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6442: Teen boy's suicide spotlights cultural gap (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

 Published Saturday, December 23, 2000, in the Miami Herald
 Teen boy's suicide spotlights cultural gap

 The rope had many purposes in the Little Haiti home of Stanley Murat,
13: a
 clothesline, a tow rope for broken-down cars, a leash for the
neighbor's dog, a
 jump-rope and a tug-of-war rope for Junior, Stanley's 5-year-old
 It was Junior who found Stanley hanging from the rope at sunset on Dec.
11. The
 teenager had tied it to the rusty metal railing of the second-floor
 balcony, slipped a perfect noose over his head and jumped. Ever since
that tragic moment, a furor has been building among Haitian-American
activists. ``This is a wake-up call. Enough is enough,'' Haitian TV
commentator Jacotte Previlus told the audience of her Channel 23 TV
program, Generation on a Mission. ``This child, like so many of our
Haitian children, suffered because he was the victim of neglect at his
 Her words, repeated by commentators on Haitian radio this week, are
indicative of
 very deep and very real feelings of disenfranchisement in the Haitian
 But whether they are borne out by Stanley Murat's specific case bears
 scrutiny. Indeed, the death of this child appears to be caused less by
the neglect of
 teachers, administrators and counselors at his school -- John F.
Kennedy Middle
 in North Miami Beach -- than by a gaping void between two cultures.
 Haitian-American activist Handel Lundy: ``This tragic death speaks to a
 problem more than anything else. There are simply things that this
child's mother
 did not understand that no one in the system taught her. This is the
heart of the
 problem.' Stanley Murat was constantly in trouble at school. He was a
clown, a prankster, a fiddler. Not a malicious child or a child headed
for jail, but a child, by all
 accounts, who frequently disrupted his eighth-grade classes by standing
on his
 desk, running out of the room, yelling out names and hitting and
grabbing other
 youths. Again and again, the assistant principal, the guidance
counselor and the principal
 called his mother, Rose Murat, and asked her to come in to discuss how
 could work with her to keep him out of trouble. Again and again, Murat,
whose diabetic husband died in April, said she could not go in. Not
before school because she had to be at her hotel housekeeping job, and
not after school, because she had to get home to clean and cook.  ``I
told them,'' says Murat, ``that they had to do something with Stanley to

 discipline him. They could hit him. They could send him to a strict
program, like
 boot camp. I pleaded with them to do something but they didn't, and he
 himself.'' Kennedy Principal Kay Metalus: ``I know this mother loved
this child very much, but she expected us to do things not allowed. We
couldn't parent him. She
 needed to.' On the warm December day that Stanley Murat took his life,
events unfolded
 much as they had on many afternoons in the previous year: Stanley got
in trouble
 -- this time, according to school records, for ``grabbing a female
student in an
 inappropriate place.' ``We sent him home and told him to come back with
his mother,'' Metalus said. When Rose Murat got home from work, Stanley
told her what he always told her: ``Mommy, I got in trouble again. But
they pick on me. I didn't do anything.''
 Rose Murat said her reply was what it always was: ``Stanley, what am I
to do
 with you? I have so many worries. We have lost your father. I have high
 pressure. I can't work, pay bills and go to the school. You are killing
me with all of
 this trouble. You must stop.' Then, according to his mother, Stanley
did something he had not done before: He started to sob and told her he
was sorry for causing her ``so much pain.'' ``He promised he would never
cause me pain again,'' Murat said.
 Two hours later, after going out to pay bills, Rose Murat returned home
to hear
 grandson Junior in the front yard screaming: ``Stanley has done
something bad
 with the rope. Come see!'' ``His mother knew he was dead the moment she
saw him hanging from the railing. She was in shock. She walked in our
place downstairs and calmly told us to call the police,'' says Patricia
Gabriel, 17, Stanley's neighbor and best friend. In the past 12 days,
since her son's death, Rose Murat has been on radio
 programs and attended news conferences. Each time, she has complained
 no one at her son's school told her how sad Stanley truly was, and that
no one
 listened to Stanley, or he would not have killed himself. ``We lost his
father last April. He was depressed. I was depressed. The system did not
help us,'' Murat said.
 For 28 years, Rose Murat, 41, lived in the Dessaline area of
Port-au-Prince -- a
 crowded neighborhood of sewing factories and seamstress shops, with
 apartments blocked off from the streets by walls of corrugated iron.
 Like her siblings, she went to Catholic schools, and like them she was
beaten by
 the teachers and staff when she misbehaved. Her parents did not read to
her, did
 not sit and talk to her and did not encourage her to talk to them. Like
 children from her neighborhood, her role in life was to be seen and not
heard. And
 she wanted the same from her son. Murat left Haiti in 1987, and Stanley
was raised by relatives in Dessaline. At 10, when he came to Miami, he
was quiet and polite, says his mother. He learned English quickly, made
decent grades and was a happy child. But all of
 that changed as time went on. ``He wasn't a bad kid. He just constantly
acted out and tried to get attention with it,'' said Vanina Goldinger,
his middle school P.E. teacher.
 ``With overcrowding, it's difficult for a teacher to give a needy kid
the attention he
 needs. So, we turn them over to the office and hope for the best.''
 Metalus: ``Our way is to work with the parents, but in Stanley's case
his mother
 didn't work with us.' ``Stanley's mother treated him like a lot of
parents do in Haiti,'' said the boy's friend, Patricia. ``But for
Stanley, like many of us Haitian-American kids, we are more American
than Haitian. We want our parents to be the Cosbys, and they're still
thinking Haiti. It's very stressful for us and for them.''
 And so, a 13-year-old boy killed himself to make life easier for
everyone, and at
 his funeral today, his family, friends and teachers will grieve over
losing him and
 ask how something so tragic could have been prevented.
 ``For years, we have been trying to make people in the school system
aware that
 they have to go the extra mile and educate some of the Haitian parents.
 problem lies with what the parents don't understand and what the
schools fail to
 reach out and teach them. Many people, on both sides, are too set in
their ways,
 and the change has to begin with those in the system,'' says Leone
 executive director of the Haitian-American Foundation.
 Meanwhile, Irlande Cole, a school counselor and ``community liaison
 has visited the Murat house several times, during the 12-day zeye
(Creole for
 death watch) and offered financial assistance and counseling to the
 She reported back to the school principal that she was particularly
 with 5-year-old Junior who found his young uncle hanging from the
 She worries that he will be deeply scarred by what he saw.
 ``He is OK,'' says Rose Murat. ``Junior is quiet, but he laughs and
plays, sometimes.''
 Leone Hermantin: ``This small child is a specific example of how things
can go
 wrong and where the intervention -- the teaching and the learning --
needs to