.
April 8th, 2008
02:13 PM ET

More children killed, more children changing the world

Enough desks to fill a classroom sat empty in a downtown plaza Tuesday, each bearing a pair of sneakers and representing one of 20 Chicago Public Schools students killed by gunfire this school year. (AP)
Enough desks to fill a classroom sat empty in a downtown plaza Tuesday, each bearing a pair of sneakers and representing one of 20 Chicago Public Schools students killed by gunfire this school year. (AP)

On Monday morning, March 31, I visited Simeon Career Academy in the wake of another senseless shooting of a teenager. This one took the life of Chavez Clarke, a young man who on March 29 was attending Saturday classes at Simeon to try to work toward graduation. He was gunned down in the school’s parking lot shortly after finishing classes.

As I talked with students on Monday, I was struck by their sense of outrage over the prevalence of guns in their lives and by their passion to do something about it. Led by Simeon junior Ronnie Mosley, the school quickly organized 10 busloads of students to attend an anti-violence rally that was being organized for the next day in downtown Chicago by Father Michael Pfleger, the pastor of St. Sabina Church who has been a tireless advocate for stronger gun-control laws.

I can’t tell you how uplifting and inspiring it was to see the hundreds of young faces in the crowd that day. They are sick and tired of having their futures hijacked by the gang leaders who are terrorizing our streets and putting illegal guns in the hands of angry and disconnected teenagers. I actually had a young girl tell me that it is her hope that some day she can walk to her corner store without being afraid. That’s absolutely heartbreaking. That should not be a hope. That should be a basic right of every child on every street in America.

And I truly believe our students are going to rise up and create a safer and saner future. The social revolution of the 1960s was led by young people, and I see that same passion and energy in the face and hear it in the voice of Ronnie Mosley. He and the thousands of students like him across Chicago and across the country will help bring about real change.

We need to do our part as adults by showing them that we value their futures more than we value the right to bear arms. We need to invest in education and create more programs to help connect them to school, thereby insulating them from the lure of the gangs. We simply need to do a better job as adults of protecting our children.

- Arne Duncan, CEO, Chicago Public Schools

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    It is interesting, over twenty school children have been killed in Chicago already this year. Yet, we hear nothing of this on cable news, and little from the national media. Somehow when a good looking, white, female, college student is murdered, now that is news. AC360 should be applauded for running this story.

    April 9, 2008 at 11:55 am |
  2. Mike in NYC

    "[Walking to the corner safely] should be a basic right of every child on every street in America."

    Tugging at the heartstrings here. This can't be legislated. Crime is a result of failures in the “community” itself.

    Annie wrote:

    "Trying to outlaw guns has always been met with resistance and the constitutional right to bear arms."

    So you are acknowledging that there is such a right? If so, you cannot take it away. Most criminals acquire their weapons illegally, so stricter gun laws will only continue the disarming of the law-abiding.

    Cindy wrote:

    "The fact is that the gang members parents should have played a better and bigger role in their children’s lives ..."

    In most cases, you're talking "parent," not "parents." So-called "single mothers" cannot provide the same guidance to their sons that a father can.

    In my neighborhood in NYC, most kids grow up in two-parent families, and there is no gang problem that I can see. In fact, where I live, street crime is, and has always been, practically non-existent.

    April 8, 2008 at 9:18 pm |
  3. Zach

    Guns are not the problem...the problem's that people who are dangerous aren't getting the help they need. We have a basic right to be able to defend ourselves by any means necessary, so we need to be able to have guns. But really, the solution is not taking guns away, its figuring out exactly what's wrong with the people who kill people, so their problems can be fixed.

    Still, these kids are doing a great job.

    April 8, 2008 at 7:54 pm |
  4. Slater

    This is why I am a firm supporter of online and home schooling. Gives the parents an opportunity to raise their children properly and take responsibility for their upbringing. It also keeps teachers safer and would help the economy in many ways.

    When will we realize public schooling does not work?

    April 8, 2008 at 4:52 pm |
  5. Annie Kate

    As long as there are guns, people will find a way to get one no matter how difficult we make it. Trying to outlaw guns has always been met with resistance and the constitutional right to bear arms. That right though was created in the late 1700s when a person needed a gun to find food and protect the homestead.

    Times have changed but that part of the Constitution has not – we don't need a gun to get our daily meal now; a quick trip to the grocery solves that. We don't have invading British or attacking Indians on the frontier to guard against now. We seriously need to look at gun control because as a parent you can make your child as safe as possible, give them no reason to be in a gang, but the children who do wind up in gangs can come along with a gun and make your good parenting meaningless in the blink of an eye and the crack of a gunshot.

    I know that advocates of the right to bear arms will quote the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" but guns make it easier, faster, and more efficient. So what do we value more – our children and their safety or the freedom to have a gun that we don't really need?

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 8, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  6. xtina

    I agree with almost all Arne Duncan said. Making it very difficult to get a gun is number one. Doing a better job as parents to instill faith, family, hard work and personal responsibility is another key. But when he says "create more programs" it means tax increases. Arne Duncan knows very well that Cook County has the highest combination of sales tax and property tax in the United States We're already taxed to death here and the nanny state we're in can't replace the family. Those tax increases and "programs" haven't changed a thing.

    April 8, 2008 at 2:59 pm |
  7. Bill from Boaz, Al.

    I really hurt for those people that lost children due to senseless gun fire. But when a community is too dangerous to raise kids in,wouldn't it be the smart thing to move to a different community? I would not stay in an area that I considered ruff. I always wondered,back when people were dying in India,what kept them there. If I couldn't feed my wife,children,or myself I would have been on an eternal pilgrimage til I found help,and/or opportunity. Parents need to stop thinking defense ,and take some offense,instead. A child only has a parent/parents to depend on!

    April 8, 2008 at 2:54 pm |
  8. Vicky

    I couldn't agree with you more! I've been thinking about this a great deal with respect to the youth in New Orleans, but it holds for other urban areas, like Chicago and LA. While I'm encouraged that these young people still have hope and are working to change their community, it really shouldn't be their responsibility. Where are the adults in all this? Trips to the corner store should be part of childhood experience, and were some of my first experiences in independence. Neither can you learn at school if you're afraid of walking to and from school, or that another student may bring a gun to class. These young people first and foremost have a right to be safe. It seems that the value of being able to have weapons outweighs the value we place on children. It's not only seen in youth killing other youth, but also in accidental shootings from parents/adults not securing weapons so that young children do not have access.

    The problem with some 'rights' is that they have the potential to take away the rights of others.

    April 8, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  9. Jamila. B

    In America,GUNS ARE LEGAL...... Hmmmmm ....... I wonder if this has anything to do with it?

    April 8, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
  10. Cindy

    I feel really sad for all of the ones that lost their lives and for their families there in Chicago. But this is not a case of we shouldn't be able to have guns. Guns can't kill you unless there is a person holding it and pulling the trigger!

    The fact is that the gang members parents should have played a better and bigger role in their children's lives and they would not have turned to a gang to get what they should have been getting at home. That is the real problem. These parents who put their children last on their list of things to worry about. So the kids run rampant.

    Another problem is that all kids are inundated with way too much violence at younger and younger ages which desensitizes them to harming or even killing someone.

    Yes there needs to be laws to control who has guns but you can go on the street and buy them. So it comes down to people being better role models and taking more time with their kids.

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    April 8, 2008 at 2:29 pm |