Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the devastating massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where an expelled student shot to death 17 people — 14 of them children — and injured 17 more. It was the deadliest attack ever on an American high school.
Presidents past and present recognized the significance of the day on Twitter, the New York Times featured thoughtful interviews with nine survivors, and schools across Florida held a moment of silence at 10:17 a.m. to remember the dead.
That’s as it should be.
But now that we’ve appropriately paused to reflect upon the shocking violence that occurred there and upon similar attacks at other schools around the country (there were 25 during the last academic year, according to a Washington Post analysis, the highest number in decades), we should also spare a moment to consider the violence children face in Baltimore every day.
A Johns Hopkins study, published Wednesday in the journal Sociological Science, found that kids who have to travel through the city’s most violent areas on their way to school are more likely to be absent. They’re too afraid to make the journey to school, not about what could happen inside of it.
The average student here lives in a neighborhood that experiences 95 violent crimes during the academic year, researchers found, and they go to school in a neighborhood where 87 violent crimes occur.
They likely know that homicide is the leading cause of death in Baltimore for high-school-age African American boys and that the juvenile homicide rate in the city is many times the national average. They hear the shots outside their windows, see the shell casings in the streets and feel — vividly — the pain of losing relatives and friends to gunfire.
Many of them doubt they will see their 25th birthdays.
Last year alone, more than a dozen children were killed in Baltimore, and more than 30 were non-fatally shot. Among the injured was a 5-year-old girl, whose 7-year-old sister had been shot to death only months earlier.
In some areas of the city, large groups of kids walk to school together — a practice dubbed the “walking school bus” — to make them feel safer, but there’s no number great enough to stop a bullet.
Last week, an armed man entered Frederick Douglass High School on the city’s west side and shot a special education assistant before being disarmed by the victim and apprehended by school police officers. The incident — an aberration — rattled the community, and the school has been shuttered all week.
Now, the city school board is set to reopen the discussion about arming Baltimore school officers — a proposal that was previously rejected. And Republican senators from several counties have actually introduced legislation requiring it.
It would be nice to see that kind of suburban interference from Republican legislators concerned about the adequate funding of academics in city schools or looking for constructive ways to stem the violence on residential city streets. But adding more guns to the equation seems to be their chief concern.
What they don’t get is that for many children in Baltimore, the schools are their safety zones — the places they go, as one teacher put it, “to forget whatever is going on outside of the school building for seven hours at a time.”
One Frederick Douglass student told a teacher that he’s fashioning a home-made, bulletproof vest. But it’s not for inside the school, it’s for outside.
The Parkland students understand. At last year’s March for our Lives gun control rally, which was organized in response to the shootings at their high school, they shared their platform with students from urban areas, where gunfire generally doesn’t make national news.
“We recognize that Parkland received more attention because of its affluence,” student Jaclyn Coin said in a speech. “But we share this stage today and forever with those communities who have always stared down the barrel of a gun.”
We owe it to those young people to not only acknowledge their struggles and seek to end them, but also the struggles of the young people we see in our city streets and communities every day.
Where is their moment of silence?
Tricia Bishop is The Sun's deputy editorial page editor. Her column runs every other Friday. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @triciabishop.