If you read my work at all, it is probably obvious to you at this point that the Ohio Valley has a serious bullying problem. The schools here are world famous for violence and for grown-ups rallying around violent students to keep them from experiencing consequences. And I wish I could say that’s changed, but it hasn’t.
I will always remember my neighbor describing her anguish to me when her daughter became anorexic from constant taunting by students in the elementary school lunch room. Such things happen here.
What the children of the upper Ohio Valley need desperately, is positive role models in their schools.
What they get instead is people like Sam Kryz.
Sam Kryz (pronounced “Chris”) is a resource officer across the river from me, at Weir High School in Weirton, West Virginia.
According to a photograph that’s being shared all over Twitter and Facebook, Kryz decorated his yard with a great deal of gusto for Halloween this year; the decorations included the figure of a man bound hand and foot, hanging from a tree with a bag over his head. I’m linking to that public photo instead of sharing it here because it’s highly disturbing. I assume the white guy standing awkwardly with his hand on the figure is Officer Kryz.
I’ve seen hanged figures over here in Steubenville as well, as a part of Halloween decoration. For obvious reasons I think they’re always in terrible taste. I don’t know that the people who do it are trying to evoke a lynching, but that’s what it looks like anyway and we can’t make light of those for the same reason you shouldn’t decorate for Halloween with swastikas and cremation ovens. But many of the people of the Ohio Valley would snarl that that was “politically correct” of me.
Kryz’s neighbors apparently felt as I do. According to more photographs on that same twitter thread, they wrote him a polite letter. The unsigned letter said in its entirety:
To our neighbor on Bell:
We are glad to have you join our street and hope you find it a friendly and welcoming community.
Please take the intent of this letter without malice or judgement, because it is only intended to ask a favor. While your spirited Halloween decorations are fun and took a good amount of time and effort to put up, there is one element of it that has caused some discomfort among the other residents on Bell.
The depiction of a man with a hood on his head, his hands tied behind his back, and his feet bound together while hanging dead from your tree– all of these elements bring to mind such cruelty and terror that it has caused fear and tears from some of the smaller children on the street– as well as uncomfortable feelings from some of the adults.
Would you please consider moving this particular decoration? We realize you may not share any of the feelings expressed in this letter, and it is your property to do as you please. However, it would be greatly appreciated by many of your new neighbors.
I don’t know exactly who wrote that letter, but their politeness is admirable. I wouldn’t have been able to keep that cool.
Now, let me ask you: what would you do if you found out a yard decoration you’d put up for fun– not as some kind of religious or political expression but for the fun of a children’s holiday involving candy– was scaring your neighbor’s small children and making them cry? Take it down or move it, maybe? Fix it somehow to make it not look so disturbing?
Well, that’s not what Kryz did. Again, I’m basing this on screengrabs. It seems that he and his wife retweeted a photo of the letter making fun of it, complaining that the neighbors “don’t appreciate Halloween as our family does…. we haven’t even decorated yet!!!” which is a pretty disturbing thing to say about a mannequin hanged by the neck in your front yard. And then, as far as I can gather from a photograph, they smeared the neighbors’ concerned letter with a substance that looks like fake blood, pasted it to the hanging mannequin, and posed for a jaunty photograph.
This photograph was also shared online. Kryz captioned it with, “Well this should hurt some feelings!!!! Neighborhood welcome the crazy Kryz clan with open arms!!!” and an abundance of laugh-so-hard-I-cry emojis.
He referred to his family as a clan. No, he didn’t spell it with a K, but he made sure to write something with three hard K sounds in it. “Crazy Kryz clan.”
I’m running out of ways to politely avoid suggesting that Kryz might be an overt racist, proud of the fact, and deliberately evoking lynchings in his front yard for fun.
But whether he’s a racist or just the most tone deaf person I’ve ever seen, he was told that a yard decoration was scaring little kids and making them cry, so he augmented it with blood to make it scarier and bragged happily about how he hurt their feelings.
Is this the appropriate attitude for a man who works at a school in any capacity? Let alone a resource officer in a school in a region of the country that’s got a serious bullying and violence problem?
If you don’t think so, you can call the Hancock County Board of Education at (304) 564-3411 and let them know. You can also write to Principal Kristen Bissett at Weir High School, 100 Red Rider Road, Weirton,WV, 26062.
(image via Pixabay)
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