Since September, barely a week has passed without the violent death of a Philadelphia school student, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. The death toll of young people shot, stabbed, and strangled grew almost unnoticed until the shooting of 10-year-old Faheem Thomas-Childs, who was fatally wounded near his school on Feb. 11. The death made the entire city examine how violence is making victims of schoolchildren. There have been 23 student deaths since September, mostly homicides.
Homicides in Philadelphia have been increasing since 2000. The number of victims ages 5 to 18 has been growing even more quickly. In 2000, school-age children made up 9.4 percent of Philadelphia’s homicide victims. Since Jan. 1, they make up 13.4 percent of the total. They include a student who died after being punched during a pickup basketball game, a 10-year-old girl who died in an arson fire, and a kindergartner who was strangled with a jump rope.
For the first time, the public school district is counting the deaths of students and making an organized effort to let families know they can obtain burial assistance. Teachers and administrators say they are tired of summoning grief counselors to schools.
“I refuse to accept the notion that poor communities have to be violent communities,” said Paul Vallas, the chief executive officer of the Philadelphia School District. “We’re going to be vigilant about this” he said. The Police Department, the school district, and community groups are offering rewards topping $5,000 for the conviction of child killers. There were 39 killings of school-age children in all of 2003, up from 27 in 2002. From January to March 30, there have been 11.