It was the last thing he ever said. He went into cardiac arrest three separate times. After the third time, they couldn’t get his heart restarted.

So, now he’s gone.

He would have been sixteen this year. Maybe a junior, depending on whether he flunked other classes with as much enthusiasm as he did art.

This is the second student we’ve had die in a year. The other, Luis, was a suicide that hit us with no warning. In a high school of 130 students, that’s a horrible statistic.

I am so angry with Lance, that I don’t know what to do with myself. It was bad enough when Luis died. His suicide was probably attributable to a severe depression that never manifested itself in an outward expression until the very end. But Lance? He was looking for kicks. He was bored and thought he was indestructable. He was stupid enough to take one of the strongest opiates out there with no knowledge of what it could do to him.

About the only good that could come of this - and it’s grasping at straws - is that it may shake the complacency of many of our kids who think it’s no big deal to smoke, swallow, inhale, or shoot up anything they can get their hands on.


I’m sorry, phouka. :frowning:

I am so sorry to hear this, phouka. I am also angered by the idea that it’s “no big deal” to ingest some of this crap.

It can be difficult nigh-onto impossible to show teenagers (and many other sorts, but teenagers especially) that they are not as immortal as they think they are.

Maybe this will help. I know it sounds disgusting, but … :frowning:

::walks somberly out of thread::

You’ve got my condolences. That’s awful, phouka.

Shit phouka. Lance sounds like a bit of a character, and I understand you will miss him.

But anger is OK too under these circumstances. And like iampunha said, perhaps Lance’s death might help someone else. Let’s hope his friends feel angry enough to hesitate and THINK before being as reckless as their mate.

But it is still an incredibly shitty thing to happen to a kid.

Take it easy.

Lance definitely sounded like a character, all right.

Sorry to hear the news, phouka.


Wish I could do something more than say I’m sorry.

Hang in there…

Phouka…Much love, peace and condolences.

Not much more to say.

And more condolences. I know how you feel. I had one of mine do that.

I used to work in a mental hospital, back before I went into the Special Ed business. At the time, the place specialized in “troubled” teens.

We had one I’ll call Robert.

Robert was … well, an interesting study. Robert was a white bread suburban kid from a white bread suburban family, right? Not a drug abuser, not particularly poor or rich or disadvantaged or insane.

…but he wanted to be a gang banger. He wanted to get “jumped into” an urban street gang, do drive-by shootings, sell dope, and have sex with “hoes.”

He even had a particular gang in mind. The fact that this particular gang was not of his race… and would not likely have looked kindly or indulgently or acceptingly on his pale pink ass… was entirely secondary to him. He was quite sure he could spin them a line about how his dad was “one of the folks,” and they’d come around. (Dad wasn’t “one of the folks,” by the way. Pinker’n I am, actually. And so was Mom.)

I mean, he set a new baseline for “wanna-be gangbanger.” And he was utterly immune to any kind of decent sense about the dangers (not to mention idiocies) of his chosen course of action. It was what he wanted to do, and he was going to do it, and that’s all there was to it.

To make a long story short, he escaped from our facility one fine day… and screwed up. His calculations in regards felonies made NO allowances for getting caught, and it never once crossed his mind that the cops might have a pretty good idea where he was going to go once he stole the car.

He spent a year in Juvie. Scared the living hell out of him. Allovasudden, he was face to face with REAL juvie crooks, and they did NOT fuck around, and they did NOT want to hear about how his daddy was “one of the folks.”

Suddenly, he was entirely dependent on the staff of the juvenile facility to stay alive. He straightened up FAST, and was allowed to return home… on the condition he kept his nose clean. The judge made clear the fact that ONE screwup, and all his probation, deferred adjudication, and other things that kept the weight of the world from crashing down on him… would be revoked.

He did good. Got back into school. Made grades. Didn’t talk about gangs any more. Didn’t do drugs. Got into sports. Got into extracurricular activities. His parents actually dared to hope again.

