Saturday morning much of the Kansas City community woke up to learn of tragic news coming out of the Kansas City Chiefs organization. Kansas City Chief Jovan Belcher, 25, killed his girlfriend, identified as 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins, then traveled to Arrowhead Stadium where he shot himself in front of General Manager Scott Pioli and Head Coach Romeo Crennel. “Police said when they reached the scene, Belcher was holding a pistol to his head and talking with head coach Romeo Crennel and General Manager Scott Pioli. Police said Belcher thanked Crennel and Pioli for everything they had done for him and then he shot himself” (“Chiefs Player…” 1).
These are the undisputed facts as of 2:30 CST on Dec. 1, 2012; however, anyone working with teens knows that rumors and speculation have already started. Some of my former students have already been on social networking sites speculating about different motives and details about which they really have no idea. Teen Mentors, this tragedy can serve as a teachable moment in multiple ways:
First, now is the time to teach teens how to differentiate between credible sources and non-credible sources. Teach teens about different news outlets and the purposes they serve and the difference between getting your ‘news’ from a credible news source vs. gossip on a social networking site. This is a PRIME opportunity to teach kids that just because something is on the Internet, it is not automatically true. Too many teens still are not savvy enough about gathering information to be able to discern between what is valid and what is not. This subject will be the talk of the town for days to come. Use it to help teens learn the difference between fact and fiction.
A second lesson we can help teens learn is how to respectfully react to tragic situations, especially those which are so public and in the news. Most teens do not know how to react appropriately to this kind of situation, and some will revert to making inappropriate jokes or degrading comments about the people involved. We need to pay close attention to the ‘chatter’ in classrooms and school hallways and monitor what kids are saying. When you overhear inappropriate comments, immediately ‘nip them in the bud’ by taking that child aside and explaining how their words are hurtful and can cause problems for themselves or for others.
Finally, teens need to be given an opportunity to really talk about this situation in a safe and considerate environment. Again, they do not know how to react, and they will take their cues from the adults in their lives. That means the adults in their homes will be influencing your kids today and tomorrow before you get a chance to meet with them at school on Monday. Be prepared for a wide variety of reactions, especially depending upon the chronological age and the actual maturity age of each kiddo.
This is a story that is not going to go away quickly, and that is OK, but as Teen Mentors, we need to look out for our kids and make sure they are reacting appropriately and are afforded the correct information over gossip and speculation.
“Chiefs Player Jovan Belcher Kills Girlfriend, Takes Own Life.” www.kmbc.com Dec. 1, 2012.