Danville City Council members, students, school administrators and other community members debated the ways to reach troubled students affected by gun violence during a community forum Saturday, as two more homicides were reported Thursday and Friday.
“I’ve felt your pain,” Vice Mayor Alonzo Jones said. “I’ve felt what you said. What we have to do is we have to listen.”
Jones, school officials and other community members spoke out after two days of shootings left two dead and several wounded. Jacquel Tashan Stamps, 21, was found dead Friday night after gunfire erupted at a party on Kemper Road. Sean Antwan Clayborne, 15, of Danville, was found dead in an area behind the former Highlander’s Restaurant, Lodge and Pub on Thursday evening.
Jones said council members were very concerned about the recent spate of violence and asked the community to come together and listen to its young people.
“Our phones have been blowing up all night long after what happened on Kemper Road,” Jones said.
Jones said social media’s rise around 2004 led to folks pointing fingers and accusing one another instead of looking for solutions. Jones said young people deserved nothing but love and support from the community, and urged the audience to let them know.
Some pointed to churches as a way to bring young people in, while other worried about the state of community services from the city.
George Washington High School Assistant Principal Cherie Garland said parents must play a role in the lives of their children and their schools.
“We don’t see parents often until there is a problem,” Garland said.
Garland encouraged parents to become active in their schools, and also said student focus groups might shed light on the underlying issues.
However, she said she believed neglectful, absent parents were often a huge part of why students lashed out and began the road to gun violence.
“I believe that we need to redefine neglect,” Garland said. “If you’ve gotten a call about a parent conference five times and I’ve not seen you, or you haven’t even called me back.”
Garland said she also had heard from students of abusive households and believed a closer look by schools at home lives would shed light on behavioral issues.
Panelist David Wilson asked the community to also look inward, and recognize their hypocrisy sometimes displayed when speaking to young people.
“They’re watching us,” Wilson said. “Sooner or later, they are going to listen to what we have to say.”