WBUR

Few Details Emerge About Danvers Teacher’s Killing

DANVERS, Mass. — Students return to classes Friday at Danvers High School for the first time since a teacher was allegedly murdered by a 14-year-old student.

The question of why Philip Chism, a seemingly shy freshman soccer player, would allegedly kill his teacher, 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer, still looms large in the small North Shore community. Investigators have not offered any clues about a potential motive or how Ritzer was killed.

Colleen Ritzer (Facebook)

Colleen Ritzer (Facebook)

Hundreds gathered at the high school Thursday night for a community meeting. Officials and law enforcement were on hand to help calm anxious parents and address concerns.

Danvers Police Chief Neil Ouellette said that while the school will reopen, the bathroom where blood was found will remain closed for the foreseeable future. There would also be extra police and precautions.

“We want [students] to return to normalcy, that’s the goal in this community, to get the community back to where we were,” Ouellette said, acknowledging that it will be difficult. He says the community will never truly recover from the murder, but he wants the students to be able to cope with the tragedy.

Danvers, a small town of about 26,000, is overwhelmingly white — 95 percent according to the 2010 census.

Locals say Danvers is friendly and welcoming. The kind of town where alumni come back to watch the high school football games. The kind of place where shop owners say everyone shows school pride, sporting blue and white, even if they don’t have a kid in school.

The quaint downtown is just a couple of intersections — there are coffee shops, an ice cream parlor and a store with prom dresses in its window. But you also notice the giant American flag at half staff. The murder hasn’t just troubled students and parents, it has rocked the entire community.

Kelly Delaney, who owns a gourmet cake shop in downtown Danvers, has lived in the town for 20 years and says it all feels surreal.

“Watching it on the nightly news, you know, all of a sudden they pinpointed Danvers, Mass.,” Delaney said. “It makes you realize that, wow, this is actually a big event that happened in our town that we now have to say, yeah, remember when? That’s sad, but that’s the reality of what goes on now.”

A few blocks away, at St. Mary of the Annunciation parish, Justin Bell, the church’s youth minister, is dealing with the same kinds of questions. Sunday is the first meeting for confirmation and Bell says he intends to talk about Ritzer’s death as a teaching moment.

“I think a common question that comes up is, how can God allow such tragedy to happen?” Bell said. “And there’s not an easy answer to that right off the bat.”

Bell says even though he doesn’t have a clear-cut answer to that question, it’s a reminder that life is precious. And perhaps, Bell says, it’s an opportunity for folks to turn to God.

“What are some of the root causes in this situation? It’s still very new and it’s not an easy answer. And there won’t be for a while.”

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  • Lawrence

    What we do know is that the violence and sex that are fused in our media since we are toddlers, mixed with exciting music does not help.

    Anyone notice how murders are getting younger and younger? As outlined in Michael Moore’s film, Bowling for Columbine, a little boy of only 5 or 6 shot his female school mate. Obviously thinking it’s some kind of fun game that he must have seen in our media.

    Especially sexual violence against women is seen in so many music videos. Documentaries have shown that the “fun and exciting” objectification that is shown in videos gets played out in real life with innocent females as victims.

    And what about the kids in Oklahoma who shot a runner just “for fun” after watching violent video games.

    To some kids watching and playing these “exciting” video games full of murder, sex, violence killing someone just might seem like fun.

    Who’s going to buy video games for their kids this Christmas?

    • fun bobby

      what music videos specifically show sexual violence against women?
      blaming MTV is so 80s.
      game sales will be just as high as ever.

      • Lawrence

        Dear Fun Bobby,

        Since you seem interested in this topic, why not take 7 minutes from your day to watch this trailer that outlines exactly how, music videos available to everyone from children to teens and adults portray women as objects to be used.

        http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=223

        In fact as recently as 2000 during the Puerto Rican parade women were splashed with water, to reveal their breasts, a la “music video style” and had their clothes torn off. The documentary demonstrates the similarities between that event and the depiction of women getting water thrown on them during the music videos. And it occurs many times each year in every area of society.

        I think it would be helpful to actually know some facts, do some research before making any conclusion as to whether music videos have an effect on our behavior.

        • fun bobby

          i won’t be going to your malware link. what music video portrays what you are alleging? the behavior of Puerto Ricans can’t be blamed on anything but their defective culture. I hate to break this to you but music videos did not invent the wet t shirt contest and 2000 was 13 years ago. music videos are products of a culture they do not create a culture. yeah you should actually get some facts before making such foolish connections

          • Lawrence

            You can always google Dreamworlds 3 Desire, sex & Power in Music Video and get to the same page and watch the trailer. It just may open your mind so you have a balanced understanding.

