Mean Girls: Part I

Sugar and spice, is what little girls are supposed to be made of. But that's not always the case.

These days, more and more girls are linked to violence and aggression.

It's a disturbing trend that has local officials taking notice!

It's been the subject of Hollywood movies and it's made local headlines with tragic results.

In September 2005, at the age of 17, Alexis Beard stabbed another teenager with a paring knife. The girl died. Alexis went to prison.

Dr. William Bruinsma is the Director of the St. Joseph County Juvenile Detention Center.

He says fights between girls happen in our area nearly every day.

“You can get very vicious fights between girls and they just go all out.”

The attacks are at an all time high in St. Joseph County.

From 2005 to 2006 girls committing crimes against another person went up 37%. The boys’ numbers stayed even.

“ Girls can do anything that boys can do. If they put their mind to it put their abilities to it, they can do it. That's the good part about it. The bad part about it, they picked up all the bad habits too.

They’re bad habits that can get you locked up.

If a girl winds up in detention, she may spend 2-3 weeks at the center.

The 12 x 14 cells are not very comfortable. They have metal beds that only have padding at night. They have a metal toilet and a metal sink. They're not very comfortable, but Dr. Bruinsma worries about what happens when they get released and go home.

“Where we used to have a parent home taking care of the children, there's no one there now. They're on their own. They're raising themselves. “

From the bench, St. Joseph County Magistrate Barb Johnston has witnessed her share of bad behavior with mean girls.

“ I could never quite get what I considered to be a decent answer for why these behaviors existed.”

Here's what she's noticed.

Boys tend to fight over possessions and pride. Girls tend to fight over boys, boys who sometimes incite the violence.

Johnston says, “They're fueling the fire. They laugh about it. They encourage it. And these girls think...ah! That's acceptance!”

Johnston believes girls need to embrace their femininity and not fight it.

“We should be proud to be female, we should be excited about all the opportunities that we have. But at the same time we should remember that we're female. And I think that has been lost.”

Johnston has this advice for tough teenage girls...

“Take it a step at a time. Be the best example you can be. Be a role model for the other girls that are coming behind you. “

A new generation of young women who Johnston hopes can shed the title "mean girls."

If you want to get help for a teenage girl in your family, you can check out family classes offered by the Juvenile Detention Center.

They offer a class called “Parenting your Out of Control Teenager.” To register for the class, call (574) 235-5444.

Young Girls Unite
At South Bend's Washington High School there is a group of impressive young women who are avoiding violence and getting a different point across. Find out more in Mean Girls: Part II.

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