Failure to Protect
by Pamela Samuels Young
Coming October, 2019!
The author of the award-winning thriller Anybody’s Daughter is back with an addictive read that tackles bullying and its devastating aftermath.
What Really Goes on Behind School Doors?
When the classroom is no longer a safe space for her child, a grieving mother is determined to seek justice for her bullied daughter. Enter hard-charging attorneys Angela Evans and Jenny Ungerman. From the very start, the two lawyers face more than an uphill battle.
An ambitious school principal is far more concerned about protecting her career than getting to the truth. She flat out denies any knowledge of the bullying and prefers to sweep everything under the rug. But just how low will she go?
As the battle enters the courtroom, the attorneys fight hard to expose the truth. But will a massive coverup hinder their quest for justice?
Excerpt from Failure to Protect by Pamela Samuels Young
Nobody cares about me. Not even God.
Just because I’m a kid, grown-ups think I don’t have problems. They tell me stupid stuff like, Bailey, you have to learn to stand up for yourself. Or Just ignore them and they’ll leave you alone. And the lamest one of all, Just pray about it. God’ll handle it.
I tried that last one about a thousand times. But like I said, God don’t care about me.
Even if I reported Kenya Jackson to my new teacher, it wouldn’t help. Mrs. Phillips is really nice, but all she’s going to do is send me to the principal’s office. Then Kenya will be even meaner to me for getting her in trouble.
That’s what happened when I told on a girl at my old school. After she got in trouble, she waited until there weren’t any adults around and pushed me into a restroom stall and stuffed my book bag in the toilet. I never told anybody about that.
I want to tell my mom what’s going on at my new school, but she’s got enough to worry about. She just got promoted to be the first black marketing manager at her company and now she works even harder than she did before. After she gets home, she still has more work to do on her laptop. The other night, she fell asleep right in the middle of helping me with my science project.
Since we moved to our gigantic house in Baldwin Hills with the dope view and a supposedly better school, she thinks everything’s all good and that makes her happy. I’m glad to see her smiling again. We were both super sad for a long time after my dad died. I guess she hasn’t noticed that I’m not smiling yet.
At my old school in Inglewood, when the principal told her that maybe I’d be “more successful in another environment,” my mom almost lost it. I was ready to lose it too. Anybody would be more successful if they weren’t being bullied all the time.
I wish my mom could understand what I’m going through. She wants me to be more like her, but I can’t. Sometimes she says stuff that really hurts my feelings.
I just don’t understand why you can’t make friends.You have to try harder to meet other little girls. When I was nine years old, everybody wanted to be my friend.
Well, nobody wants to be friends with me.
One time, I almost told my mom what was going on at Parker Elementary. But then I got scared that she would say it’s my fault because I don’t know how to make friends. So, I just keep it to myself. Every morning, right before I walk into school, I get the worst stomach ache you could ever have. It feels like a bunch of hot rocks are playing foosball in my stomach.
If my mom knew about Kenya spitting in my face, it would be one hot mess. She’s usually very professional, but if she found out what was really going on, she would turn straight ghetto and go off on everybody at the school. Then she’d end up in jail and I’d have to go into foster care. That’s what happened to my friend Trey in first grade when his mom slapped the cashier at Walmart.
Okay, I wouldn’t really have to go into foster care. I would probably have to go live with my granny in Oakland or my Uncle Marcus in Atlanta.
If I had my choice, though, I’d rather stay with my Uncle Dre. He’s really my godfather, but I pretend like he’s my uncle. One time, when he picked me up from school, I tried to tell him about Kenya always roasting me. I was surprised that he didn’t even know what roasting was. After I explained that it means dissin’ you real hard, he just hugged me and told me I had to toughen up.
You’ll be okay, he said.
But he’s wrong. I’m definitely not going to be okay.
“Please, Uncle Dre, let me stay home with you today. Maybe you can homeschool me. Please!”
Dre scratched his shaved head and laughed. “Unfortunately, I’m not smart enough to homeschool you or anybody else.”
“I’m serious,” Bailey pleaded, her face twisted in terror. “Please don’t make me go!”
As his Jeep inched along behind the line of cars doing drop-offs in front of Parker Elementary School, Dre looked over his shoulder at the cute little girl sitting in his back seat. Bailey’s stress level was way too high. She’d had a few run-ins with a bully at her old school, but he assumed the transfer to Parker had fixed everything.
“What’s going on? Why don’t you want to go to school?”
Bailey hugged her book bag to her chest as if it was a life raft that might slip away. “I just don’t.”
“C’mon, talk to me. Is somebody bothering you here too?”
After a long beat, Bailey slowly raised her head up and down.
Dre had intentionally used the word bothering, not bullying. He was tired of hearing all the hoopla about bullies. Kids getting picked on was nothing new. It happened in his day and would keep happening until the end of time. Sometimes life is just hard. Kids need to know that sooner rather than later.
Truth be told, today’s kids were just too damn soft. People turned backflips to protect them from the realities of life. Like everybody getting a trophy just for participating. That was the stupidest crap he’d ever heard.
“Please don’t tell my mom,” Bailey begged, her brown eyes glassy with tears. “She’ll fuss at me for not standing up for myself.”
Dre reached back and gave Bailey’s foot a playful squeeze. “No, she won’t. But you do need to learn how to stand up for yourself. If somebody’s being mean to you, you have my permission to be mean right back.”
