Read Chapter 1 of 'Jack and Jill'

Charity was a foot away from her sister. She held the bakery knife high in the air. She looked at her sister and barely recognized her. Monica looked years younger, and totally helpless. Her eyes pleaded. For the first time, Charity saw the deep and intense pain in them. Pain she never noticed before. But it was too late. Swiftly, in its deadly arc, the knife plunged.

Harsh statistics warn us that these are extraordinarily hard times for your child, my child and everybody else's child. There has never been another time in the country's history when children have been more at risk than they are today. While it comforts us that typhus and tuberculosis no longer pose fatal dangers to our children, as they did to a generation of children not so long ago, we can take no comfort in the fact that adolescentcide — kids killing kids — is the major cause of death for our children today.

The statistics on kids killing kids far surpass the mortality rates from even the nation's most feared pre-vaccine era virus. For example, polio killed 3,152 adults and children in 1952. But a total of 5,326 children under the age of 19 were killed by guns, just 40 years later, in 1992. While advances in medical science spare our children from many of the diseases that once deformed, debilitated and denied them life, the disease of violence poisons them and punishes them with death. Every forty-eight hours, the number of juvenile deaths from homicide (26) is equivalent to the population of the average classroom. Kids killing kids is the nation's number one public health problem.

The FBI's Violent Crimes Index indicates that between 1987 and 1991 the number of arrests of juveniles increased by 50 percent — twice the increase for youth eighteen years of age or older. As alarming as this statistic is, even more alarming is the fact that juvenile arrests for homicide during the same period increased by 85 percent. In 1982, 390 teenagers, thirteen to fifteen years of age, were arrested for homicide. By 1992, ten years later, that figure had climbed to 740. U.S. News & World Report states that more than three million crimes a year are committed in or near the 85, 000 public schools in the nation.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 20 students will bring a gun to school at least once a month. The National Education Goals Report cites some 16 percent of the nation's twelfth-graders as admitting they had received violent threats and that half of those youths sustained injuries in school. Nationwide studies reveal that 1 in 12 high-schoolers is threatened or hurt with a weapon every year. Homicide is the nation's second leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 19. USA Today reports that of the 65,000 students it polled in its Weekend survey, 55 percent of them, in grades ten through twelve, know (present tense) that weapons are regularly brought to school.

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