APS chief on shooting at Grady-Carver game: Problem bigger than schools

Yesterday I posted a commentary by APS school board member Matt Westmoreland on the shooting outside the Grady-Carver football game on Friday night.

A Princeton grad, Westmoreland attended Grady High and taught at Carver.

Meria Carstarphen calls for a sincere effort to curb violence: "I am down for that cause. No politics. No adult agendas."

Meria Carstarphen calls for a sincere effort to curb youth violence: “I am down for that cause. No politics. No adult agendas.” (AJC Photo)

Now, Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen has shared her feelings about the shooting, which left an Atlanta student in critical condition and injured a woman driving by the altercation. It also shook up the hundreds of parents and students at the football game.

By Meria Carstarphen:

Friday night was a long night for me and many others in the APS family, and in so many ways it was a vivid reminder of the challenges that face our school system and the Atlanta community more broadly.  Friday night football is supposed to be about friendly competition, a showcase of our students’ athletic abilities, and an opportunity to have fun with our friends and family.

But tragically, a spirited Grady vs. Carver game was cut short Friday night by a senseless shooting that took place down the street from Grady Stadium.

One of our very own APS students was shot as he walked from the football game, and a citizen who was driving down the street also found herself in the crossfire, sending both of them to the hospital with serious injuries. Board Member Matt Westmoreland was there that night, and shared his reflections on Facebook earlier this afternoon.

I agree with everything Matt said regarding the events of Friday night and the experiences that families and children had in that moment. He and I were in constant contact and working in real time to support and get help for our children and families in that moment.

I, along with many other support staff, have been in contact with staff members, students and community members who had nothing but compliments for my colleagues at Grady and Carver who worked diligently to ensure all were safe and cared for. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for loving and caring for other people’s children. It is traumatic and scary and not the experience children should have in our community and around their homes and schools.

Friday night is an experience that I would never want any child, any staff member, any board member or any community member to ever have. The truth is many other APS clusters have endured decades of violence and disenfranchisement. Many of our kids experience this type of violence every single day and have become desensitized to it. We as a community need to take this conversation to the next level if we really want to transform Atlanta Public Schools and our city.

Tragedies like this serve as a solemn reminder that our communities across this city need help. I am starting my second year as superintendent, and I can speak from experience that this is not the first time that our children and families have experienced violence like this in and around our schools. My thoughts and prayers are with every child and every family who has experienced this kind of trauma, including the student from Crim who is still recovering in the hospital.

The events of Friday night underscore the need for dramatic and immediate change. More specifically, these are symptoms of deep-rooted problems that require real cures and solutions if we are ever to move forward. The problems before us will unearth ugly truths that require commitment to our future so that our children have the hearts and smarts to be better people than we ever were.

We as adults must be unapologetic in making the investment, embracing the bold direction that may indeed leave some people uncomfortable.  To correct the wrongs of past and transform APS – and thereby our city – our children must have a quality education that provides real choice and opportunity in their lives. This is why we are making significant investments in social emotional learning, positive behavior supports, talent, early childhood education and college and career readiness. But none of these strategies can succeed if we don’t transform the culture inside and outside the district to be child centered where EVERY adult works with our students’ best interest at heart.

I cannot, a board member cannot, APS cannot do this work alone. The issues are simply too big, too deep, and span too many generations to think otherwise.

It is about kindness, love and caring – and doing what is right for children. We have to have the courage to take effective action to change outcomes for our children that break the cycle of poverty, the cycle of bigotry, the cycle of ignorance and the cycle of violence forever in Atlanta.

I am down for that cause. No politics. No adult agendas. I don’t want our students or families to feel like they have to leave their neighborhoods to feel safe, respected, and educated.

Now more than ever, we need our community behind us.  We need our community to wrap their arms around our children and show them that they matter. We need our community to support us as we push aside agendas that have nothing to do with children.

While shaken, I’m not discouraged by this tragedy.  If anything, I’m emboldened to take a firmer stand for the children I came to Atlanta to serve.

