If One Child Can Be Saved…

The gruesome and senseless murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell in Blacksburg, VA

This may seem strange coming from me – this piece is about this recent murder apparently committed by two teenage Virginia Tech engineering students – our condolences go out to Nicole’s family, friends, etc. Aside from being a Virginia resident for nearly 30 years now, why does this particular killing hit home for me? Judy and I have no children. We were both pretty well-behaved during both our early and our late teens. Neither of us has ever been victims of violent crime, much less committed any.

I’ve taught several Personal Computer Skills classes for Henrico County Adult Education – this is why this case really matters to me. Security is one of the major topics covered in this course. One of the things I stress is that parents should treat their kid’s use of electronic devices as if the kid is using the phone, sending “snail mail”, etc. – if you wouldn’t want the kid to meet the other party in person, try your best to not let the kid communicate with them on anything electronic. I’m not blaming anyone here – kids can be very sneaky and crafty. It will come out in the trials how Nicole got acquainted with her killers, what the back-stories were, etc., but we already know social media was definitely involved.

13-year-olds often have strange crushes – it’s a normal part of growing up, and Nicole went through some horrendous medical conditions when she was little. People of all ages are using all manner of social media to communicate – it only took hours to figure out that Nicole and the scum that stabbed her to death were communicating that way. What really makes want to puke is the conduct of the killers. He was a star athlete in high school. VA Tech doesn’t exactly admit stupid people into their engineering program. Some screws are seriously loose here. He’s been charged with first-degree murder, she as an accessory before and after – this may be upgraded to capital murder for both if they planned Nicole’s killing to silence her. At least, they caught them- he may have been on his way to being the next Ted Bundy, and she Eileen Wournos.

Some things obviously fell through the cracks, and should come out in the trials and/or plea agreements (which will probably happen so that the killers avoid the death penalty). Did Nicole’s parents pay too little attention to her? Did the killers know each other prior to attending Tech? Was there a failure of the app companies in their security processes? Did Nicole’s school do too little when the friend supposedly warned them of the relationship with the killer? Did anybody, students, faculty, etc, at Tech notice any strange behavior in the killers?

I hope that aside from providing justice for Nicole’s family, that  we can enjoy social media and somehow use it as a tool to help people with mental-health issues. I’m on my soapbox now – our politicians have been way too silent – maybe because no gun was involved, or they are incapable of saying anything without being partisan. We need a permanent nonpartisan blue-ribbon commission of educators, clergy, mental health professionals, politicians, law enforcement members, business leaders, etc. to take a look at this issue. Va. state senator Creigh Deeds would be a great choice to head this commission, due to the personal tragedy involving his son, his legislative experience, and Virginia’s proximity to Washington.

This is going to be a tough one, folks. I hope some of the people running for President will take a serious look at mental health in the US, but don’t hold your breath…

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