The arrest of a Milwaukee girl, 15, for punching a school principal twice, knocking her out, became front-page news. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in the second in a series on school violence, says the story of the years leading up to the attack paints a portrait of the causes of youth violence. When she was just 5, the girl witnessed a gang murder. Not long after the shooting, her family broke apart. In the last decade, movement became the only constant in her life – from foster home to foster home and from school to school.
Her story, detailed in hundreds of pages of Children’s Court and child welfare documents, helps explain why schools struggle with violence. Many of the city’s children come from fatherless homes, raised by mothers who are children themselves or by the county’s foster care system. Many are shuffled around in a way that impedes long-term relationships with caring adults and mentors, as they live surrounded by the life-draining violence of the streets. In this teenager’s life, stresses combined in a singular, incendiary fashion during a moment when she lost all control. The Journal Sentinel explores the girl’s life in detail, although she could not be reached for an interview.