Thursday, May 1, 2008

More Sophie News

Funds in memory of Sophie
Lancashire Telegraph,

Sophie's family and friends vow to carry on campaign
Lancashire Telegraph,

Gordon Brown on youth crime and Sophie:
UK Express,

Community policing is working - PM
10 Downing Street (press release), UK - Apr 29, 2008

Goth death mother in respect plea
BBC News, UK - Apr 29, 2008

Interesting article on Bacup in aftermath.

Bacup 'is the same as any town'
This Is Lancashire, UK - Apr 29, 2008

article on those outside courtroom.
Sophie's friends and family react to sentencing
Lancashire Telegraph, UK - Apr 29, 2008

US teen tries to stop labelling

Student campaigns against labeling others
Pocono Record, PA - 27 Apr 2008

STROUDSBURG — Most know the saying about sticks and stones doing more physical damage than words.

For Stroudsburg Middle School seventh-grader MacKenzie Kern and others her age, words, particularly labels, can harm the emotionally vulnerable.

Someone wearing black clothes and dressing in dark makeup is a "goth." Someone wearing brand name clothes such as American Eagle or Aeropostale is a "prep." Someone wearing bright, flamboyant colors is a "scene."

And then there are the "skaters," who ride skateboards, the "jocks," or athletes, the "nerds" and the "emos," or emotionally troubled, says Kern, 13.

"You're stereotyping people just because they dress, act or look a certain way or listen to certain kinds of music," says Kern, who has been called a "hippie" for wearing clothes such as a T-shirt with a peace symbol on the front. "People have labeled me and I've labeled others, which is something I'm not proud of."

That's why Kern has taken a stand against "labelism" and is trying to convince others her age to do the same.

Every day since March 27, she has worn a white belt around her waist in school and out in public. From one end of that belt to the other are signatures, almost all of which have been put there by children ages 12 to 16 who support her stance.

"I feel it's important to focus mainly on kids in my age group," she says. "If this generation of kids can set an example by stopping labelism, then maybe future generations can do the same. So far, I have only one signature from an adult, a teacher who told me she believes in what I'm doing and said she's glad I'm doing it."

At one point, Kern had 105 signatures on her belt. But for each person who agrees with ending labelism, there's one or more who say Kern is wasting her time.

"I've had both students and teachers tell me I'll never really change anything because most people will go on labeling," she says. "I've even had students who signed my belt tell me they want their signatures removed because they changed their minds. So, I scrubbed off five signatures, which took me back down to 100."

But that won't stop Kern from trying to raise awareness among others her age.

"There are kids who know labelism is wrong, but don't speak out because they're too afraid of not fitting in," she says. "You don't know what kind of pain some kids might be going through in life and then to be labeled on top of that. No one should be made to feel like they're not as good as anyone else just because other people think they fall into a category."

Susanne Kern feels proud when seeing her daughter stand up for something she strongly believes in.

"I doubt I would have had the courage to do what she's doing when I was her age," Susanne Kern says. "I tell her to keep it up if she feels this passionately about it and don't let anyone discourage her."

Stroudsburg Middle School principal Karen Thomson agrees.

"MacKenzie is ahead of her time," Thomson says. "She realizes a social issue that has plagued teenagers for generations. Kids at this age are trying to figure out their identities.

"Many people think it's human nature to divide ourselves into categories, but labeling is dysfunctional behavior," Thomson says. "MacKenzie is sending out a good message. And she's doing it without causing any disruption in school."

Some problems with the Micro school movement in Oregan.

Small schools aren't pleasing everyone
Mail Tribune, OR

Other schools such as Eagle Point and Lebanon have pulled out of the grant program for similar reasons.

"I think we are really focusing on the dropout kids," Mullaney said. "I think we need to do that but not at the expense of everyone else."

Some Crater students complained that small schools have resulted in an adversarial relationship between students and gang-like behavior based on school identity, with some fights breaking out based on their school allegiance. Students have assigned certain stereotypes to each school, further fragmenting the student body.

Health school freshman Kyle Haviland summed it up this way: The "preps" go to School 1 (health). The "geeks" and "jocks" attend School 2 (business). The "hicks" go to School 3 (natural resources), and the "emos" (punk rockers) are in School 4 (arts).

"Some kids will say, 'Get out of here; you're an emo,'" said arts school freshman Katie Jones.The hostility between students in some of the schools prompted a group of seniors to launch a "Hate Kills" campaign, plastering the campus with messages to encourage acceptance of others.

Despite the division, both Kyle and Katie said the theme-based courses do make classes more interesting and easier to understand.

