Without exception, parents of teenagers should be talking to their kids right now.
Even the moms and dads who are 100% certain of the reliable accuracy of their children's moral compass should speak up.
Too many words are failing.
Two cell-phone videos that were shot during Monday's student-on-student attack at West High School in Davenport are deeply disturbing. As several of us watched them in the newsroom Wednesday, we gasped.
For one thing, the blind-side beating of one teen by another is shockingly violent. It should surprise no one who sees the videos that the victim had to be transported to Iowa City and have emergency surgery for a bleed on the brain. It was that bad.
Competing for the most-awful aspect, though, is the conduct of other students.
Monday's attack occurred in the lunchroom at West High. It is obvious from the beginning of one video that the person shooting it knew the attack was coming. The student's phone was aimed at the victim, waiting for the attacker to pounce.
It's sickening to think about and worse to see. Even when the boy drops from his chair to the ground, the beating continues. So does the video.
A second clip, which appears to be shot from a different angle, shows the boy on the cafeteria floor.
It appears the attacker sees an opening, possibly because his prey has been knocked unconscious. He takes a full-on swing, striking the boy directly in the face. He then throws a chair into the boy's head and face. You could almost feel the last two blows.
Yet, none of the other teenagers appear to make any effort whatsoever to intervene. The cell-phone video just keeps on rolling.
Somebody's kids thought this was OK. Somebody's kid seriously attacked another student, and somebody's kid thought it was a good idea to record it. Somebody's kid pointed a cell phone at the floor of the cafeteria to capture a classmate lying down while another classmate pummeled him.
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The so-called 'If You See Something, Say Something' campaign didn't work in this case. Some evidently understood it to be, 'If You See Something, Record It.'
A few kids were the bad guys here. It would be unfair to indict the entire cafeteria of students over the conduct of a few during an attack that lasted less than a minute. But it's a teachable moment. Every parent of every kid who was there should be making clear that those involved were wrong — dead wrong.
And it would be a mistake to turn the narrative toward the school. Many people are eager to criticize school staff for failing to call an ambulance, among other things. That's not fair.
Theresa Macaluso Wallenhorst, the boy's mother, said she was immediately notified of the attack by one of her son's friends, and she took him to the local hospital. The school nurse, or whoever was on West's medical team that day, could not have known the boy, Charlie Macaluso, had a brain bleed.
Wallenhorst said no one at the school offered to call an ambulance, but that decision became hers upon arrival at the school. Besides, she said, she has a medical background.
If the school nurse had the time and/or opportunity to see the videos, showing what appears to be nine blows to the head and possible loss of consciousness, things surely would have been handled differently.
"I'm sure she didn't see it," Wallenhorst said. "As my husband said, about two seconds after the attack, every kid in the Quad-Cities had a copy of the video. We do not think the school nurse saw it."
We simply don't know enough about the narrow window of time and the reactions that occurred inside it to start assigning blame. As appalling as it is, it's likely the only blame belongs to the young people — to the boy with the brutal rage, and the kids who thought it was a good idea to record his sickening attack.
"There's one thing I want to make clear: This is not a racial issue — not," Wallenhorst said Wednesday, referring to some accusations related to the fact her son is white and his attacker is black. "This is a social-media issue, and it has to be dealt with.
"My focus is getting Charlie home. Then I'll start dealing with the aftermath."
Every other parent has the luxury of jumping in while the frightful events are fresh. Many already have, no doubt.
Students shouldn't be hearing about what adults may or may not have done wrong. Most clear in this tale is how wrong the students were. Period.