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Are we really safe in schools?

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Are we?




July 8, 2003

A Teenage Loner, an Arsenal and, to the Police, a Close Call




AKLYN, N.J., July 7 — A lot of people in this working-class town southeast of Camden never knew quite what to make of Matthew Lovett.


At Collingswood High School, where he graduated last month, his tattered T-shirts, social awkwardness and limp made him an outcast and, frequently, the object of ridicule.


Near his home, where he lived with his father and 14-year-old brother above a deli on a rundown commercial strip, he could often be seen walking the street carrying a baseball bat. Periodically, he hid behind the bushes and then would startle girls when they passed by, neighbors said.


None of his unusual behavior, however, appeared so obviously dangerous as what was observed Sunday, when Mr. Lovett, 18, and two teenage friends were arrested while carrying an arsenal of machetes, guns and ammunition after, the police said, they tried to hijack a car on a quiet residential street.


Prosecutors said the youths had a list of three middle school students they planned to kill for teasing Mr. Lovett's younger brother, and then planned to use all 2,000 rounds of ammunition they were carrying to kill other town residents at random.


For all their firepower, Mr. Lovett and his friends were unable to halt the car, and when the driver alerted the police, a single police officer persuaded them to surrender without a shot being fired.


Today, Mr. Lovett was arraigned on a variety of weapons and murder conspiracy charges and held on $1 million bail. The two younger teenagers were charged with juvenile offenses.


The jittery residents of this town of 5,000 were wondering today whether a bloodbath had been narrowly avoided or whether the teenagers were simply troubled but harmless.


Mr. Lovett's uncle, Thomas Crymes, said he considered the episode to be simply a cry for help."He absolutely could not have followed through with that," Mr. Crymes said of the reports of plans of a bloodbath. "If he was determined to do that, then he would have shot," he added, taking note of Mr. Lovett's surrender.


The Camden County prosecutor, Vincent P. Sarubbi, said he considered the incident so serious and the potential harm so great that he would seek to have the younger teenagers, ages 14 and 15, tried as adults.


Residents wondered whether the teasing that had been directed at Mr. Lovett and his brother, who has a speech impediment, might have pushed him too far. "A lot of people made fun of them," said Lance Jones, 18, of Collingswood, a nearby town, "but no one meant anything by it, and no one wanted it to end like this."


Criminologists say they often find that teenagers who lash out violently have been shunned by peers or even their parents.


"In many cases, you find the kids are angry, alienated, and clinically depressed," said Kathleen M. Heide, a professor in the criminology department of the University of South Florida and an expert on youth crime.


Investigators would not discuss the evidence for their charges, but they said that they seized several computers at Mr. Lovett's home and that one of the teenagers had discussed the evidence.


Mr. Sarubbi described Mr. Lovett as "the ringleader" and said the youths began planning an attack in January and had tried to carry it out several times. The authorities said the youths used some of Mr. Lovett's father's extensive collection of licensed rifles, shotguns and pistols on Sunday because the father was away at the Jersey Shore for the weekend.


When the youths tried to commandeer the car in front of Oaklyn Middle School at 3:45 Sunday morning, the police said, all three were heavily armed: each carried a machete and a high-powered rifle, had a shotgun slung over his shoulder and a pistol holstered at his waist.


The driver of the car swerved to avoid them, then drove to the police station two blocks away. When Officer Charles Antrelli found the teenagers several minutes later, Mr. Lovett pointed a rifle at him, but all three suspects dropped their weapons when the officer drew his gun.


The officials said they had notified the three teenagers whose names were on the list Mr. Lovett is alleged to have drawn up.


Mr. Lovett's father, Ron, did not respond to repeated requests for an interview, but he released a written statement today apologizing for Matthew's actions. His mother died several years ago, neighbors said.


Mr. Lovett's brother James said in a televised interview today that he was not aware of any plan. He said his brother had seemed distant in recent months. "He's just changed all of a sudden," James Lovett said in an interview with WPVI-TV, Channel 6, in Philadelphia.


Many of Matthew Lovett's classmates and neighbors were struggling today to make sense of the incident.


