By John Sarandrea
Superintendent, Sharon City Schools
---- — “There are two great days in every person’s life, the day they were born – and the day they realized why.”
– Rick Warren, “The Purpose-Driven Life”
We have all been there.
In the early hours of Sunday, Jan. 20, my phone began to ring continuously. A myriad of thoughts went through my head in the brief seconds before I answered – none of them were good.
My fears confirmed, I received the report that one of our students, Le’Angelo Crumby Ford, had been shot and killed. Having watched Lee Lee grow up from elementary school, the
news was devastating.
The headline of Sunday morning’s edition of The Herald read, “High schooler shot to death.” The news brought great sorrow to a family, a basketball team, and a school community that had lost a well-liked and popular student.
Lee Lee was born on Jan. 12, 1996 and died on Jan. 20 – one week after his 17th birthday. While we all agree that his death was tragic and senseless, we must ask and answer some essential questions:
1. What can be learned from Lee Lee’s life?
2. What are the “takeaways” from his death?
3. How can we empower our young people with the lessons of this tragedy so that no similar tragedy will befall them?
First and foremost, teens and guns are a volatile mix. Consider the following statistics:
1. In 2012, a total of 85% of children aged 15-19 killed by guns in 23 industrialized nations lived in the United States
2. In 2008-09, a total of 5,740 children and teens were killed by guns. This was greater than the number of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined – 5,013.
3. There were 34,847 children and teens injured by guns during 2008-09.
4. The number of firearms-related deaths of children and teens is second only to automobile accidents. In a 2012 survey, a total of 50% of teens said they are finding it increasingly easy to obtain a handgun.
Chances are that your child or student will encounter a gun-related situation.
Parents and educators need to do the following:
1. Talk with their children or students about guns – tell them how you feel about the use of guns, the use of violence to solve problems, and the value of a human life.
2. Tell their children or students to immediately get away from someone with a gun. Immediately get away from someone with a gun if drugs or alcohol are present. Immediately get away from someone with a gun if there is an argument. If drugs, alcohol, and/or a gun
is present or shown at any gathering, get-together or party, they should leave immediately.
3. If your children or students find a gun, they should stop, do not touch it, get away, and tell an adult whom they trust.
As parents and educators, we need to seize this “teachable moment” and empower our children and students on how to respond when they find themselves in dangerous situations involving guns.
As I looked at Lee Lee during his viewing at Second Baptist Church in Farrell, once again a myriad of thoughts went through my head – not the least of which was we are burying a child today.
The biggest part of this tragedy is that it all could have been prevented. If we learn from Lee Lee’s death and other similar tragedies are prevented, his death will not have been in vain and one of the purposes of his life will have been fulfilled.
John Sarandrea is the superintendent of the Sharon City School District