            Wet T-shirts were around for a long time, but the combination of popular, “exciting” and “sexy” music with the images shown to children and impressionable teens many experts say is at least in part responsible.

            2000 was a long time ago, but it happens on a reg. basis, This was just a public event so security cameras caught it on video, and it illustrates the connection to what people see and what they do.

            Objectification and violence has been around forever but glorifying it, creating sexual fantasies out of it and making it seem exciting with the addition of music, sexy girls and sex and feeding it to impressionable minds is not exactly making our society

          • fun bobby

            they said the same thing about elvis

    • RMANKINI

      Absoolutely true! It is a combination of violence, lack of respect for authority, kids growing up more angry then ever.. It all creates a perfect storm!

  • Mark

    What was the reason for stating in this article that Danvers is “overwhelmingly white?”

    • dust truck

      Because WBUR is apparently racist and wants to put in the implication that only certain non-white ethnicities commit violent crimes?

      • RED Green

        Or another type of racialist implication – that because the town is ‘overwhelmingly’ (a curious word choice) white, it may start to answer the question of ‘why’ (2nd paragraph) the boy committed this terrible act. The reporter is being disingenuous in her claim that she just wanted to paint a picture of the town. The main clause of her first sentence about the town is that it’s overwhelmingly white. That was a very awkward way to introduce the town. She could have chosen any number of descriptive points to start with, but that was her lead-in. I don’t think that’s racist, but I do think it reflects a perspective that places a high importance on race. And if this is the view of the Danvers residents about their own town, as she suggests, why not just quote them? Either way, race shouldn’t matter at this point in the story, with the little that’s publicly known about the boy’s motivations. Seems like a low blow.

        • Guest

          well said

    • fun bobby

      great question, maybe Asma can explain

      • Mark

        I sent her an email asking about this. Her response:

        “In today’s piece, we were trying to paint a picture of the town, for folks who may not be familiar with it. I thought a lot about mentioning the demographics. And, in the end, we decided it was worth noting because we wanted to describe on the radio what the town looks like – everything from the flag at half staff, to the shops in downtown, to the people walking the streets.
        And, in this case – the fact that Danvers is overwhelmingly white is something that came up in interviews with local residents. So, I felt that it was only fair to our listeners to include the demographics in describing the town. It was not in any way to suggest that this type of event shouldn’t occur in an all-white town, it was solely for the purpose of describing what the town looks like.”

        • fun bobby

          I guess the fact that when an attractive white woman in a whitebread town gets killed its news goes without saying

    • Scott Carroll

      Yes that was really odd.

  • Michael McNeil

    The public schools need to have affirmative action and
    quotas for straight male teachers. A lot of these kids don’t have any male role
    models in the home. Make the teachers and administrations in each public school
    50-50 % split between men and women. Right now the public schools are filled mostly by
    politically correct women and that is a disservice to our youth. And
    heterosexual males teachers might be a little quicker to spot a bad apple male
    student. Diversity is needed.

    • Mark

      Thank you for figuring out all of this for us, Michael. Now we can save a ton of time by not waiting for the facts to emerge.

      • Michael McNeil

        This is happening all over the country.
        I stand by my statement.
        A lot of these kids have no positive male role models in their lives.
        Positive male role models in the public schools are needed.
        Besides the public schools are out of whack as far as male/female teachers and admin. On that alone the imbalance should be corrected.

        • RMANKINI

          Are you a teacher that can’t get a job and this is your platform? Responding to this trajedy with ” the public schools don’t have enough male teachers” is SO RIDICULOUS!!! I will give you this however, there are NOT enough good male role models in a boys life. That has to do with the breakdown of the family unit.

          • Michael McNeil

            I am not a teacher. I am a taxpayer that has been watching public education go down the tubes . I don’t understand your anger. I am looking for solutions. And I do not understand why the public schools have not sought to correct the lack of male teachers. And I once again stand by my statement that positive male role models in the public schools would do a world of good. Are you saying men are not qualified to teach or be Administrators in the Public Schools?

