sad african american kid with paper sheet near crop sibling
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

On the first day of school, when youth should have been talking about their summer vacation, sharing photos on their cellphones of frolicking in swimming pools, kicking it with their best friends or enjoying a quiet moment with relatives who live in faraway places, two students at a Prince George’s County high school decided it was a good time for “show and tell.”

But instead of a souvenir from Busch Gardens or a keepsake from their new boyfriend or girlfriend, two Suitland High School students brought loaded guns to class on Monday, Aug. 29. 

Deputies from the County Sheriff’s Office initially went to the school to execute an arrest warrant for a 16-year-old student who’d been involved in a carjacking in District Heights on June 29. But upon being taken into custody, officials discovered a gun in the young man’s waistband, according to a news release. 

Hours later, a parent notified the school after suspecting that Christopher Harris, 18, may have brought a gun to school. The weapon was found in the youth’s backpack, police said. 

Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson advised parents to check their children’s backpacks. 

“Families must assist us in protecting all students and staff from harm,” she said. 

Sounds good, but is that it? Of course, both young men, because of the poor decisions they have each made, have exited the path toward higher education and will more than likely spend time in either a juvenile detention center or jail. They join thousands of others who have traveled along the school-to-prison pipeline, which only continues to get worse for Black boys and girls in America. 

We realize that parents cannot discipline or watch over their children every single moment, particularly if there’s only one parent in the home. But many single parents, divorced parents and two-parent households in the Black community have been battling against the odds for centuries. They have lived in poverty, they have fought against racism and Jim Crow and they have survived with little or no formal education and with subpar employment. Perhaps they wondered, “how I got over,” but they did get over. 

Frederick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” 

It seems that the two young men who went astray at Suitland High serve as living examples of two broken “men,” despite barely having reached the age of manhood. 

We need the village to step up to the plate and offer their assistance in every way possible. But even more, if we’re willing to become parents, we have got to both understand and then accept the great responsibility that comes with having a child. 

It’s more than having a notch on one’s belt, having someone to take out the garbage or having a “mini-me” to ride shotgun along with us. We are required to be the first teacher in the shaping of children’s lives, providing positive “food” as their minds, hearts and souls continue to develop and hopefully, blossom. Parents represent the first examples for children as they learn the difference between right and wrong. 

It’s time for all of us to reclaim our youth, especially those who appear to be broken. If not, we’ll simply continue to provide an endless supply of tenants for either the graveyard or the prison industrial complex.

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