The April 6 front-page article “A world Relisha was desperate to escape” introduced us to one of the better angels in our community: Shannon Smith, a cheerleading coach who tried to look after Relisha Rudd at Ferebee-Hope Elementary School. Here is a caring human being who selflessly provided significant emotional and material support to a child in dire need. Ms. Smith’s frustration and anger were evident in her words, “Who failed Relisha? I believe everybody failed that girl. The school, the system, the doctors, the police and everybody else that should have had something to do with her.”

Ms. Smith was, of course, correct, and a thorough evaluation must identify specific failures. Processes and procedures must be revised where needed. Individuals should receive additional training, be disciplined and terminated from their jobs as appropriate. But something else needs to be said. No person, no agency, no entity failed this young innocent as utterly and completely as the two people in the world with the greatest responsibility for Relisha’s well-being: her mother and father. When we are satisfied with only browbeating external actors, without denouncing a reprehensible lack of personal accountability on the part of parents, we take another step down the slippery slope toward becoming a society in decline.

Dan Koslov, Alexandria