Chicago Public School Death Toll Reaches 36

Chris Mickens

There is an epidemic in Chicago that's claiming the lives of children at an alarming rate, and it has nothing to do with swine flu. As of this Mother's Day, there have been 36 murders of Chicago Public School children during the 2008-09 academic year.

Instead of enjoying Sunday brunch or opening handmade gifts, a group of Chicago mothers gathered outside of St. Sabina church to share their sorrow and outrage over this senseless loss. Pastor Michael Pfleger, the organizer of the protest, drew criticism when he flew the American flag upside down.

An inverted flag traditionally symbolizes distress and/or grave danger. Veteran's service organizations have been outspoken about Pfleger's controversial move, deeming the situation inappropriate and claiming that the use of the flag in this manner is a sign of disrespect. The protesters argue that there is nothing more distressing than a mother's loss, no situation more grave than the murder of children.

Pam Bosley, whose 18-year-old son, Terrell, was gunned down in 2006 sympathized with the mothers of other slain students.

”We can't eat. We can't sleep. We're angry. We're devasted. We're sad. We don't understand our purpose for life because our children were our purpose for living,” Bosley said.

The Chicago public school system, also known as CPS, is the third largest school district in the United States and includes 655 schools, 408,600 students and 44,417 employees, including 588 principals and more than 24,600 teachers. With 36 dead, this has been the bloodiest school year in CPS history. (source: Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Tribune maintains an online photo gallery with images of the slain children and their family members. We should all take a minute to acknowledge their short lives and tragic deaths. When the result of our inaction and lassitude is the death of a child, attention is the very least we can give.

Chris Mickens was born in Heerlen, Nederland and raised in Germany and the south United States in an Air Force family. She is a graphic designer and web developer and currently resides in the village of Oak Park, IL where she is a principal at Educo Web Design.