If I include myself in my immediate family, more than half of us, or three out of five are teachers, and everyone except for my mom spends at least twenty hours of his or her week at a school. Two of us, my father and I have been grazed by gun violence during the course of our teaching careers. Over the course of our careers, both my father and I have taught students who lived in close proximity to criminals and/or have engaged in criminal activity themselves. We have both been a witness to drug possession in our very classrooms. Drugs perpetuate weekly violence in our cities that sometimes leaks over to our suburbs as well. In the early 90’s my father witnessed the rival gang execution of a teenage drug-dealer on the front entrance of the high school in the city where he taught for thirty-seven years. During a fire drill several years ago, I found myself looking at the face of a young African American male who was holding a gun and firing down the street less than one hundred feet away from five hundred people, at least four hundred of them who were children. I remember the gunman being tall, in his early twenties and wearing a black do-rag, even though I only saw him for a second before we retreated into the school to that pop-pop-pop sound that was not marking the fourth of July. This school where the gunfire occurred was located only one mile north of the then superintendent’s roomy, downtown penthouse.
Ginger Katz and her husband Larry Katz were both successful professionals living in an ocean-front home when their son Ian’s Jeep was firebombed late one night in the year 1994. Ginger later discovered that kids “young soldiers” who get too deep into drugs are able to pay off their debts by committing acts of violence, such as firebombing vehicles on behalf of the head drug dealers. I met Ginger Katz in November when CABE’s executive director, Robert Rader gave me the opportunity to attend the annual CABE/CAPPS Convention as a Workingmother.com representative. Ginger has spoken to school and community organizations in twenty U.S. States and The District of Columbia; and many other states have fully implemented her drug prevention curriculum, including her children’s book Sunny’s Story. As I listened to Ginger’s presentation, I wept as she described how her son Ian was taken from her and all of us by illegal drugs in September of 1996. Ginger reads from her diary during the course of her presentation, and also shared with us how violence exploded outside her home after her son became so deeply addicted to drugs. For more information about Ginger’s curriculum and speaking engagements, please visit her website: http://www.couragetospeak.org. Ginger warns us that her son’s “smoking a little pot and sipping a little beer” opened up the floodgates to major addiction. Countless films portray the comedic quality of drunk and/or stoned teenagers. If we want to keep our children safe from everyday violence associated with illegal drugs, we must dole out kindness to everyone and anyone who might need our help. Encourage our children to speak about anything that bothers them as Ginger does with her programs. My prayers are with the people of Sandyhook, Connecticut this week and also with those adults whose brave actions and words help kids make healthy choices and hopefully keep them safe from violence.