PELHAM — Several mothers held their hands over their mouths in shock. Others gasped in horror at what they were listening to. Songs heard on a daily basis over the radio took on a new meaning for some parents as violent, vulgar and obscene lyrics were projected onto an overhead screen.

“Shocking, isn’t it?,” asked Detective Richard Labell of the Raymond Police Department.

Labell, an abuse investigator and motivational speaker, paid a visit to the Pelham Elementary School on April 10 for an hourlong seminar encouraging communication between parents and their children. His workshop, “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll,” teaches parents to get involved with their children using music as a communication tool. His methods were shocking, but he got his point across loud and clear.

“Music sends a message, whether good, bad or indifferent,” said Labell. “If music can inspire great things, then the opposite is also true.”

Angele Diack of Pelham has two sons, 6 and 10. She said she worries that she won’t be able to monitor everything her kids hear.

“You try to watch what they’re listening to, but with the Internet and friend’s houses, you just never know,” she said.

Labell has been a police officer specializing in domestic violence for 23 years. As an abuse investigator, he said the majority of his cases involve juveniles from broken homes. He blames a lack of attention and guidance from parents as the root cause for most of their troubles, and says these kids are far more likely to be influenced by negative musical messages.

“Music is subjective, so it’s difficult to gather data on, whether music actually makes a child or person act out in violence,” said Labell. “But it can definitely be the final push for a child or person on the edge.”

According to Labell, music is only part of the trouble. Lyrics certainly don’t have the power to control minds, but parents should be aware of what their children are listening to in order to keep the lines of communication open. A confident, well-adjusted child might listen to a song with a violent message and blow it off, while a child from an unstable home with little or no adult guidance might be more receptive to the same lyrics. l

Last year, 18-year-old Jacob Robida attacked patrons at a gay bar in New Bedford, Mass., with a hatchet and a 9mm pistol. He then fled to Arkansas where he shot and killed a police officer and his own female passenger before being killed by police.

Robida was a self-proclaimed fan of the Insane Clown Posse, a Detroit-based rap group known for their violent lyrics and murder descriptions. The band features a hatchet on their record label logo, the weapon Robida used during his attack at the gay bar. He wrote about his fascination with ICP and neo- Nazism on his Web site.

Songs from the Posse include, “My Axe”:

My axe is my buddy, I bring him when I walk

Me and my axe will leave your head outlined in chalk

My axe is my buddy, he always makes me laugh

Me and my axe cut bigot spinal cords in half

My axe is my buddy and when I wind him back

Me and my axe will give your forehead a buttcrack

My axe is my buddy, I never leave without him

Me and my axe will leave your neck a bloody fountain

“A song can’t control someone, but it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, said Labell.

Many factors determine just how much of an influence a musical message will have on a child. Stability, positive role models and self-esteem are all contributing factors to a child’s success in life, according to Labell.

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