After the funeral of Matthew Cox, who was shot outside his mother’s Montclair home, I met with Lumon May, who had coached the teen in the Southern Youth Sports Association. May had nearly lost count of how many funerals that he had attended over the past years of kids that went through the SYSA programs.
Sheriff David Morgan talks about poor parenting when he explains the rise in homicides and drive-by shootings. School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas does the same when he defends his schools’ poor test scores.
May shared a phone call that he had gotten from an 11-year-old boy who asked his coach to help him find his siblings. The boy’s tale was one that has become too common in Escambia County.
He had dropped out of youth football last fall when his mom was arrested for selling drugs to pay her boyfriend’s bail. The family had been kicked out of public housing. When she got probation for her crime, May arranged for the family to get decent housing. If the mom was short for money, he bought food and helped with other expenses—not much money, $20 here and there.
The mother was arrested again for using a stolen credit card. His two sisters were taken by the state. His brothers were with an aunt. The young boy was living with his father who had just gotten out of prison after serving eight years. He felt alone and lost as to how to take care of his brothers and sisters.
Morgan, Thomas and others are right that bad parents are the problem, but what good does it do this boy?
He has no control over his parents’ decisions. He has few choices. He will be tempted to take the path of others in his predicament. To provide for his siblings, he will first be a runner for a drug dealer and work up his way to selling pot and crack. He will have to harden himself or the older teens will rob him.
School will become the least of his worries. He will end up expelled or in some alternative education program. He will have a criminal record that will make him unemployable.
The boy will buy a gun and either kill or be killed.
Yes, he has terrible parents. That isn’t a solution to the problem. We must rethink our public education and social services to save these kids. Until we do, we will share in the blame for their demise.