Gangs in Australian schools

This article really shows how subcutural clashes are causing trouble in Australia.

Gang culture rife in schools

Article from: The Sunday Mail (Qld)

By Paul Weston

April 27, 2008 12:00am

SECONDARY students are dividing themselves up in Queensland school grounds into groups called Plastics, Gangstas, Goths and Emos, pupils say.

Anyone who refuses to join are labelled nerds – or, worse, become nothings or rank outsiders to be bullied or, in extreme cases, bashed and have their home invaded.

An 18-year-old former Gold Coast secondary school student, who has survived two bashings and a home invasion, told The Sunday Mail last week that the school gang culture was on the rise and a direct import from American campuses.

The former student, parents of bullying victims and psychologists pinpointed several reasons for the bully/bash revolution. They included:

• The negative influence of some American films and rap music.

• The internet, which provides plenty of opportunity for cyberspace bullying.

• The failure of working parents to police some sort of moral code for their children.

"The Americanisation in our schools is really bad," the 18-year-old former student leader said.

"Kids even talk in American accents, use their phrases. I've got a friend who has arrived from overseas and she has never seen anything like it. At school, everyone is broken up into different groups like you see in those US movies like American Pie. There's Plastics, the Gangstas, Emos and Goths."

The groups are large and easy to identify from their fashion accessories and their arrogant attitudes, but only one – the Gangstas – presents a violent threat.

"The Plastics pack on the make-up. Their hair is really hacked at, they work on it so much," the former student said.

"They change their uniforms to make their shirts tighter and their dresses shorter. The guys love them, but they're called Plastics because they're so false."

The female schoolgirl obsession with good looks surfaced last week at St Patrick's College in Mackay, where students had ranked themselves from 1 to 21 – they write the number on their wrists – as part of Club 21 or Big 21.

Gothics are identified by their dark clothing and heavy-metal taste in music, and Emos (from "emotion") by being sensitive, introverted types obsessed with depressing rock bands.

But it is the group stealing the US gangsta-style culture, with its love of violent rap music, which students fear the most.

A gang of suburban teenagers armed with bats, machetes and a sword stormed a school assembly at Sydney's Merrylands High School early this month injuring 18 students and a teacher.

Queensland students told The Sunday Mail they were aware of similar gang members carrying pocket knives around secondary schools in southeast Queensland. "They all have baggy clothing, they're all bling, they have the hats with the stiff shades worn backwards and the pants around their knees showing their undies," the 18-year-old said.

"They carry boom boxes (sound systems) around the school. The Gangstas are the ones you worry about. They need to be so cruel all the time."

A parent who has a 16-year-old son at a southeast Queensland school, and an older daughter who recently graduated, has kept a diary of dozens of assaults on her children since 2003.

The concerned mother, who asked not be named for fear of reprisals against her children, described the gangs as "organised groups of thugs".

Some of them had been gang members since primary school as 10-year-olds, following the "career" of their drug-addicted parents by robbing homes before bashing students at secondary school, she said.

"There were six or seven of these students in Year 8 who surrounded my daughter. They punched and kicked her, rammed her into a brick wall. They picked her up and dumped her head-first into a garbage bin. She ended up with renal bleeding," the distressed mother said.

Police from the Juvenile Aid Bureau later cautioned the most violent bully but the other girls, including the ringleader who organised the bashing, escaped without punishment.

It took the school six months to get enough evidence to expel the female gang leader.

"These gang members single out the kids who are good kids, kids who don't want to smoke or drink," the mother said.

She recalls making many complaints to Education Queensland and school administrators, but after disciplinary action the gang would choose a more indirect form of bullying: "It becomes more covert and indirect. The student is usually defamed. This is through verbal abuse in the playground or through the internet."

The parent took notes of conversations. An education bureaucrat told her: "Your kids have to learn to swim in the mainstream. Society has changed. Get over it."

But the impact on her son, a Year 12 student with a promising sporting future, has been devastating and he recently took several weeks off school after receiving threatening emails.

When he considered returning to school this term, he sat down, in tears, and wrote a letter to his parents:

"I don't want to go back to (school name) because I have no friends.

"I get bullied by (group) and teased by (group). When they come out from the office seeing the principal . . . it's all back to bullying again.

"What do I need to happen for me to feel OK about (the school)? The two groups gone, that's what I need."

The concerned mother's diary also includes many entries recording that her children have woken up early in the morning after nightmares about being bullied at school.

She said many gang members roamed the streets as late as 10pm on school nights and appeared to have no parental supervision.

She believes a key reason for the violence in schools is that many of these non-academic children were forced to remain at school.

In previous decades, they would have left by Year 10 for a trade.

