Books are the gateway to imagination

Books are the gateway to imagination
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Saturday, May 26, 2012


"Fight On" for Brian Shaw Facebook page created.
After 10 years Brian Banks is exonerated of crime he didn't commit 
Every once in a while a story on the news really grabs you. It makes you consider other issues triggered by what you've just seen. I often say that too many parents feel like their kids are born with an operating manual, so they don't have to put the time into teaching them what's right and what's wrong. I don't know if this was the case in the story I saw on CNN this morning, but it also brought home the fact that often youngsters don't realize or care about the full impact of their actions. 

As a writer and columnist, I felt compelled to blog about this one and add my two cents.
In 2002 Brian Banks was a 17 year old student, on the track to a full football scholarship. The future looked bright until one lie changed his whole life. Wanetta Gibson, a girl at his school, lied to her mother and school officials. She said he raped her in a stairwell at Long each Polytechnic High School. Who knows why she did that, but because of her insistence it was true, instead of becoming a football hero, Banks spent five years in prison, another five on monitored parole and was listed as a sex offender. Once he was on parole, the designation as sex offender impacted his ability to get a job and many other things. Meanwhile, Wanetta received $1.5 Million as a settlement from the school district.

Here's where the story really grabbed me. Recently Wanetta found Brian on Facebook and asked him if they could let bygones be bygones. She admitted that she lied and even added that she didn't lose her virginity until years later. Wow! No apology? Just "can't we be friends and let bygones be bygones?" In his interview, Brian said that he'd managed to record her comments and that's the only thing that exonerated him. His attorney, also part of the interview, said without that recording there would have been no justice for Brian. Wearing a tee-shirt with the replica of a license plate that proclaimed XONER8 he listened calmly. 

Finally free, he is enjoying the results of that incredible Facebook contact. He said he's still hoping for a football career with the NFL, and I wish him God speed. May his dreams come true. He said he doesn't hold hate for her in his heart. He just wants to get on with the life that was stolen from him. 
The commentator asked whether Wanetta has apologized for this heinous miscarriage of justice. He said she never did but told him she'd had a hard life, too. The commentator's eyes widened as she said how hard that must have been with $1.5 Million of the school district's money.

This whole interview raised many questions in my mind. First of all, if the girl was still a virgin at the time, where were the rape kit results? Was one even used? Was she mad at Brian for something and using this as a way to  "get him," never considering the consequences in her teenage mind? How did she feel over the years knowing that she had received a good deal of money for destroying someone's life with a lie? Why did she never express remorse for her actions?

Things like this happen more often than any of us would like to believe. I personally know of one instance where a high school student wanted to get back at a handsome teacher. She kept flirting and he ignored her so she told the principal the teacher was making inappropriate advances. This resulted in the school getting involved and almost destroyed this young teacher's career. However, in a confrontation in the principal's office with her parents present, the girl broke down, cried and confessed that it was all a lie and that one of her girlfriends had known the truth all along, but confirmed the lies on record. She said she was angry because he didn't pay attention to her and wanted to teach him a lesson. The black mark was removed from his record, but what if she hadn't caved under the pressure? What if her friend, when brought into it, continued to say she was telling the truth?

False accusations like this make it all the harder for the legitimate rape cases. Women who have really been raped hesitate to come forward because, although it's gotten much better, in so many instances they are treated like the perpetrator, not the victim.

Parents need to impress upon their kids that lying can have very serious consequences. In order for it to be effective, however, the kids need to know that they can tell the truth without punishments so severe that they would rather stick to their lie than be honest. That's hard. What is too severe, anyway? That's a question to be answered on a case-by-case basis, but I implore parents to go back to some of the practices that were prevalent in more innocent years. Teach your kids what's right, what's wrong, what's rude and what is commendable.

Help to prevent more cases like Brian Banks. Please add your comments and share this post.

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