People who know me online, from my other site, or who know me in person, know that I was abused for many years and that my mom is in jail on drug charges. They also know I am very smart and in all honors classes and that I now live in a violence-free home. And that I caused trouble in elementary school and got in a lot of fights. That said, this story from MSNBC hits me a little too close to home.

Boy who slept in trash bin is student of the year

DECATUR, Ala. — Eleven-year-old D.J. Graffree didn’t realize he was a child.

For much of his life, he was a cocky kid who didn’t need any adults to look after him or tell him what to do. He was always in and out of schools in his small town outside of Jackson, Miss. He spent a lot of times out on the streets.

At one point, he slept in a trash bin to stay warm.

Yet two weeks ago, D.J. was named Decatur City Schools’ Elementary Student of the Year.

D.J.’s face was bewildered when the honor was announced at the school system’s annual breakfast May 10. His cousin and guardian Patti Lewis’ face was first joyful, then tearful.

He later said it was simply luck that earned him the award.

When pushed further, he finally conceded it was more than that. “They like my behavior and my attitude,” he said.

The article says this about D.J.’s early life:

“He never had a chance to play or never had a birthday party,” she said. “He’s missed out on a lot of his childhood things.”

When Lewis went to visit D.J. and the rest of her extended family in Mississippi last year, she was shocked.

On that trip, D.J. broke down and told her everything about his life on the streets — about the drugs, being forced to steal to eat, and being whipped with chains. With his mother in jail, he had been shifted around to different relatives several times and had even run away from them.


When D.J. came to Decatur, he was placed in CASE Alternative School in Decatur. He had been kicked out of his last school system in Mississippi.

So when D.J. finally left CASE and came to fifth grade at Somerville Road Elementary, neither his family nor school
administrators knew how he would fare. He had a bad attitude, wouldn’t do his work and was disrespectful. Because of all of his time on his own, he resented authority and boundaries.

D.J. is in the news because he changed to a good student very quickly when he got a new family,. That’s great, but why didn’t it happen sooner? I know that the same night my mom was arrested, I got a social worker and a guardian-ad-litem and all kinds of people to make sure that I would be OK. And they stepped in when there were problems with my family later, and I am glad they did. Why didn’t D.J. have that instead of just getting shifted around?

In what other “civilized” country do children live like this? What other country lets them?