An argument over a silver bicycle led to the latest senseless killing in a school year that has seen so many of them.
Last week, 14-year-old Ulysses Simmons became the 27th Chicago public school student to die violently since the school year began in September. Neighbors said Simmons was shot in the back after fighting with an older teenager, whom he accused of stealing the bike.
In Chicago, the mounting casualties have added up to a serial killing of school-age kids.
Deborah Williams rushed to the emergency room after hearing that her 16-year-old son had been stabbed in the eye during a silly squabble on the way to school. He survived. Like many parents, Williams is at a loss to explain the level of violence.
"Kids are getting shot, stabbed. It's crazy out here," she said. "Something needs to be done."
Nearly all the violence takes place away from the schools themselves, on street corners, in parking lots and in homes. But the cost of the violence is deeply felt in the classrooms.
"We've lost a classroom of students this year," Chicago school superintendent Arne Duncan said. "And what we're seeing more and more is younger victims and younger perpetrators."
Denise Reed lost her 14-year-old daughter Starkesia in 2006. A gifted student, Starkesia was sitting in the front window of her home when a young thug, settling a score with someone else, sprayed the street with an AK-47. She was killed instantly.
Her mother has now become a leading advocate in Chicago's campaign to stem the violence.
"It doesn't make any sense that my life would be shattered because someone didn't know how to resolve a conflict," Reed said.
Too many young people quickly resorting to lethal violence appears to be at the heart of Chicago's problem. The idea of settling disputes with sharp words or even fists now seems almost quaint.
"Today they just use guns," said Dr. Les Zun, head of emergency medicine at Chicago's Mt Sinai Hospital. "And they use guns like it's no big deal."
Busloads of school children have descended on the state capitol in Springfield to demand tougher gun laws. One bill, backed by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, would have limited individual gun purchases to one per month. It was easily defeated.
Chicago police have beefed up patrols in the most violent neighborhoods. The public schools have invited shooting victims and ex-gang members to offer life lessons in the consequences of resolving conflicts with guns and knives. But the killings go on.
Azim Ramelize walks slowly and painfully, aided by two canes. Shot in the back at age 17, during a street fight in Brooklyn, he now develops anti-violence programs for the city of Chicago. Ramelize says the violence is deeply rooted.
"What it's about is guns that are readily available, the rage that we see in some of our kids, and when the two combine, it's really combustible," Ramelize said.