Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the new MTV show Buckwild.  I wrote about the bad choices that are highlighted throughout the show. And, about the seeming lack of consequences. Earlier this month, the carefree façade came crashing down.

On April 1st, after being reported missing, Buckwild breakout star Shain Gandee was found dead. Several things raced through my mind.

Of course, I am always very skeptical of news released on April 1st. Important news should never be shared on April Fool’s Day. I doubt everything I read that day. From pregnancy and engagement announcements, to even disappearances.  We are a culture where nothing is sacred, so it didn’t seem too outlandish that Gandee being reported missing and subsequent reports of his death could be viewed as an attention grabber for the upcoming second season.

After having watched the first season of the show, my thoughts then shifted to drunk driving.  Especially considering he was last seen at a bar. I thought for sure that his stupid antics finally caught up to him, and though tragic, would serve as a great teaching tool while talking about decisions and consequences.

But then reports surfaced that the vehicle was found upright in a pit of mud. That doesn’t sound like a crash. And autopsy results did not show alcohol. Instead, it showed carbon monoxide poisoning.  A sad, tragic, unfortunate accident.

I read and reread articles. I looked at pictures, trying to make sense of what I was experiencing. I felt a certain emptiness that I couldn’t quite figure out.

I wasn’t exactly a fan of the show.  I had done enough research to know the characters and discuss the storylines with my students. So I wasn’t surprised to find out that the show averaged 3 million viewers and had been renewed for a second season.  But despite my total lack of support for what happened in the show, there was a tugging and pulling that happened when the news broke. It wasn’t until recently I realized why I felt so empty.  I was heartbroken.

I’ve realized that I am quick to judge.  My first thought should not have been “See. I told you so.”  I should not have been so ready to use his tragic, untimely death as an example of the consequences of stupid choices. Every life is precious. Every life.

Did Shain make a choice that ultimately led to his death? Yes.  Did his choice affect other people? Certainly. But, I think it was an innocent mistake.  I’ve questioned why the men didn’t just get out of the car if it was stuck in the mud. But then I realized it was probably early morning. It was a chilly, dreary evening.  The overnight temperature was 34 degrees. And I thought about what I would have done.

I’m a college graduate. I say that not to shout my accomplishments from the rooftop, but merely to use for the sake of discussion.  And with my college degree, I can’t guarantee that in cold, dark, rainy weather, I would have the sense to get out of the car, or to turn off my only source of warmth.  A submerged tailpipe would be the last thing on my mind. Carbon monoxide poisoning wouldn’t occur to me immediately.

Shain’s family reports that the men apparently decided to keep the car running to provide heat until the sun rose just a few hours later.

“I just wanted to let everyone know that the family feels that Shain died peacefully in his sleep without pain or suffering,” a family member posted on Facebook, adding that the trio probably left the car running for warmth.

And, for once, I think it is entirely possible that MTV took the high road. I thought for sure there would be press coverage at the funeral, and the upcoming season of Buckwild would start with scenes of mourners dressed in camo at Shain’s funeral, with cast members sobbing and clutching each other for support.

But instead, they issued a statement of their condolences. Said they would not film at the funeral, and subsequently cancelled the second season.  They let the Jesery Shore heir apparent slip by.

I’m sure they have something else lined up to follow. And I’m sure it will follow the same format of other MTV shows.  Sex.  Alcohol.  Bad choices. And we probably won’t see the consequences play out. And students will eat it up. And MTV knows that.  As long as teens keep turning the TV on, MTV will keep spoon feeding this type of lifestyle to them.

But, it’s our job as parents, teachers and mentors to make sure our children understand the reality of the situation. To make sure they understand life cannot be lived that way. Consequences are very real. Their choices matter.

But that’s not enough.  We’ve got to let them know that their choices matter to us. We have to take the time to talk with them. And, more importantly, to listen to them.  We have to turn our TVs off and turn the discussion on. Because they need to hear the truth.  Not MTV’s version.