Last week, Birmingham Public Schools claimed responsibility for the death of a 17-year-old Groves High School junior. On any reasonable list of responsible parties the school district wouldn't even make the top 10, but their claim doesn't come from grief or guilt. It comes from opportunism.
Why do people claim responsibility for tragic events? Terrorists do it for attention and to promote their cause. Against overwhelming evidence, real criminals admit responsibility in exchange for leniency. Emotionally unstable people claim responsibility for crimes they didn't commit to attract attention to themselves.
Everyone knows Birmingham Public Schools had no role in the tragic overdose of the 17-year-old junior from fentanyl-laced heroin. They aren't responsible for students whereabouts 24-hours/day. They weren't the student's parole officer. They aren't the student's parent. They weren't dealers or bystanders. In fact, all evidence suggests Birmingham Schools does a terrific job at what it is actually is responsible for: educating Birmingham students.
So the School District claimed responsibility to draw attention to itself. But why would it do that?
There's another reason to claim responsibility for something you've no culpability for--to be part of the solution. Claiming responsibility for something you've no direct influence over attracts the admiration of the masses for such grand displays of selflessness. That admiration translates into a faux moral authority as everyone respects you for stepping up to the plate--whether it's your turn at bat or not. Since responsible parties must meet to figure out what went wrong the school system is now given a seat at the table. Being part of the solution means the school system can inject itself into a dialog that should be restricted to law enforcement and the family. Once the school system injects itself into one familial dynamic the village looks the other way when it injects itself into other familial dynamics. All this new counseling and administering to the needs of families will require a larger budget, and the dripping concern for these poor people will regretfully bring celebrity--but not to the family, to the school system's professional grievers.
So now the school system has celebrity and justification for a larger budget. What is it risking? Nothing. Professional grievers have no accountability. After all, they're volunteers! Their 21st century good Samaritans! The family is the only party involved required to make real sacrifices. They're the only party to this tragedy that will pay the price, whose grief is genuine, are directly responsible for their children, and after the criminals that sold her the drugs and delayed in getting her treatment, share any accountability.
When all is said and done the family will still be broken but the school system will not only remain intact, but they'll feel good about themselves for announcing, "We have failed."
They have failed. They've failed to leave healing to the parties that need healing. They've failed to leave remedies to those that must administer them. They've failed in showing deference to law enforcement.
In reality, they succeeded in more ways than they failed, but opportunism from trajedy is nothing to brag about.