Author’s Note: The slaying of Tyshawn Michael Lee on November 9, 2015 led this writer back to Resurrection (Catholic) School located at the intersection of Jackson and Leamington on Chicago’s west side. Sister Jayne Daly, of the Catholic Sisters of Mercy and principal of Resurrection at that time, ended up hiring a much younger version of this writer to teach reading, English and social studies to teach Resurrection’s sevenths graders when he was all of twenty-two years of age.
lt wasn’t that the folks who sent their children to Resurrection, as opposed to the neighborhood public school, were so fabulously wealthy because they were not, but they were hard-working, decent, law-abiding parents who understood that their responsibility to the generation of their children was to make sacrifices in their lives so that those same children would have it better than their parents.
The first step toward that end was to ensure that their children’s education would enable them to succeed on.a higher plane than that which the local CPS high school might have to offer.
Referring to one CPS school in ‘particular’ but whose identity this writer will not reveal, ‘Res’ students told of Bedlam-like conditions in the hallways during passing perIods and even after class had alresdy begun. Other stories of assault, robbery, gang violence, including gang recruitment of ‘Res’ students by ‘outsiders’ were commonplace.
Several blocks of burned out and boarded up apartment buildings still stand as if performing some useful service for the common good other than providing ample opportunities for squatters, arsonists and drug manufacturers and a host of other criminal activists intent upon making a bad situation worse.
The most damaged are the very young children who see these conditions day in and day out, gradually coming to believe in the normalcy of their environment. The cost to them is high-the loss of the distinction between right and wrong and the growth of a callousness toward human life and all that is good and wholesome.
The first day of school had gone as well as any reasonable person could expect from a first year teacher who typically knows nothing about teaching, having no prior experience with seventh graders other than when was one himself nor of any knowledge of how the effective teacher manages a classroom with as many as 35 to 45 students.
Sister Jayne Daly, principal of Resurrection, stood by her teachers and policies. She was an exemplar of what any school can become if it is absolutely clear to the entire student body that the school’s adults are in charge of the classrooms, the hallways, the bathrooms; in other words, the warden and his administration run the prison. The prisoners do not.
Having successfully built a school on that practical philosophical foundation, there was no part of the school day, including dismissal, when student conduct was not strictly but lovingly governed. All kids lined up in quiet orderly lines. We were but moments away from the excitement of hearing the dismissal bell ring in the end of another first school day of the academic year. Then without the tiniest expectation, a meek voice inquired …
‘You don’t like me. Do you?’
Glancing at his temporary stick-on name tag …
‘Joel, aren’t you rushing things a bit? I don’t even know you. After all, it’s but the first day of school, but I am sure we’lI get along just fine.”
I went out of my way to be certain Joel received the extra attention he apparently needed, some one to one attention that reassured him he was valued and loved. And we did become friends. He was a good kid, Joel. His former teacher remembers him fondly.
Not one for generalization or simplification to the degree that vital distinctions become blurred, we look back at the recent abomination of the cold-blooded, nearly unfathomable murder of a boy, a nine-year old boy, Tyshawn Michael Lee by the alleged shooter in custody whose name this writer will not spell out because he does not deserve a human name.
Be that as it may.
The killer of Tyshawn Michael Lee is not the shooter. Yes, the shooter pulled the trigger, but the killer is he who held the gun, by which this writer means: ‘About whom can it be said that he placed his newborn son and then later his toddler son and then later his young boy son into lethal harm’s way and by his apparent unwillingness to reform himself, and thereby better the chances he might be able to save his son’s life one day, find such a person and you will have found the killer of Tyshawn Michael Lee.
May he rest in peace.