By Patti Williams, Orange High School agriculture teacher
Each morning, when I arrive at Panther Farm at Orange High School, I am greeted with calls from a donkey and a turkey named Tim. Since Sunday morning, I have not been greeted.
Tim, our 5-year-old American Heritage Slate turkey, was taken and used as entertainment for a Chapman student house near our school. He did come back to us for a short time, only to find that he sustained several injuries from the torture he endured while at this house. He has since been in a veterinary hospital under close observation in hope his body can heal the damage that was done.
He was taken and abused by two Chapman students and countless others who looked on as he was tortured in the name of “fun.” This unimaginable act of animal cruelty has left me speechless. I have tried very hard to keep the anger and my emotions at bay and be professional during this awful week. When I see this gentle and friendly animal that is loved by so many, in the condition he is in, it makes me want to scream. Scream at this horrific act. Scream at lack the integrity of those who watched. Those who won’t stand up for what is right and not sit back in support of these two men and the laws they have broken.
But enough about Chapman students.
Through all this, my focus, other than Tim, is a special group of people who have been deeply affected by this. These are my amazing students – the ones who work every day with Tim and all of our animals. They come at 7 a.m. every morning, I mean every morning – Christmas, holidays, vacations, summer etc. – and come back at 3 to 5 p.m. They feed, clean, exercise, groom, care for and love these animals. These are the young men and women of Orange High Agriculture Department. These 14 to 18-year-olds are dedicated, responsible and compassionate with more integrity that anyone I know.
These are my students and they are having a hard time understanding this. We spoke this morning in class. Some of the things they spoke about were fear – fear for the safety of their animals, fear of retaliation from the friends of the men who were arrested for this, fear for Tim and whether he will live or die and the saddest thing is the fear of Chapman students in general. What a statement, that these high school students are fearful of college students and what they have shown they are capable of. I am at a loss for words.
With that being said, I hope this has been a wake-up call for us as a community comprised of residents, high school and college students and animals. A wake-up call that tells us that cruelty in any form is unacceptable. It is my hope that these men and all those involved are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and Chapman disciplinary policies. My thoughts go out to the parents and families of these men and to the Chapman community as a whole, perhaps this wake-up call will teach compassion, responsibility and to do what is right.