"These kids are like magnesium. These kids – they're white light. They're in your face immediately," she said.

"And they're sneaky. They make out they're OK when they go to your place, and then they go up to our local park and club the plover population to death."

Dr Marilyn Campbell, lecturer and psychologist with the School of Learning at the Queensland University of Technology, agrees there is a problem created by having the less academic children stay at school longer.

"I'd agree, and in some ways . . . we are keeping children as children longer," Dr Campbell said.

"We're prolonging their adolescence. You no longer go to work (full-time) at 12 years of age."

Dr Campbell makes two critical points in the gang debate, which provide some balance about the role of schools and parents in reducing the amount of bullying.

She explains that gangs of teenagers are not a new phenomenon, but the lack of parental supervision and advent of the internet and bullying in cyberspace is.

"The Mods, the Rockers and the Beatniks (in the 1950s) had a huge American influence. So I don't think it's an incredibly new phenomenon," she said.

"Young people have a seamless online and offline life (now). Bullying happens in both worlds.

"Any violence is a worry, whether it is imported or home-grown. But if you look at the five groups (including the nerds), only one-fifth of them identifies more with a violent culture and I would say only one-fifth of that group would practice violence."

Part of the solution would be to provide schools with more resources to handle troublemakers, and steer those bored students earlier into apprenticeships and trades.

But working parents could not expect schools, which have their children from 9am to 3pm, to be responsible for teaching them a moral code when their focus was on preparing their class for maths and English exams.

"High schools don't teach violence, but TV and the internet and their parents do.

"Schools aren't the ones to raise children. Parents are supposed to raise them," Dr Campbell said.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Murderers get life - Judge says it was a "Hate Crime"

The sentenancing can be summed up as follows.Brendan Harris and Ryan Herbert were both 15 at the time of the murder in Stubbylee Park, Bacup, on 11 August 2007. Harris was senteced to life with a tariff of 18 years and Herbert was sentenced to life with a tariff of 16 years.
Daniel Mallet, Joseph Hulme and Danny Hulme pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent on Mr Maltby. Mallett was jailed for four years and four months and the Hulme brothers to five years and 10 months each.

Plenty of news coverage:

Boys sentenced over Goth murder BBC News,
Sophie Lancaster's 'goth killers' receive life sentences,
'Feral thugs' jailed for murder of 'Goth' student Sophie Lancaster Times Online

The statement by the Judge is important:

Passing sentence Judge Anthony Russell QC said: "This was feral thuggery. It raises serious questions about the sort of society which exists in this country at the start of a new millennium which was heralded with such optimism. This was a terrible case which has shocked and outraged all who have heard about it. At least wild animals, when they hunt in packs, have a legitimate reason for so doing, to obtain food. You have none and your behaviour on that night degrades humanity itself."... Mr Maltby still bears physical and emotional scars from the attack...

Judge Russell said both victims were totally innocent, and described the goth community as "perfectly peaceful law-abiding people who pose no threat to anybody". He added: "The intolerance you displayed in this case is shocking evidence of the attitudes of some of our people. "I am satisfied having heard all the
evidence there was an intention by each of you to inflict severe pain and suffering.

"This was a hate crime against these completely harmless people targeted because their appearance was different to yours."

He described Sophie as a caring young woman who wrote poetry and read books and had charmed many people. "Her tragic fate has touched many hearts," he added.

Feral' teenagers jailed for murdering Goth

Meanwhile in a Crown Prosecution Service statement they say:
"The murder of Sophie Lancaster and the vicious attack on her boyfriend,
Robert Maltby, stand out for their utter pointlessness and sheer brutality.
Worse still, it seems very likely that the attack started as a form of amusement
for those involved.
"There is no doubt that Brendan Harris and Ryan Herbert
attacked Miss Lancaster and Mr Maltby simply because the couple were Goths and
dressed differently. We believe this is unacceptable and the prosecution made it
clear that Miss Lancaster and Mr Maltby were singled out not for anything they
said or did but because of their dress.

