Tag Archives: Devin Lewis

Teens Agree to Pleas in Devin Lewis’s Bullying Case

On Tuesday, the three teen boys who were involved in lighting Devin Lewis’s hair on a school bus back in February entered pleas to reduce the charges pending against them. And this time, I think the lesser punishment is not only appropriate but is necessary to allow the whole community to continue the good work they have started. 

Let me remind you about this case which I blogged about in February. Devin Lewis, a 16-year old from Middletown, Ohio, was riding the bus home from school minding his own business listening to music when someone sitting in back of him pulled off his hood. A male student held a lighter in front of Devin’s face, causing his head to jerk back. At that moment, according to Lewis and police reports, another male student lit his hair on fire. Devin was not hurt, although the attack left his hair badly singed.

Two of the three boys, a 15-year old and 17-year old were charged with aggravated arson and assault, and aggravated menacing. But on Tuesday, they entered “true” pleas to a lesser charge of attempted aggravated assault. Judge Kathleen Romans ordered that they be returned to Juvenile Detention Center until they appear for sentencing. They have already served 60 days.

The third boy, a 16-year old, was originally charged with obstruction of official business because, according to police, he didn’t cooperate when they questioned him about his part in the incident. He pleaded to the lesser charge of disorderly conduct and was placed on home incarceration until sentencing. 

It was rather interesting that before the 17-year old, Kyle Napier, entered his plea, he had his attorney read an apology for what he had done: “He is very sorry for what occurred,” Napier’s lawyer read. “(The defendant) always considered the victim in this case to be a close friend. … He still considers him a friend.”

Now, you may recall that on April 5, I did a follow-up about Middletown High School and the anti-bullying campaign which was launched as a result of this incident. They have worked together to produce Public Service Announcements to support Devin and to spread the message that bullying needs to stop.

Lewis said that the launching of this multimedia campaign has made a difference, and he advises other kids like him to “Stand up for yourself because you’re not always going to be as lucky as I am, to have people stand up for you.”

Devin’s mother, Stephanie McKeehan, had this to say about the way the community rallied around her son: “They’ve sent him cards and letters of encouragement, so the support of the students has been very good.”

Under these circumstances, it is possible that the acceptance of these pleas, while clearly advantageous for the three boys involved, might also be the best outcome for Devin and for the community of Middletown as well.

As a result of the support Devin has received, he seems to have moved on, and after he heard the news, he expressed relief that he would not have to testify in the trail. He also said he was glad that Kyle still considered him to be a friend. So, it sounds like Devin has forgiven these boys and just wants to get back to normalcy.

And the community of Middletown has grown closer and seems to be making a valiant effort to turn something that cast a negative shadow over their community into an opportunity to make a difference for so many kids just like Devon who have had to face bullying. A high-profile trial would simply stir up the shadow, deterring these courageous, young people from the vital task they have set themselves to.

On May 27, the three boys will be back to the courtroom for sentencing. In the meantime, they have all been expelled from their school for a year and will only be able to return to school at the end of that year if they are under the age of 18.

Punishment. The possibility of rehabilitation and healing. A successful anti-bullying campaign. A boy who once felt alone, now has the support of many.

I call this justice.

Kid-Inspired Anti-Bullying Messages Are Being Heard

Can good things come from bad situations? Are you able to see the rainbow after the storm? If you answered yes to these questions, you are just the person I am writing this blog for, because the two situations I am writing about tonight are proof positive, at least as far as I’m concerned, that things can change for the better with the right attitude.

First, I remind you that on February 15, I posted a blog about Devin Lewis, a 15-year old from Middletown, Ohio who attends Middletown High School. Devin was the victim of a terrible attack on his school bus on February 4, when three boys who were sitting behind him lit his hair on fire. His hair was singed to the scalp after this unprovoked attack.

One of many examples of bullying that we hear about all the time, right? And you are probably wondering what good can possibly come from this terrible incident.

Well, on March 23, I received a comment from Debbie Alberico, from Middletown City Schools, describing some amazing things that have occurred at the high school since its students were told what had happened to Devin, a fellow classmate. I will let her tell you their story:

“Middletown High School students have turned to social media to combat bullying after Devin Lewis was bullied on a school bus.

Senior Lindsay Sweatt said, ‘I was in tears from the whole situation, not just because kids were so cruel to do something like that but because of the fact it was happening in my school and that’s the way people were seeing my school.’

‘I’ve been called names, I’ve been beat up,’ said Lewis. ‘I’m not going to take it anymore,’ and neither are his classmates.

They’ve started an anti-bullying campaign in hopes that other students won’t tolerate it, either.

‘It’s going to be all us, our feelings, our emotions, the effects it had on us,’ said senior Allyson Turner.

The students said they hope their message is more effective because it’s coming from other teens and not adults.