Mr. Lovett was often teased, the classmates said, because he usually wore the same clothes — a ragged T-shirt and tight sweatpants — and walked with stooped shoulders and an awkward gait. "It was the way he looked, the way he talked, and the way he did stuff," said Facundo Pavcovich, 18, who graduated with Mr. Lovett.


As Mr. Lovett grew older, he withdrew more from his classmates, said Joe Tredanari, 17. In gym class, he attracted attention and derision by performing karate moves, students said. Sometimes he would use yardsticks to sword fight with other students. Mr. Lovett was interested in art and hoped to attend art school, classmates said.


Some of the Lovetts' neighbors expressed sympathy, saying that they did not realize how bad the teasing must have felt. "Nobody will admit making fun of him," said Allison McCarthy, a neighbor, "but they did."




Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company | Home | Privacy Policy | Search | Corrections | Help | Back to Top


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The above guest was me!


Sorry ppl I keep forgetting to log in!


How can Krishna Consciousness help get sense into these people.


The students who don't "fit in" are really dangerous I guess.


But when we think about it, it is not the guy's fault, its his peers fault who keep making fun of him.


We have quiet people in our school too, I guess they just crack when their patience finally runs out.


But are we truly safe in schools!


Schools need religion actually! religion is the answer, I think.


This is truly an age of kali

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Religion in public schools can be an explosive subject. I don't know what the rest of the country was like but in the late 50's - early 60's Louisiana we had daily prayer in school. Louisiana was a state based on religion and we were strickly taught values and when we mess up we knew it.


There was a respect for our teachers and the biggest fear on the playground was the one little bully that might push us around until the teacher dragged him off. I never dreamt that children would have to fear for their lives at school or even the teachers would have to deal with such a thing.


We had the quiet loner kids then too but they sure as heck didn't come into homeroom and blow everybody away.


I don't know if it was the prayer or the threat of corporeal punishment that kept us in line but things are terribly out of control now in our public schools.


Great fear of teacher's power was demonstrated to me in first grade when another little girl stole my crayons and the teacher gave her a whipping in front of the class. I had never witnessed such a thing because my family did not deal with misbehavior physically like that - so this was an event that stuck with me forever. I did my best to never piss my teachers off! /images/graemlins/crazy.gif



Schools need religion actually! religion is the answer, I think.



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the only people not safe in high school are the outcasts.

i'm am one of those "quiet/weird" kids. i'm not going to go on some shooting rampage. i don't take insults personally.


it depends on a person's mind and mental stability as to how they react to things. matthew lovett was made fun of his whole life and could not bear that his brother was made fun of for something he had no control over. matthew most-likely has some sort of mental disorder, which could have been originally caused by his mother's and step-sister's death. but i know that being insulted and shunned is not going to help. matthew admitted that what he did was a cry for help, and that he didn't mean to cause his family pain or put oaklyn, nj on the map for such a thing.


many schools have "zero tolerance" policies because of columbine. but they are targeting the wrong thing. they should be targeting the bullies, not the victims. any kind of bullying should not be tolerated, even if you think it's just "good, clean, fun."


and i disagree that there should be religion in school, at least in public schools. sure nothing's going to stop someone from praying or studying their religion on their own time, but there shouldn't be a designated time or forced religion in school. when most people think of religion in school, they think of christianity. what about all the non-christians? that would not be a safe way to go. religion would do nothing to solve anything. it would just create more animosity.


most kids who go on killing sprees are made fun of and neglected. even "normal" kids can snap. all of us will be safe in school once the bullies are stopped, and the careless teachers dealt with.

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They need to have a few kids who stand up to people who make fun of the other kids.


It happens alot in my school. Kids are cruel to the minorities...


I was also harrassed a few times and the authorities don't do anything...


Some kids ignore the harrassers mostly due to fear...(in my case)


I completely agree with you , any kind of bullying should not be tolerated.


But the authorities don't do a thing, It is us the kids who need to stop these things by standing up for the victims.. then they won't develop mental problems.


"i'm am one of those "quiet/weird" kids. i'm not going to go on some shooting rampage. i don't take insults personally."

People like you are clearly special... it takes courage to stand up to the suffering brought on by the bullies and not get into fights.


You will be very successful in your future though. /images/graemlins/smile.gif

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