December 10, 2020
An Op-Ed, featured on AJC.com, co-authored by Executive Director, Kinnari Patel-Smyth, and Chief Schools Officer K-16, Mini’imah Shaheed.
Our community is still mourning the loss of a beautiful, brilliant, and bold fifth-grade student, Tyrell Sims. Tyrell attended KIPP South Fulton Academy in East Point and was killed after being shot in the head while he was playing with his friend in the front yard of his home. While investigators are currently reviewing the case, no arrests have been made. This grief is deep, this sorrow is heavy, but tragically, these emotions are not new to our schools.
Tyrell is the third KIPP Metro Atlanta student who has been killed by gun violence in the past five months. On July 4th, our eight-year-old student from KIPP WAYS Primary School, Secoriea Turner, was killed while in the car with her mother near the Wendy’s location where Rayshard Brooks was killed just a few weeks earlier. While Secoriea’s death brought national attention, and thousands mourned with her family, there has only been one arrest made and police suspect that there are as many as three additional individuals who remain at-large.
Nine days after Secoriea’s death, Vincent Truitt, a seventeen-year-old student who attended KIPP Atlanta Collegiate High School, was shot in the back by a Cobb County police officer and killed. Recently, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has completed their work on the case and handed their findings over to the Cobb County District Attorney for review. We are hopeful that both the current District Attorney, Joyette Holmes, and incoming District Attorney, Flynn Broady, will work together and provide transparent updates about this case to the public, however, to date, no officer has been fired in Vincent’s death, nor have any formal charges been levied.
We have lost three children in five months and we demand that law enforcement, city government, county prosecutors, and community members work together to ensure our families receive justice for their unimaginable losses. We want our legislators and leaders to recognize the need for legislative action to ensure that our students are safe to live and play in their neighborhoods and that law enforcement refrains from using excessive force.
At KIPP, we believe in the limitless potential of every child. We believe that our students possess the power to change this world for the better and that through education, we can help them develop the skills and confidence to lead us in the future. We teach our students that while systemic racism means that there is not always a level playing field, radical change is possible when good people work together.
Today, our organization and the Atlanta community has forever lost these three beautiful, young lives – Secoria, Vincent, and Tyrell. These students have unrealized hopes and dreams and our community will never be able to retrieve their lost potential. In addition, for their classmates left behind, too many of them will now carry a very realistic fear for their own lives. Of the many things we want our students to focus on, one of them should not be whether or not their lives will be cut short due to gun violence.
We want to have faith in our Atlanta community. We want to believe that the pain and suffering that our community is feeling deeply will resonate beyond the walls of our 11 schools. We want to believe that as a community we can feel the collective energy to build a better tomorrow where gun violence does not strip another family of their beloved child. We want to see Atlanta stand up, demand justice for all of our children, and work to ensure that no more families have to lose their loved ones to gun violence.