‘It’s not going to be the teachers saying you shouldn’t do this,’ Sweatt said. ‘It’s going to be students saying, ‘Well, this is how it affected me and this is how I feel about it.’

Students said the public service announcements won’t be scripted, and they’re hoping to get participation from students from different cliques within the school.

This project is by kids, for kids, and about kids. Students have created anti-bullying / non violence public service announcements for broadcast, Internet, and publications. Each Public Service Announcement will feature students communicating anti bully / non violence messages.”

 

So, there you have it, a positive message is being spread by way of social media and the Internet; a message children everywhere need to hear. And what of Devin Lewis? Well, he feels for the first time like people “have his back.” And his mother says he hasn’t been picked on since and that he knows he has the support of his classmates.

Thank you for sharing this inspirational story with us, Debbie. You have reminded us that kids are the best messengers to spread this important message. I am providing the link and ask that you browse the exceptional work that has been done so far. Debbie wants you to know that three more PSA’s will be airing at the end of April and beginning of May, and that these will incorporate student skits in their appeal. 

Also kid-inspired is Alye Pollack’s message. I reported to you on April 1, that Alye, a victim of daily bullying and harassment for years, finally decided to speak out, and her video which was posted on YouTube went viral, creating quite a stir, and a huge amount of support. (If you haven’t seen it yet, please take the time to watch this touching video.)

Alye has created such a stir that she has been asked to make appearances on several news broadcasts, which is helping to spread her message even further. One of those recent broadcasts was on HLN, were the reporter said, “Sometimes the greatest wisdom comes from young people, in my opinion. What do you think needs to be done about the problem of bullying?”

Alye’s response was direct and poignant, simply saying, “It completely needs to end. It should not be tolerated anywhere or with anyone. No matter what somebody’s done to you, you shouldn’t bully them, at all.”

Kids speaking out. Kids demanding that bullying stop. And isn’t that the key? Let’s face it, adults can talk all they want and threaten all they want. But when kids come together, when kids refuse to tolerate bullying anymore, when kids rise up and say enough, that is when bullying will finally have met its match!

These young people are an inspiration, and there are so many others out there like these kids; children who would speak up if they felt they would be heard. We need to encourage them to spread their message, but we need to cheer them on from the sidelines, help them when they need help, and allow them to be the messengers. They know the pain of being bullied. Let’s given them the confidence to tell their stories, and then let’s help them discover ways to get the world to listen!

A Student’s Hair is Caught on Fire by Bullies

As if we haven’t heard enough bizarre incidents regarding bullying, a new disturbing case was reported on February 4, in Middletown, Ohio on a school bus.

According to The Middletown Journal, 15 year-old, Devin Lewis was minding his own business on the bus just listening to music, when suddenly his hood was pulled off and a student held a flame in front of his face. When he jerked his head back away from the flame, according to police reports, another male student lit Lewis’s hair from behind with a lighter.

“At first I thought they were just holding the lighter in front of my face,” Lewis said. “They are always lighting lighters on the bus. I never thought someone would set fire to my hair.” But the next thing Devin knew, he felt heat on the back of his head and felt someone blowing his hair trying to extinguish the flames. This terrifying incident left his hair singed almost to the scalp, and caused him to have to get his hair cut. 

At the time, Lewis claimed he didn’t know who had bullied him so viciously. But on February 8th, three male students were charged with misdemeanors for this incident. The three boys are being held at a detention center awaiting a hearing on February 17. A 15-year old was charged with aggravated menacing, a 17-year old with aggravated menacing and assault, and another 17-year old was charged with obstructing official business. Their names are being withheld since they are juveniles. Additionally, they were suspended for 10 days each and school officials are recommending expulsion.

The school’s spokeswoman, Debbie Alberico said, “We don’t tolerate any type of bullying at all. The fact that these students have been removed from school sends a message.”

Yet, on Monday, February 8th, just one school day later, another violent incident occurred on a Middletown school bus. According to the police, an altercation erupted between two female students, in which one of the girls, who is nine months pregnant, was allegedly hit along with the bus driver and an aide was bruised in the process. The 16-year old girl responsible for the violence fled from the bus, and the police were searching for her.

Alberico said there was no connection between these two events, but both are under investigation. In the meantime, she said that the school district is looking at programs to address bullying in their schools. “Bullying happens,” Alberico said. “We just have to be more diligent about it.”

Devin Lewis talked to The Middletown Journal about the bullying he experienced: “It is an epidemic. There are a lot of kids out there in the same situation. Nobody should feel like they’re not safe at school.”

In an interview with 22 News, Devin said that he has been bullied for years; he has been called names and been beaten up, but he is speaking up now along with his mother, who both are sending a strong message that, “enough is enough!”

 

Let’s join them in that strong message because all students have the unalienable right to be safe in their schools and on their school buses.

 

Enough is enough!