Manwhile in Whitby the bench was officialy opened with a massive crowd:
A CROWD of more than 500 people gathered on the West Cliff on Saturday, together with the heartbroken mother of murdered goth Sophie Lancaster, to celebrate her life... Sophie's mum Sylvia told the Whitby Gazette she was amazed at the sheer
number of people who attended the weekend's ceremony led by Ade Varney, a goth
who is campaigning to include offences against people based on their appearance
or subcultural interests in the definition of hate crime.She told the Whitby
Gazette: "I was just amazed."It was just wonderful really."So many people had
taken that time out to come and remember. I didn't really expect that."The
support has been amazing and not just from this country but worldwide."Ade
Varney led the service."He read a poem and talked about what went on and talked
about the campaign."Mrs Lancaster said Whitby Gothic Weekend is a lesson for how
people should treat each other."Sophie was always very interested in Whitby from
a young age."She used to read Graham Taylor's books."You can just be yourself
and that's what it's about."We went to the goth ball on Saturday night and
people actually didn't know who I was."We went dead straight. They were just
brilliant with us. We chatted and all the rest of it."It would be wonderful if
that atmosphere could be spread. There's no reason why it can't."What we are
trying to do with the S.O.P.H.I.E campaign is to raise awareness in young people
to treat people with respect."It's about what you are. It's not what you look
like, it doesn't mean anything."Hopefully we are going to highlight specific
differences and show young people are all the same under their skin."Mrs
Lancaster said she plans to return to Whitby for the next gothic weekend with
her husband John in October.As Sophie's killers were due to be sentenced she
said whatever sentence they get it will never be enough.The plaque on the bench
reads: "In memory of Sophie Lancaster 26th November 1986 – 24th August 2007 – an angel too soon." Mum pays tribute to Sophie Lancaster after Whitby Goth Weekend Whitby Today, 29 April 2008

In Basingstoke a Sophi festival gets a good review:
REVIEW: SOPHIE weekender at The Great Western this is

And in Newcastle another gig:
PROG rock band STRANGERS IN POLAROIDS will be at the Head of Steam ...ChronicleLive, UK - 23 Apr 2008

Two major papers focus on SOPHIE

Been away. So back with lots to note. Important coverage in two leading broadsheets:

Goths' blackest day, UK - 25 Apr 2008

On the social networking site Bebo, there's a group called grungers-should-die,
which sets out its mission statement as follows: "Join this band if u think
grungers / goth should die ... tell us some story about u bashing some
On the comment wall, a girl has obliged: "fuckin bashed a grunger
the uva day innit."
Over on Myspace, there is a profile for a group called
SOPHIE, illustrated with a photograph of a smiling young woman with dreadlocks
and facial piercings, wearing a vest with a skeleton on it.
She is Sophie
Lancaster, the 20-year-old beaten to death by two teenage boys in a park in
Lancashire last summer. Sophie died because of the way she looked. She was
killed trying to protect her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, who had already been
knocked unconscious by the boys.
She wasn't into labels, but others described
her as a goth, or a grunger. The girl who called 999 about the attack said the
couple were "bashed" for being "moshers". The site is a memorial to her short
life, and aims "to work towards a more tolerant, less violent society"....

They visit the WndyHouse in Leeds and intrview loads of people including Sophie's mum and the famous Goth Bus couple.

Manwhile at The Times Richard Morrison's article advises donaing to SOPHIE:
Whitby Gothic Weekend is a lesson in British tolerance
Times Online, UK - 25 Apr 2008

They are an endearing bunch. In spite of their strenuous efforts to project
themselves as Satanic ghouls, corpse-botherers and insatiable transsexual
deviants, it's quite clear that none would harm a fly. Indeed, one main function
of Whitby Gothic Weekend is to be a confidence-boosting tribal gathering for
people who are often targets of abuse or worse in their own towns.
mutual support is needed, after the murder last year of Sophie Lancaster. She
was the 20-year-old kicked to death by teenagers when she came to the aid of her
boyfriend, who was being beaten up. The thugs, it seems, picked on them just
because they were dressed as Goths. By all accounts Sophie was a caring girl who
simply wanted to express her individuality by dressing the way she did - a
quintessential Goth, in other words. Unfortunately she ran into a different sort
of tribe: a gang of feral youths, bereft of morality or conscience, who
inflicted violence for fun - and whose supporters sniggered at the dead girl's
mother in the subsequent court proceedings.
So in Whitby at 11.30am today,
as the centrepiece of Gothic Weekend, a memorial bench will be dedicated to
Sophie, who attended several Whitby gatherings. Donations from Goths have paid
for it. But I'd like to commend a separate fund, set up by her family and
friends. Called SOPHIE, meaning Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance
Everywhere, it will use donations to further those laudable aims. See for details.
We talk a lot, usually
disapprovingly, about “tribal mentality”. But after 50,000 years it's probably
too deeply ingrained in the human psyche to be erased. Instead, we should be
encouraging young people to gravitate to tribes that bring joy to themselves
without harming or antagonising others. The Whitby Gothic Weekend is the epitome
of that. The Goths have fun and supply a bizarre three-day fashion parade, the
townsfolk smile benignly, and the pubs do a roaring trade. That's Britain at its
tolerant best.