Reader Comments 0

97 comments
HokeSmyth
HokeSmyth

It's over for me.  New APS supt. Carstarphen ends all hope of improvement with a truck-load of educational jargon and mumbo-jumbo in AJC 9/12 Q&A (page A4):  "help us do the programmatic" - "roll out social-emotional learning with the resource base".  She closes with"we need more investment" of course.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Lives do not matter - to these thugs. Then a certain race declares war on the very people trying to protect them!

class80olddog
class80olddog

If you caught a few and gave them the death penalty (and carried it out within two months), I bet you would see a huge decrease in crime

In Town Atlanta Mom
In Town Atlanta Mom


It was a lovely Friday night, particularly from our viewpoint in the stands.  Grady wasn't scoring so well after their star player was sidelined with an injury, but that didn't dampen our spirits much.  When you sit in the home seats, you have not only a beautiful view of the Atlanta skyline, but also the sight of people around you from different neighborhoods just enjoying a football game together. That night there were teachers, children of all ages, the Morehouse football team, and families of all colors.  We were simply enjoying the in-town Atlanta community that we are fortunate to be a part of.  We left at half time, walking through the area of the shooting just minutes before it occurred.  As we crossed Monroe, we agreed that we looked forward to doing this again. 

As a parent with one child at Grady and another at a private school, there are aspects (both academic and social) that I love and those that make me shudder about both schools.  In spite of the higher chance of encountering physical violence at Grady than at the private school, I am always proud to be part of the Grady family.  We will not let this event scare us away from attending home games, and we won’t allow ourselves to cynically begin suspecting that every teen with baggy pants is up to no good. We want to help make this community and this school work.  The difficult issues of race, poverty, and violence didn't happen overnight, and they won't disappear quickly either though we might feel safer with more police presence or metal detectors at the ticket gate.  We are in it for the long haul. 

The last thing we need to do is pull back, disengage, and give up.  Name calling, generalizing about a group of people, or blaming outside forces in Washington DC doesn't help, either.  Violence as a resolution for disagreements is not a black problem.  It is a problem for all of us to tackle as our city becomes more populated and increasingly divided economically.  Let’s get on with the hard work of finding solutions.




MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@In Town Atlanta Mom 

  "We are in it for the long haul."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Beautifully, positively, and courageously expressed.  You and your ideas represent the best of America and its people.

Charles Douglas Edwards
Charles Douglas Edwards

PULL UP YOUR PANTS  !!!


UPLIFT YOUR HEAD AND SPIRIT  !!!


Starting right now we URGE Black Youth especially young Black Men to:


PULL UP YOUR PANTS  !!!


UPLIFT YOUR HEAD and SPIRIT  !!!



S P R E A D  the message citywide,statewide,nationwide and worldwide.


Stop the violence   Stop the violence   Stop the violence ....

TDMan
TDMan

@Ivg....Your reply is not even remotely relevant to my post. Did I say anything about guns? Either have anther beer or repeat 3rd grade.

But your reply is typical of lib rants.

Suggest you stick to topic instead of just ranting. It would make you appear earth born.

lvg
lvg

Waiting for the Black Lives Matter folks to tell us how they will handle the problem of Black teenage violence that is out of control in Atlanta and elsewhere, I am sure they will patrol high school football games to make sure everyone is safe since they do not want police protection..


TDMan
TDMan

Those nasty two words again that I mentioned this morning just won't go away. Can't scrub them out, camouflage them, sweep them under the rug, pontificate over them, disguise them, ignore them, change them with a love fest or write novels about them.  No Sir, No Mam you have to own them. Personal Responsibility.

lvg
lvg

@TDMan  In Georgia it is okay to shoot someone if they disrespect you and you feel threatened even if you are a felon with a gun. So why is this even news????  Anyway when hayseed legislators and representatives  carry water for the NRA and gun sellers, you get the daily shootings and guns everywhere. If we had strict rules on gun sales and federal mandatory sentences for illegal gun possession, this would not be happening everywhere. 

HokeSmyth
HokeSmyth

@lvg @TDMan "If we had strict rules on gun sales and federal mandatory sentences" - just as "strict rules and ... sentences" have ended the drug problem.  

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

I too would like to hear something specific about this situation from Superintendent Carstarphen. If your high school students are going to hold a sporting event at night in a part of town known for random, sometimes gang-related street violence, how are you going to protect them? 


And never mind all the pontificating about love for the unfortunate, understanding for the minority youth from a poor background. That's fine for the students in the schools, perhaps. (Although, yes indeed, as gactzn2 said earlier, the schools and their students have unalterably changed since 2000--and so have the classroom demands made on teachers. A little humility from former teachers from decades past advising those who have to deal with today's students seems in order.)  But the shooting clearly involved strangers from outside with guns, probably African-American given the area and probably long out of school. Now what?