He wasn’t condoning violence, but if another kid started some mess, the only way to show ‘em you weren’t no punk was to clap back twice as hard. Most bullies were nothing but wimps anyway. Once you stood up to them, they backed off. That’s what he’d taught his son to do and Little Dre had never had a problem. He just had to teach Bailey to do the same.
“You don’t get it,” Bailey huffed, her shoulders drooping. “That won’t help.”
They were almost at the drop-off point, when Dre steered his Jeep out of the line of cars and made a hasty U-turn in the middle of the street.
Bailey sprang forward in her seat. “We’re going home?”
“Nope.” Dre pulled to a stop along the curb across the street. “I’m walking you inside. I want you to show me the kids who’re messing with you.”
Bailey flopped back against the seat, her lips puckering into a stiff pout. “That’ll just make it worse.”
Turning off the engine, Dre hopped out and jogged around to open the back door. “Let’s go.”
He took Bailey’s hand as they stepped into the crosswalk. The closer they got to the school doors, the slower Bailey walked. By the time they reached the entrance, Dre felt like he was tugging a sixty-pound bag of potatoes behind him.
“Please, Uncle Dre,” Bailey whispered in a panic, glancing all around. “Please don’t make me go!” Her tiny hand clutched two of his fingers.
Dre took Bailey off to the side, squatted until they were at eye level, and caressed her shoulders.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but there’s no reason for you to be this stressed out about going to school. If somebody’s messing with you, I need to know about it. What’s the kid’s name?”
Bailey hung her head as a tear slid down her right cheek. For a second, Dre thought she was finally about to come clean.
“It doesn’t matter,” she mumbled, hoisting her book bag higher on her shoulder.
“Yes, it —”
Bailey jerked away from him and dashed inside the school.
He was just about to go after her when a woman took a side step, blocking his path.
“I’m sorry, sir. May I help you?”
Dre flinched at the suspicion in the woman’s caustic voice. He pointed behind her, growing anxious as he lost sight of Bailey. “I was dropping off Bailey. Bailey Lewis.”
Lifting her chin, the woman folded her arms at the waist. “And you are?”
“I’m Bailey’s”— he paused— “uh, I’m Bailey’s godfather.” He’d started to introduce himself as her uncle to make himself sound more legit.
“Your name?” Her tone conveyed all the warmth of an ice chest.
Dre pegged the woman to be in her early-forties. Her straight black hair fell just below her chin in a blunt cut that matched her funky disposition. She was wearing a sleeveless, form-fitting red dress that hugged every inch of her curvy frame. Actually, she was kind of hot. Taraji P. Henson with a bad attitude.
“Bailey’s mother didn’t tell us someone else would be bringing her to school today.”
She looked him up and down like he was some pedophile on the prowl for a new victim.
Dre couldn’t seem to pull his eyes away. Despite an innate seductiveness, the woman still managed to carry herself with the spit-shine polish of a CEO. If professionalism had a smell, she would reek.
“Erika had a meeting in Irvine and asked me to drop her off.”
Dre shifted his weight from one foot to the other. It was rare for someone—especially a female—to make him feel this degree of uneasiness. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”
“I’m Ms. Freeman. The principal.”
He should’ve guessed. A sister with a little power.
“I’ll be dropping Bailey off and picking her up from time to time,” Dre said, anxious for the chick to move out of his way so he could go after Bailey. “Erika just got a big promotion. So her job’s a lot more demanding now.”
“Is that right?”
“Yep, that’s right.” What’s up with this chick?
“Please ask Ms. Lewis to email Bailey’s counselor to verify that you’re authorized to pick her up from school.”
Dre nodded. “Will do.”
He still wanted to go inside, but the woman stayed put like a queen guarding the gates of her castle.
Without saying goodbye, Dre pivoted and headed back across the street. As he opened the door to his Jeep, he made a mental note to have a talk with Erika. She’d been thrilled about getting Bailey into Parker Elementary because of its stellar reputation. But the place might not be any better for Bailey than her old school.
Dre also couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. And not just with Bailey.
( Continued… )
© 2019 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Pamela Samuels Young. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author’s written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.
About the Author
Attorney and award-winning author Pamela Samuels Young writes fast-paced mysteries that tackle important social issues. Her thriller Anybody’s Daughter won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction. A former journalist, Pamela also writes sexy, sassy romantic suspense under the pen name Sassy Sinclair. Visit her website at http://www.pamelasamuelsyoung.com.
Suicide rates for children ages 5 to 12 are roughly twice as high for black children as for white children, according to new data. But for adolescents ages 13 to 17, the pattern flips, with white kids having higher suicide rates, researchers report online May 21 in JAMA Pediatrics.
The new study is based on an analysis of suicide rates among children ages 5 to 17 from 2001 to 2015. Suicide was relatively rare among young children, the scientists found, but rates for both black and white kids in the United States increased with age.
Suicide rates have traditionally been higher among white individuals for all age groups in the country. That trend does hold for older children in the study. From ages 13 to 17, black teens had a roughly 50 percent lower rate of suicide compared with white teens.
Known risk factors for suicide — such as depression, previous suicide attempts, alcohol and substance use and family history of suicide — “are likely to be risk factors across the board,” Bridge says. But little is known about social risk factors that might underlie the racial disparity seen in younger kids, such as feeling unsafe playing outside, having little to no access to health care or having lost an older sibling to violence.