The shooting rampage that took 17 lives in Parkland, Florida, last month gave the nation a harsh reminder of how vulnerable children can be, and has sparked a national conversation about school safety.

But the death of a single child in Stockton Springs this week should ring no less of an alarm bell for the people of Maine, warning us of the danger thousands of children here are facing every day.

Police say that Marissa Kennedy, age 10, died Sunday from injuries that she suffered from beatings at the hands of her mother and stepfather that had gone on every day for months.

But that isn’t the whole story. Signs that could have predicted her death appear to have been missed. Actions that could have prevented it were not taken. Until we figure out what happened, and why, other children’s lives are at risk.

So far, state officials have not demonstrated their commitment to getting to the bottom of this question. Someone in authority needs to step forward and explain what happened to Marissa and what Maine plans to do differently to protect children like her.

Sharon Carrillo, 33, and her husband, Julio Carrillo, 51, have been charged with depraved indifference murder and are each being held on $500,000 bail for one of the most awful instances of family violence ever seen in Maine. Police say that the parents have both admitted to beating the girl with a belt, a mop handle and their hands, and that when Marissa became unresponsive Saturday, they tried to make it look like she was injured in an accident.


Child advocates always say that preventing abuse and neglect is everyone’s job. We are often reminded, “if you see something, say something.”

But it looks as though, just as in Florida, people say they did report troubling events and nothing happened.

Former neighbors of the Carrillos in Bangor tell reporters that police repeatedly came to the family’s home to check out reports of domestic abuse, although no one was ever arrested. Neighbors reported seeing abusive behavior and even hearing Marissa screaming. A Bangor truancy investigator was reportedly seen visiting the family and neighbors say they called the Department of Health and Human Services but Marissa and her two half siblings were not removed from the home.

There are also questions about whether Marissa’s extended absence from school was noticed, and what action, if any, school officials took to check on her well-being.

It’s important to know if these institutions failed Marissa, and what the people in them would do differently. The goal is not to deflect blame from Marissa’s actual tormentors or to shame public employees who may have made mistakes. But we need to better understand how this could have happened and what could be done to keep it from happening again.

The response of state, local and federal authorities in Florida to the Parkland massacre offers a model for Maine.

Both atrocities took the lives of children who were in no position to protect themselves. In both cases, prompt action by people in authority could have prevented the loss of life if they had seen and heeded the signs.

And both call for thorough investigations that look beyond the guilt of the perpetrators, which is not in doubt.

This is no time for the Maine officials to get defensive. If there is something that could prevent one of these tragedies from happening again, we need to know about it.

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