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Mom of Teen Burned by Peers Speaks Out

By Hannah Tennant-Moore |

teen-burnedI shied away from writing about this story last week, since it just seemed too awful for words. But now the mother of the teenage burn victim has come forward with her own powerful words that deserve to be shared widely.

15-year-old Michael Brewer is still in critical condition after his peers poured rubbing alcohol on him and flicked a lighter, setting him on fire. After a neighbor came to Michael’s aid with a fire extinguisher, he was flown to a hospital, in so much pain that doctors put him in a medically induced coma. Although we can all be grateful that Michael survived the attack, he now faces months of treatment for inflammation, organ failure, and infection.

Five boys between the ages of 13 and 15 have been charged in the attack, one with attempted murder and four with aggravated battery. According to police, Michael owed a boy named Matthew Bent $40 for a video game. Angry that Michael hadn’t paid him, Bent tried to steal Michael’s father’s bicycle. Michael called the police to report the attempted theft, and Bent decided to get revenge by lighting him on fire with the help of other boys.

I am moved by the courage of Michael’s mother, who appeared on The Early Show and, in the midst of her agony, spoke out powerfully against the culture of violence in which such a horrific crime took place. “Our country, our world, needs to wake up and see what is going on with our children,” she said. “They need to do something. This has got to stop. It’s not just my son. It’s everybody’s children. This could happen to somebody else and God forbid — I don’t wish this agony and torture on anybody. We have got to do something to make this violence stop today.”

I would love to believe that this horrific crime was the work of a few abnormally disturbed boys and is in now way representative of the violence among youth, but it was not too long ago that a young girl battling cancer almost met the same fate as Michael. (Fortunately, neighbors came to her aid before her attackers could strike the match.)

It’s past time that anti-bullying education was a made a core part of the curriculum in every school across the country. It wouldn’t solve the problem of every child who is, for whatever reason, as amoral as Matthew Bent, but it might make it less likely that other kids would go along with such hateful schemes.

Photo: CBS News

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0 thoughts on “Mom of Teen Burned by Peers Speaks Out

  1. Lindsay says:

    I know nothing about anti-bullying issues, but the boys responsible for this deserve to be locked up for the rest of their lives. Setting someone on fire does NOT fall under the “boys will be boys” category.

  2. puasamanda says:

    I cannot agree more with the phrase in the article “culture of violence.” I am in complete agreement with anti-bullying messages being part of standard curriculum, but I wonder how well they hold up against the amazing amount of violent images/messages that children are exposed to each and every day. For instance, I wonder what video game the money dispute involved in the first place? Would it be shocking if it were something like Assassin’s Creed or Halo? It wouldn’t be to me. I am a manager at a video store, and I am continuously astounded at what parents and guardians will let their kids watch or play. True Story (and it has happened more than once): A parent asks, “What is this game rated ‘M’ for?” I reply, reading from the game, “Pervasive offensive language, horror violence, sexual themes, drug references.” The parent says, “Is there any nudity?” I reply “No.” Parent says (to small child), “Ok, you can rent this then.” It blows my mind. Is it really fair to ask a child to understand the full extent of the consequences of actions like setting someone on fire, shooting someone, stabbing someone, or even “just” kicking someone in the face? After all, they see it ALL THE TIME in movies, on television, in their video games…the message does get sent that violence is the way to solve problems, and that violence doesn’t cause that much damage. We truly do live in a “culture of violence,” and no one should be surprised that the trickle of parents/teachers saying “Violence isn’t acceptable” is completely lost in the SEA of images and messages which say violence is A-OK. Sorry, off my soapbox now.

  3. Ali says:

    Anti-bullign curriculum? That mamby-pamby stuff wont make a dent in the hearts and minds of these kids. They have few positive role models, rappers, ball players, drug dealers in videos. They are below average intelligence, thinking life is like a cartoon. Most use drugs and drink on a regular basis. Most come from single parent homes, nothing like a stable marriage with a strong dad to control and inspire a teen boy. Most of all they are raised by parent/s who teach them disrespect for authority and humanity. Life is cheap, “Where is my stuff?” and it is everyone for himself. Instant gratification for free rules the roost. By the time they are 12 that anti-bullying baloney wont touch them. You cant teach kids to be smart or caring.

  4. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Ali, sounds like life is pretty cheap to you as well. At least the lives of those in danger of being consumed by a culture of violence. If you’re not part of the solution, and have no constructive contribution to a solution, then you are part of the problem. An enormous part of the problem.

  5. alex says:

    parents just need to get involved in there childrens life and talk to them about violence alcoho sex drugs etc and life, is it really hard for a parent to talk to their children? to educate them? to teach them from right and wrong? if the parent say i have two jobs and im hardly around with my children cause of it well im pretty sure you have days off or have a phone if you have time to drink or time to go out with your friends or time to go to a party or time to do your hair or time to do your nails or time to go shopping than you do have time to spend with your children i hate it when i here parents of the subj putting blame on something else and im pretty sure thats what they are going to say or its the economy

  6. Lisa says:

    This isn’t a curriculum issue. This isn’t bullying. This is violence and criminal behavior. This is a parenting issue, a mental health issue and a law enforcement issue.

  7. Bec says:

    Ali, I hesitate to ask but… WHO exactly are “these kids” who are beyond help? The ones who are below average intelligence, with few positive role models, no fathers, using drugs by 12. Raised to disrespect humanity? “These kids.” Because you are clearly referring to a certain group in your head, I just can’t tell which one. I wonder if you were able to teach YOUR kids to be smart or caring… or were they just genetically blessed?

  8. Lula says:

    My husband sounds like one of “those kids”, as described by Ali: No father, young single mother, abusive male role models, ready access to both drugs and alcohol from the time he was 7 onward. People who know him now and knew him as a child and adolescent can confirm that he’s always been an exceptionally kind, ethical, and emotionally intelligent person. I believe that at least some of his great compassion stems from his upbringing and having to deal with the stigmas attached to it. Children from such backgrounds turn out great all the time, while children of privilege turn out to be little sociopathic morons I wouldn’t let near my dog.

    I don’t know the boys who set this young guy on fire, so I can’t speculate much on their upbringing or psyches or motivations for such cruelty — except to say that I doubt video games played a huge role in their decision to settle a $40 debt by ignition. Nor do I believe that single mothers/absent fathers are to blame for this supposed “culture of violence” we’re all steeping in. The entire nation would be 24/7 Burning Man if it was that simple.

  9. luckypenny says:

    This culture of violence will NOT be solved by adding “curriculum” to already overloaded schools. This is a SOCIETAL and PARENTAL responsibility – and it starts will thinking about what your children watch on TV and play on video games.
    Pausamanda you are so right – the obsession over nudity and not caring about violence is a HUGE part of how kids end up being able to kill another human being over $40.

  10. [...] fifteen-year-olds and one sixteen-year-old are in jail facing attempted murder charges after they allegedly doused their peer, Michael Brewer, in rubbing alcohol and flicked a lighter, all over a $40 video [...]

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