…until he brought a gun to school.

NO, he didn’t do anything with it. He was being stupid. Wanted to show off his hot new toy, be a stud. This was before school shootings became such a hot topic in the news. But teeners can’t keep their mouths shut, and word got out. Cops were called.

Our Hero thought about his options. He was screwed, basically. He was now eighteen, a legal adult. His probation would be revoked, and he would wind up going to REAL jail. Possibly even prison. He was scared. If JUVIE had been that bad, what was PRISON like? And for how many YEARS?

So he shot himself. I found out about it a couple of days later, in the paper. No mistaking the kid’s name.

And ever since, I have wondered what I might have done… at the time I had him… to have prevented that outcome.

If I ever come up with an answer, I will certainly let you know.


I remember in high school one of the girls at our school and a friend of hers got drunk and were driving down a road too fast… and didn’t realize that it dead ended into a wash. They went through the flimsy barricade and dropped 20 or 30 feet into the wash, where the car caught on fire. It was about 15 years ago but it still freaks me out when I think about it. Such a stupid way to die… they were being stupid, it was bad luck, it was just STUPID. But that doesn’t matter, they are just as dead.

I’m very sorry to hear about this, phouka :frowning:

Man, that’s awful, phouka. My heart goes out to you.

phouka, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know teachers and other faculty can think of all their students as their kids at least for the time they’re in school. And to make a connection with a teenager in the role of an authority figure is something pretty special. I think it’s wonderful that despite his non-student demeanor you recognized in him a personality (giving you a hard time without crossing the line) that most adults haven’t learned yet. You must be a very caring and responsible teacher to have such relationships with you’re students.
I’m angry too, what a waste of life. I’m sad that you and the rest of the community have to go through this. my condolences

phouka, I don’t know what to say, but I know nothing I can say will make it better. I’m sorry. My deepest condolences.

Fuck, that’s horrible.

MY thoughts are with you Phouka.

That’s terrible. Sorry phouka.

I wish that Lance’s peers could read what you posted, phouka. Sorry for your loss. Thanks for letting me know a little bit about that young man.

Terrible story.

But seriously and not meaning to be harsh… should we teach creationism or evolution in schools?

If you answered evolution, then what do you think happens to kids that are too weak to deal with the ordinary stresses of the world they happen to live in?


I am sorry, but that’s exactly what evolution means. Sometimes kids die because they can’t cope.

And of course sometimes they can cope just fine and they die by a terrible accident, which is also part of nature.

They all meant something to someone, and we grieve when we lose them. But when a kid commits suicide I have less sympathy than if he gets hit by a train accidentally. And the methadone kid committed suicide, or he was too stupid to know what he was doing. Either way, evolution in action. If that’s not what you want to hear, I suggest you reevaluate evolution.

But it won’t do you any good, it’s the truth. It’s ugly, its sad, it hits us and makes us cry, sure, but it’s the truth.

Goddamn, if that’s not ever a steaming load of crap.

I’m sorry about your loss, phouka, and that someone had to bother you with this social darwinist malarky.

phouka, how terrible. And poor Eric.

All I can say is that there are indeed some of us who notice the examples of the self-destructive (intentional or not) like Lance. My older brother and I always steered clear of drugs after seeing what it did to a couple of kids in our neighborhood and to thousands of people in our city–we grew up in the Bronx, in the 1970’s, during the ‘Fort Apache’ years. Temptation was everywhere and it was before Nancy Reagan and such and during the cocaine party and druggie chic eras, very seductive for kids. But we had enough Lances in our lives to keep us clear of it. Your town sounds a lot safer and in a way, that might be a disadvantage–no homeless junkies roaming around as object daily lessons like we had in New York–but trust that some of your kids’ lives or police records might stay clean due to the example of Lance, even if they never say so out loud.

And yes, you can mix anger with your compassion, don’t feel bad about that. It was an irresponsible, avoidable waste of a human life.