Rojer
Rojer

Those gangbangers and their $2000/month midtown trap houses?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Rojer 

I don't know, but it seems more likely it's the gangbangers and their stuffy Bedford Pine Apartments down several blocks on Boulevard. (Boulevard becomes Monroe at Ponce.)  Do you know the area of Monroe and 8th?

lvg
lvg

@OriginalProf-Not much of a prof if you think Grady HS is one of the  more violent parts of town. Suggest you visit Piedmont Park, Midtown and the Beltline some time.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@lvg @OriginalProf 

Have you been around the Bedford Pine Apts. on Monroe lately?  Or Ponce in that area? They're fairly nearby.

lvg
lvg

@OriginalProf @lvg Bedford Pines is over a 1/2 mile away and is not on Monroe. IT is on Boulevard. Visit the area some time. It is not a high crime area .

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@lvg @OriginalProf 

 But Grady's Stadium is on Monroe! Boulevard is one of those Atlanta streets that changes names, and at Ponce it changes from Boulevard Ave. into Monroe Drive. I drive down Boulevard and Monroe all the time.  And yes, the Bedford Pines Apts. is a fairly high crime area. I don't drive in that area after dark if I  can help it.

Starik
Starik

@lvg @OriginalProf Perhaps you should start treating it as a high crime area, especially after dark when APS is holding a football game. Res Ipsa Loquitor.

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

Folks, plain and simply, It's LEADERSHIP, or rather in our present day government, a lack thereof.  It starts at the top and when the TOP sanctions lawlessness, it filters down.  When the TOP takes sides, people notice and react.  When the TOP is weak and has no answers to the problem at hand, people react and sometime do bad things.


Friday Night Football used to be a family affair in Atlanta and you felt safe.  A lot of people went and sometimes filled the stadium and always rooted for their favorite team.  That was a long, long time ago.  Sure, even then there was security and everyone respected this authority.  That's no longer true.


In 1964, LBJ said "the government will take care of you for your vote" or something like that.  That was the beginning of the end for those peaceful times.  The entitlement culture began and has metastasized to the point that it threatens the future of our country.  Folks, don't look to the TOP for guidance to solve this breakdown, THE TOP IS THE PROBLEM and couldn't care less.  


And to Ms. Meria Carstarphen, "Schools are NOT the problem.  Society is the problem".  I don't go to Friday Night Football Games in Atlanta anymore.  It's too dangerous.  One of your duties as head of the APS is to ensure that safety is the most important issue at each and every venue.  You should take this duty very, very seriously.

Dr. Irving
Dr. Irving

@MaryElizabethSings @An American Patriot 

"Parents are simply older children".

We used to call these people "adults".  Adults are expected to be much more responsible and have much better judgment than "children".

Adults who are irresponsible and have poor judgment are generally frowned upon in stable societies.  That should be the case in our society if we expect it society to last.

I agree with your comments 90% of the time MES.  On this topic, I think you are putting the blame on the wrong people.


MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@An American Patriot 

Some people were afraid to go to Friday night football games in south DeKalb County in the 1990s.

You are thinking in generalities and in political talking points, imo. In all due respect, that kind of generalized thinking based on platitudes does not help children nor their parents.  Parents are simply older children, in terms of their individual development.  Let's stop trying to find scapegoats and work together and care together, for all.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Dr. Irving 

I have noticed your support of my comments on various blogs, Dr. Irving, and it has been rewarding to me to see your support.  I do not think that any one of us has all the answers and I think that we should all express our authentic opinions.  Please know that I value your opinions and have appreciated your support of my thoughts over the many months on other blogs, too.  Please continue to give your authentic thoughts whether or not you agree with mine or not, and I will do the same.  I know you will not read anything personal into my sharing my opinions.


I have grown past "labels" (such as adult and children) and I see all people as simply on a continuum of evolution not just of skills but of consciousness.  Some people make better parents at age 20 who have that maturity than others at 40 who lack it.  It is not for me to judge the 40 year old parent who lacks it. (God will do the judging).  I simply see.


And, what I have seen in my many years is that many adults need as much nurturing as do most children.  The answer is to provide that guidance and nurturing wherever the need falls.  That is simply compassion, and perhaps even wisdom, and American society, as is well known, has always had a Puritanical streak which I am not so sure fosters personal spiritual evolution.  When we, as a society, took our focus off of helping others to improve their lives, as we had tried to do in the early 1960s in American, and placed our collective focus on our own personal greed, our nation's young (who are older now) became lost in that wilderness of self-orientation.