          • RMANKINI

            I am angry! I don’t mean that towards you. I believe we are both disappointed in the public schools! I absolutely believe men a qualified to teach. I don’t care if 100% of teachers are men. That’s not the issue for me. I am scared to put my little 3 year girl in the public schools given what is happening.
            These trajedies didn’t occur when I went to school. Children are growing up more angry, more violent and entitled then when I grew up in public schools. However, I believe it all starts at home! That strong male influence should be at home. I believe it’s the breakdwown of the family unit that is the underlying cause of children growing up so angry and misguided. Did you know that only 50% of adults are married. That means more and more children are from broken homes or never had the opportunity to be raised by both biological parents in the same home. More children are being raised by step parents. This brings about less security, more abuse and that creates anger.
            So, to your statement that more positive male role models are needed in schools. I would not argue with that at all! That would help. But I think the real problem starts at home. :)

        • Mark

          I understand that you believe what you said by the fact that you said it. But by inserting that point of view as a comment to this particular article, you demonstrate that you already know why this teacher was killed. If you have evidence to back that up, let’s hear it. We know not a lot about this kid yet, so your assumption is premature at best. It might be true that whatever it is you believe in is happening all over the country (I’m not agreeing or disagreeing), but you don’t know that it’s in play here. As far as your claim regarding the male/female teacher ratio, well, that just seems silly. When we start seeing this happening regularly at schools where all the teachers are nuns, then I’ll consider your view that more male teachers are needed. Sorry, *straight* male teachers.

          • Michael McNeil

            Why is it silly to suggest that a 50-50 ratio between males and females is silly?
            I suppose you think it is silly for more women to be in elected office also?
            And I do believe the heterosexual male teachers are needed in the public schools. What is wrong with that?

          • Mark

            If you have to ask that, then I’d never be able to give you an answer you would accept. But again, the point of all this is that you’re saying it’s because of all this stuff that that kid killed his teacher. You don’t know that, and have no grounds for making the claim. Not enough info has been released. Maybe he’s just a psychopath, mentally ill, whatever. We don’t know.

        • Lawrence

          Or how about having male counselors on hand? An unbiased, “father figure” that so many kids lack?

      • Scott Carroll

        This kid was raised in a single parent home with his mom and two sisters. He had no contact with his father. So Michael is on firm, factual ground.

        • Mark

          So hiring straight male teachers is the answer? That’s what this comes down to? Somehow we can now be sure that this was caused by there being a majority of female teachers at Danvers High? And do you also agree that straight men are better able to spot a problem child than anyone else?

          • Michael McNeil

            I’m sure this may come as a shock to you but troubled teenage boys may be more prone to go to a straight male teacher with problems as opposed to confiding in a gay male teacher. Wish it was not true, but putting children above sexual politics should be the concern.

    • RMANKINI

      Are you kidding me?? That’s your comment? This sociopath had a father first of all!!! Secondly, it’s not the schools responsibility to raise responsible adults. Parents are supposed to do that! And lastly, I don’t think a role model for this kid was the problem. I think he is a calculated sociapath! It didn’t bother him in the least to kill…go eat some dinner then go to a movie. Smooth and unemotional! He’s a sociopath. More affirmative action is not solving the evil in this world!

      • Scott Carroll

        A father that he had no contact with. He was raised in a single parent home with his mom and two sisters.

        • RMANKINI

          I read that the father was very involved. So if he wasn’t involved, then that makes sense. Fathers are the single most crucial parent to a boy. Same sex parent has the influence on a child.

          • Michael McNeil

            Court documents show Diane Chism filed for divorce from Stacy Chism in March 2001, citing “prior physical and emotional abuse as well as alcohol abuse.” The couple reconciled several months later, and the divorce was never finalized. – See more at: http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/10/danvers_slay_suspect_s_uncle_he_s_a_perfect_kid#sthash.uIbWjTfc.dpuf

            The father lives in Florida.

          • RMANKINI

            Yes, I had read they were separated, however the father was very involved. But if he was abusive (truly absusive and not just accusing him to get custody etc) then this explains more. I was reading he came from a great family etc. Again, I will say that it’s the breakdown of the family unit and kids not having love, guidance and support that they need to handle challenges that life brings. I remember being a teenager and it’s the toughes time. Teenagers are ill equiped to cope with what life brings. Today is harder then ever!!! However, Murder? The kid has some huge problems and could very well be a sociopath.

          • RMANKINI

            And when articles are saying he was a perfect kid with no behavorial problems. That indicates to me he is a possible sociopath. That’s what they do… they get along in the community succussful, they are highly intelligent, highly functioning and manipulative people. They know “how to act,”… They know what social norms are, you can’t identify them! They act “normal!”

          • Michael McNeil

            Not making excuses for the kid but…He was a 6’2 13-14 year biracial kid in an all-white town. I am pretty sure he lived in low-income housing down by the river in Danvers. Tick,tick, rage.

  • wayne60

    They need to take their own precautions just like every place else, people are unpredictable.

  • Bob

    “I think a common question that comes up is, how can God allow such
    tragedy to happen?” Bell said.

    Don’t blame God, we have the power of free will and choice but we continually choose to do the wrong thing over and over again……..

  • fun bobby

    one imagines that that particular child will not be returning to school anytime soon

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