Recently state Senator Kimberly Lightford (4th) sponsored a state bill mandating a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day. The bill is called the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act and affects all schools in Illinois.
I attended Chicago Public Schools from 1959 thru 1971 and never once was I given a period of time to pray or reflect. But that didn’t mean I didn’t pray in school. I prayed over many an exam. I prayed over ACT test scores, biology, chemistry and algebra tests. I also prayed that the local thug and bully would fall ill and not be at school to get out of a promised butt-kicking.
I was recently at a local high school and after hearing the conversations of our young people, what they need, in addition to the mandated moment of silence, is a mandated curriculum called “The Consequences of Your Actions!” What caused me to come to this conclusion? Well it was those young people talking of having taken the Cicero Avenue bus home the day before, and once it got to North Avenue, the fights began. These were young girls talking. They even mentioned that an even younger girl, who was in sixth grade, had gotten into the action. What disgusted me most is the matter-of-fact nature of the conversations. I am not going to say they were proud or ashamed of their actions, but more like this was the accepted norm for their lives. Sad!
If you’ve been paying any attention to the news when they do cover it, the same thing is going on at Crane High School. Just a month ago, 49 students at Crane were arrested for fighting. Every day, the Chicago Police Department has to be at the school overseeing bands of roving teens, whether students or not, arriving at the school armed with everything from baseball bats to golf clubs. In the incident where the 49 students were arrested, one of those involved in the melee had a tooth injury.
Now juxtapose the fighting of our young people with what happened to a white friend’s son in the western suburb. Her son is 18 (the age of adulthood in Illinois except when it comes to gambling/alcohol) and let’s call him John. John was at a party when another boy, who I’ll call Joe, made a derogatory comment about John’s girlfriend. Words ensued, back and forth, between the two and eventually John hit Joe, knocking him to the ground. The fall caused several of Joe’s front teeth to get knocked out.
Well my friend got a call from Joe’s parents. Joe had just gotten his braces off, and that is why his teeth were loose. Joe’s parents had already spent a fortune on braces, and they weren’t going to foot the $15,000 in dental bills for implants. Joe’s parents asked my friend and her husband to pay the dentist bill. Joe’s parents were savvy in that they were well aware of a law that isn’t well known in the black community. That law is the Parental Responsibility Law. That law, passed in 1969, holds each parent liable for up to $20,000 for “willful and malicious acts” committed by their children. Those acts also include hurting others.
When I learned of the incident, I pointed out that John was now 18 and no longer a minor. But for reasons only our state legislators know, in this act, minors are defined as ages of 11 through 19. I bet it also had something to do with that freshman college year when children spend their first year away from home. Nevertheless, John’s parents own a home and now are on the hook for a $15,000 dental bill, payable through their homeowner’s policy.
We seldom-to-never hear in the black community of parents being sued for the actions of their children. Many of our children grow up with the misguided notion that they can fight and not be held accountable for those actions. Too often, the only lawsuits most of our young people know about are those where people are involved in a car accident. Recently state Senator Michael Noland of Elgin tried to increase the limitations 20-fold to $200,000. He has pointed out the cost of treating gunshot wounds and their corresponding medical costs.
This brings me back to my initial contention. Too many parents are still raising children with the message that it’s OK to fight. So if we are to give children a moment of silence to reflect on whatever, we also need to give them a curriculum that provides context for that moment. The consequences of fighting and doing bodily injury to another? Your parents will be on the hook financially. The consequences of stealing? The criminal justice system. The consequences of not getting an education? A lifetime of low-paying jobs.
And on and on.
Our legislators created for themselves a feel-good law in the mandated moment of silence. Now let’s mandate a curriculum that gives context to what our children should feel bad about.