More than that, you cannot take a society in which black people were not even given the right to legally marry under slavery, and where black female slaves were raped by white men of power and expect generations later that the same Puritanical rules of sexual (or reproductive habits) would be the same.  History, with understanding.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@An American Patriot


On October 16th, 1964, LBJ gave a speech on the steps of City Hall in Dayton, Ohio.  During that speech he said:


"So on November 3d, you must go down to that ballot box and you must cast your vote, and who should you vote for?


I would hope that that would be your ultimate decision. But I would hope that you would engage in a little introspection, and ask yourself whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, or Independent; say to yourself that the spotlight of the world is on America, the people are watching what you do and what we do. They want to follow us, they want to emulate our example. 


I would say this: that you ought to ask yourself, "What is best for my country?" And then you ought to vote for what you think is best for America, the judgment that is best for America, the experience that is best for America, the character that is best for America, the platform that is best for America. 


If you believe in a bipartisan foreign policy, if you believe in a United Nations, then I want to lead you. If you want to chart a new course and throw away the program we have followed for 20 years successfully, then you want another leader. 


If you believe in social security, if you believe in medical care, if you believe in collective bargaining, if you believe in equal opportunity for all Americans, if you believe in prudence and economy and progressiveness, then I want your vote. If you don't believe in it, you ought to go you know where. 


We have so much to be thankful for. We must recognize it before it is too late. We have so much to preserve and so much to protect. 


I believe, like you, that we want to see a land that is better for our children and one for ourselves. We want to see a beautiful countryside where they can spend some of their recreational hours. We want to work less hours per day and less days per week. We want to see a laborer worthy of his hire. We want to see the businessman successful, too, because the more both of them make, the better off the whole country is. "



But if you want to reduce that to, "'the government will take care of you for your vote' or something like that,"  you go right ahead....


An American Patriot
An American Patriot

@Quidocetdiscit @An American Patriot Perhaps you missed this........


Thomas Sowell argues that the Great Society programs only contributed to the destruction of African American families, saying "the black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life."[41]


Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@An American Patriot 


The "black family" survived centuries of slavery?  Really?  An institution that literally broke apart families and sold them to separate people?  Oh no, THAT had nothing to do with the downfall of the African American black family...it was those evil liberals starting programs like Head Start and making sure every child had a chance for an education and that elderly people would no longer starve to death.


Right. 


I do not deny that we have generational dependence upon welfare, but it is silly to simply blame the programs put in place to help support the poor.  The problem is one of attitude and it affects white families as well as black families.

straker
straker

CardiganBoy - "the perpetual victimhood bestowed on them by progressives"


Who told you that only progressives believe this?


And, do you think those of us who do believe it just pull it out of thin air?


Well, no, we don't.


We read the papers and watch the news every day and this lack of civil responsibility is crystal clear for all to see.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

@straker I told you it was a worthless opinion.  But those of us who ain't black don't hear what's said in church or at picnics or at PTA meetings.  We hear braying from the grievance industry (including the NAACP) to sandblast the Stone Mountain carving or investigate why 'Selma' didn't win Best Picture; or CNN's stable of equality pundits scolding white folks for their sinful ways.


White guilt still has traction; whether we wallow in it (see parlor liberalism) or it's inflicted upon us as part of a narrow, self-serving political agenda.


I think most of us, regardless to our backgrounds,  have a helluva lot more in common (in vice and virtue) than progressives/activists like to admit.  

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@bravesfan

I pity you for your thoughts and for the language you use. People like you deserve pity becuse like the poster said above you are rampant with fear and bigotry. What will you be rembered for? A person who uses this type of language? I pity you...and yes I doubt your story!

MoFaux
MoFaux

I don't know anyone, of any political persuasion, that preaches to blindly trust others. You hang out with some strange birds.

Dr. Irving
Dr. Irving

Can someone please explain to me how any of this relates to someone who whips out a gun and unloads 20+ shots outside a football game in a dense neighborhood area?


I really don't think it was because they didn't "feel valued" as a child.  As a member of the public, I'm not ready to take the blame for this.  How about we focus on discouraging women from having kids that they can't/won't care for?  What happened to the shame of doing something so selfish, destructive, and irresponsible?  This isn't a matter of race--it should be considered shameful for anyone to have a kid or kids they can't raise responsibly.


MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Dr. Irving 

What "should be" and what "is" are two different things.  We have to see individuals, parents and their children, as products of history - their own family histories as well as America's history, and the South's history, for that matter.  When we perceive with depth, we can solve society's problems with depth.

