While a judge’s ruling in how Amy Joyner-Francis’ murderer will be tried sparks controversy, the role the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District may have played has been silent and ignored.
According to The News Journal last Friday, Delaware Family Court Judge Robert Coonin made a ruling in how Trinity Carr will be tried in the murder of Amy Joyner-Francis, the high school student who died after an assault at Howard High School of Technology. Carr will be tried as a juvenile, not an adult. In most likelihood, the maximum sentence Carr would receive, if found guilty, would be “community supervision and treatment until age 19” as per the News Journal article written by Jessica Massulli Reyes.
Judge Coonin also ruled Amy’s fingernails were more likely ripped out trying to fend the attack as the video showed her grabbing Carr as her murderer was being pulled away from her. Coonin said there was insufficient evidence to suggest Carr lacked remorse because she did not know she had killed Amy after the fight.
None of this will likely give Amy’s family any feeling of justice. I am very uncomfortable with Carr essentially walking the streets. Her actions, and I don’t care what anyone says about a pre-existing condition that is suspect at best, led to the death of a sweet teenager. Carr’s Sunday School activity doesn’t erase her actions that day. No, I don’t think Carr should get the death penalty, but this sends a bad message to the youth of Delaware. A very dangerous and bad message.
The heart of the ruling deals with Carr’s age. She is sixteen years old. Technically, she is a minor. The Delaware Attorney General’s Office had extreme issues with the planning that went on before the assault on Amy. The length of the assault, the viciousness of it, and the physical results of the attack were foremost in their mind in issuing charges. Revealed at Carr’s first hearing on the matter was the unrevealed pulling out of Amy’s fingernails. Coonin ruled they were a result of Amy trying to protect herself based on video footage. While this could be true, it also points out a desperation on Amy’s part to save herself. Which swings back around to the viciousness of the attack.
We have heard the tales of “bloodlust” in people. Where they go beyond the point of reason and brutal savagery takes over. I have to believe that most people make a conscious choice to cross that line in their mind. What Carr did is not a normal choice unless she made certain decisions during the timeline of events. This was planned in advance, the day before. But there are situations where she may not have been able to make that final choice where rage took over. Coonin’s ruling gives teenagers a very false idea that they could get away with something like this. While it is my fervent hope it would not, the minds of teenagers are very different than those of an adult. I highly doubt this would come out even if it were the case, but what if Carr has a disability? What if she was on medication that had an adverse affect on the neurology of her brain? I have no idea if this is the case or not, I am merely questioning a possibility. While this would not justify her final actions in my mind because of the premeditation behind it, this could potentially lead to important questions that need to be addressed.
How aware was the school of the feud between Carr and Amy? Should they have been aware? As part of our bullying laws in Delaware, social media is addressed in those laws. But how much monitoring of that social media takes place? No one can see everything at once. That would be impossible. But one thing I haven’t ever heard is the possibility of having a school narc to monitor things like this, especially in schools where there are higher incidents of fights and inappropriate touching. Someone who could keep abreast of things like this. Hearing the buzz so to speak and acting on it. There have been narc’s for drugs in schools. Why not bullying or threats that result in vicious fights or, as an extreme, a student’s death.
What is the school’s role in this tragedy? I’ve reported before that many teachers at Howard High School of Technology were involved in professional development that morning. While not completely verified, the role of hall monitors has been very spotty at this school according to several sources wishing to remain anonymous. Yes, testimony has come out that a teacher did get to the bathroom and heard Amy’s final words. But how much time elapsed between the point when a bunch of students were running into a bathroom, Carr confronted Amy, pulled her by the hair into a bathroom stall, Amy resisted, and Carr was able to punch and kick Amy over twenty times? This is something the school would know. But they aren’t talking. Some of that could be because this is a criminal investigation and they simply can’t talk about it. But I have to believe that if teachers were present, and not in professional development at 8 or 8:30 in the morning, this tragedy could have been averted. I don’t blame the teachers for this, I blame the administration. While the true fault lies with Carr, the school’s actions, while intentional or not, did lead to Amy’s death. And this is the thing no one else is talking about publicly. If this were outside of school, this wouldn’t even be an issue. But this happened inside a school building, filled with adults.
While I tend to doubt the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District would ever publicly address this aspect to Amy’s death, I sincerely hope this evolves into discussions with their board and district staff. It may have already happened. There is a public task force on school safety happening in Delaware. I hope changes occur that would allow for something like this to never happen again, not only in their schools, but all Delaware schools. We owe it to Amy, and all those who have been victim to any kind of vicious assault or murder, to try. If anything like this could be in any way prevented by the local school authority, we need to look at all scheduling aspects, how much security we may or may not need in our schools, and some type of apparatus to watch student’s actions to see if a crisis could happen. This is something our schools should have always been doing. It should not take the death of Amy to finally make our students the safest they can possibly be.
The School Safety Committee is meeting tonight at the Friends of Woodlawn Library, 2020 W. 9th St., in Wilmington, Delaware, at 6pm. While I am unable to make it, and I know this is late notice, but I would try to attend if you can. Don’t be afraid to give public comment. Someone’s life could very well depend on it.