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Jordan Christian remembered in student plea for respect towards others

by Kirk Boxleitner

Karina Lea, the student trustee on the Hot Springs County School Board, devoted her remarks during the board’s April 18 meeting to observe the passing of her 16-year-old classmate, cheerleader squad member Jordan Joseph Christian, on April 4.

“Cheer is fundraising to pay for a funeral,” Lea said. “I knew Jordan since my junior year. We were in yearbook together. He actually suggested the theme for last year’s yearbook: ‘Caution: Organized chaos.’”

Lea noted that Christian knew “everyone” by name, when “I’m the student body president, and even I can’t say that,” but she added that his “intimate” knowledge of the school, which extended to a level “few people can ever claim,” also left him open to both “the good and the bad” in it.

“We like to think we can fix things like bullying,” Lea said, “with pamphlets, posters, ‘be kind’ stickers, telling ourselves and each other to be good people. We like to think this is all it takes to save a life.”

Lea cited “give respect to earn respect” as one of “the core tenets we preach” at Hot Springs County High School, while she’s witnessed both callousness and kindness in reaction to Christian’s death.

“We cannot just say we have a zero-tolerance for bullying, and expect that to fix everything,” Lea said. “The environment we cultivate does not come with an on-and-off switch. To Jordan and many other students, the school is unfortunately not a safe, welcoming place. Activities are not an escape. Sometimes, darkness chases you, and sometimes, so do other people.”

Lea emphasized she was not calling for “a witch hunt,” nor for retribution against “every person who ever said a mean word to Jordan,” because “like Jordan, many of them were kids, but kids are not free of responsibility, or a capability for change.”

Instead, Lea declared that it’s the proper role of the schools, to be “molding our brains to be good humans, to ourselves and each other,” so what she requested instead was “a promise, that we reaffirm our statement, to make respect and kindness a universal paradigm, not an extra topping that you get a pat on the back for, if you display it.”

Lea doesn’t believe her peers are responsible for enforcing the schools’ zero-tolerance policies toward bullying, if only because so many students are struggling with the same issues that plagued Christian.

“They don’t have the responsibility to be the bigger person, when they are continually attacked,” Lea said. “I ask the adults in our community to take initiative, and to ask themselves if they’re teaching their children that harassment, disrespect and bullying are not funny, not productive, and certainly not necessary. It will not earn them approval. It will not make them happy. It will not make their own darkness go away.”

Lea also asked the community to support Christian’s friends, from his fellow cheerleaders to his family, supporting “those who knew him best, and those who didn’t know him at all.”

Lea said, “I ask that we ask ourselves who we deem as deserving of respect, and if we’re teaching, intentionally or unintentionally, that certain people aren’t.”

Lea’s requests included a recommendation of self-care, as she invited all high school youths, from grades 9-12, to take advantage of the grief group counseling being offered until May 23, in a partnership with High Country Behavioral Health in Hot Springs County, on Tuesdays from 6:15-7:15 p.m.


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