Home break-ins are up all over the metro area.  We are all one, ultimately.  Just sending people to more prisons is not going to change society.  Nor will blaming change society.  I, again, like the Democratic Legislative plan of "Community Outreach traditional schools" in which counselors play as much a role (for families not just students) as academics. Counselors' jobs in school settings are filled now with paperwork, such as course assignments, graduation requirements, etc.  Homes are improved by better healthcare (Expanding Medicaid as part of the ACA) offering more jobs, at a decent minimum wage, to families and helping students to develop skills and hope to compete in society. Hope is vital.  So is care.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

@MaryElizabethSings @Dr. Irving Good Lord, Mary Elizabeth.  This sounds like a hand-wringing rationalization that absolves he who behaves unacceptably of any responsibility for it.  


I think what you say to some extent has merit, but completely absent is any acknowledgement of the responsibility of the individual to behave responsibly.


And your reference to "... America's history  ...the South's history"?  betrays the reflexive absolution that many of us seem determined to grant black folks behaving badly.


Heck, most folks who live  here aren't from here.  Many came south or east and brought their spotty life skills with them.  It's got nothing to do with slavery and Jim Crow.  It's values.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@CardiganBoy 

The individual's responsibility goes without saying.  It is a must.  Everyone can get on that bandwagon.  It is my understanding that people need to become aware of.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Dr. Irving 

Hi, again, Dr. Irving.  My choice of words (that the need for taking self-responsibility "goes without saying") was probably not the best way to have expressed my thinking. I was trying to communicate, however, that in my experiences in working with our young adults, simply telling others that they should take more personal responsibility for themselves is not as effective a tactic as actually showing them how to achieve that goal for themselves, and giving them the skills to do so.  In addition, letting them know you have faith and belief in them that they can achieve self-sufficiency for themselves motivates more than lecturing or blaming.  Lecturing others on what they should do in a judgmental way tends to depress which causes the end of self-motivation not to be achieved. Whereas, helping our young through giving them the specific skills to become self-sufficient tends to inspire them to want to achieve even more.  At least, that has been my experience in working with others toward achieving greater self-responsibility for themselves.

As you probably have realized, I have taken the time to write the above for the readers of this blog, as much as for you, personally.  Best to you! 


Dr. Irving
Dr. Irving

@MaryElizabethSings @CardiganBoy 

The individual's responsibility DOES NOT GO without saying in our current society.

The expectation  of individual responsibility is NOT happening anymore.  Let's focus on expecting individuals to have personal responsibility rather than letting them of the hook and passing the buck around.


Lance Weatherby
Lance Weatherby

As a new super I think Meria deserves the benefit of the doubt. Her writing this is a welcome change in the way the APS communicates. If only she could get her communications department to stop its culture of denial. They are still saying it had nothing to do with the game while at the same time APS is offering "crisis teams of counselors, school psychologists, and social workers" to "provide support to students and staff at Grady, Carver and Crim".  


My big question is what is Meria going to do to fill the  "the need for dramatic and immediate change."



Astropig
Astropig

This is the educrat version of "We're taking this seriously". 


Lots of sound and noise,no substance. 

straker
straker

answeredTHIS - "no improvement in quality of life"


When the Black community, in general, starts to take civil responsibilities as seriously as they take civil rights, we will see a lessening of all this violence.

Ridiculing or ignoring this will NOT make it go away.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

@straker My worthless opinion is that black folks in general don't buy the perpetual victimhood bestowed upon them by progressives and that segment of activists who are little more than grievance mongers.  


But that's who has the forum to speak to the community at large.  So that's the only voice those of us outside the black community hear.


Making demands, promoting victimhood and fomenting rage is what drives many progressives and activists these days.   It's what they do.  


The rest of us are trying to earn a living.







AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@straker

Listen to yourself! Are you in that much denial to think this does not happen in your community? The two largest incidents of mass murders has been by a white kid with a gun going through a school squeezing the trigger! When your communtiy ( because like I said I refuse to group a race of people in with you) stops this BS about blaming a culture and a communtiy and take your frigging heads of the sand you will see that this is a COMMUNITY PROBLEM and not about one culture!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Although my words to Ernest, in the below post, more specifically addressed building skills, they are also applicable to a wrong-headed human philosophy of trying to make people into what you think the "good citizen" or "good student" (blaming others) should be instead of bringing out the best of what each person or student is uniquely meant to be, which fosters growth, reaching everyone's potential, and belief in ALL mankind.


Again: "There is something deeper going on with your business shift example, in my opinion. It is the question of whether we see human beings as being self-motivated and wanting to improve inherently on their own, or whether we see human beings as needing to be forced into improving through the machinations of those over them."