Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Negligent parents, lawbreaking kids

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 11:19 AM EDT, Thu August 22, 2013
Christopher Lane, from Australia, was gunned down in Duncan, Oklahoma, while he was out jogging last week. Police say he was killed by three teens who said they had nothing better to do. Police have now charged the three teens in Lane's death. Christopher Lane, from Australia, was gunned down in Duncan, Oklahoma, while he was out jogging last week. Police say he was killed by three teens who said they had nothing better to do. Police have now charged the three teens in Lane's death.
HIDE CAPTION
Charges filed in death of Australian student
Charges filed in death of Australian student
Charges filed in death of Australian student
Charges filed in death of Australian student
Charges filed in death of Australian student
Charges filed in death of Australian student
Charges filed in death of Australian student
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 14-year-old killed by officer at 3 a.m. LZ Granderson asks, where were the parents?
  • LZ: Police say boy was shooting at others, was arrested before for attempted murder
  • Boy's mother insists he was an "angel." LZ says parents often excuse kids' crimes
  • LZ: Parents should be held responsible for negligence in these cases

Editor's note: LZ Granderson is a CNN contributor who writes a weekly column for CNN.com. The former Hechinger Institute Fellow has had his commentary recognized by the Online News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He is also a senior writer for ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- A detail in the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Shaaliver Douse by a New York Police Department officer earlier this month has been stopping me from grieving his death.

The tragedy happened around 3 a.m.

Why was a 14-year-old boy out that late without his mother, Shanise Farrar, who called the shooting an assassination? Or his aunt, Quwana Barcene, who said the bloody gun police say was found near his body was part of a coverup? Where was the supervising adult who should have been with a 14-year-old boy walking the streets of New York at 3 o'clock in the morning?

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

"I'm not saying that he's the best one, but he's my angel," his grieving mother said.

Her "angel" was a suspected gang member who police say was chasing and shooting at an unidentified man when they encountered him. Her "angel" was arrested last month for attempted murder of a 15-year-old. Her "angel" left their apartment around 8 p.m. and she had no idea where he was until the next morning when detectives informed her that her son was dead.

I want to mourn for her loss, I really do.

But as callous and as heartless as this sounds, I just can't get past what awful parents she and the boy's father were. Children may be born angels, but with all the temptations out there in the world, it takes work to try to keep them that way.

I'm sure the three teenagers suspected in the death of 23-year-old Christopher Lane -- killed because they allegedly were bored -- started off as angels. But who, besides their parents, would call them angels now?

"I know my son. He's a good kid," said Jennifer Luna, the mother of the boy prosecutor Jason Hicks said pulled the trigger.

Australians shocked by Okla. murder
Australian student shot dead in U.S.

As a newspaper reporter, I covered and was around a fair number of crime scenes involving juvenile delinquents and few things bothered me more than listening to their parents. Crying, ranting, proclaiming how great their children were despite being kicked out of school or previous run-ins with the law.

That's not to say kids won't be kids. Of course they will be.

Which is why it is vitally important that parents be parents.

So when kids get bored, they don't think they should go "f**k with some n**gers," as then-18-year-old Deryl Dedmon Jr. suggested before he and his buddies ran over and killed 49-year-old auto worker James Craig Anderson, the first black person he saw, with his pickup truck back in 2011. Or randomly shoot a college student jogging down the street as entertainment -- though it seems the shooting may not have been as random as previously thought considering one of the suspects, who is black, tweeted that he hated white people back in April.

Parents are supposed to instill a sense of right and wrong in their children and then keep up the due diligence necessary to make sure they don't veer off that path. When parents don't do that, we end up with three 15-year-olds assaulting and breaking the arm of a 13-year-old on a school bus in Florida.

"This is life. I am sorry what happened to the victim," Julian McKnight Sr., whose son Julian was one of the boys accused in the attack, said after a court appearance. A second appearance is scheduled later this month.

"It's just the way it is. My son ain't never been no bad person, he just got mixed with bad people, that's all ... he sorry."

I am not a perfect parent with all the answers. But I do know that it was the father, and not the son, who was apologizing -- and that, my friends, is our problem in a nutshell.

We don't teach accountability, we don't expect accountability and I'm not even sure we even know what accountability looks like anymore. Some of us have become so addicted to pointing fingers at others for all the wrong that happens in our lives that self-assessment has become synonymous with blaming the victim.

Yes, there are cultural factors that make parenting difficult. And sometimes a bad seed is just that. But none of this excuses us from taking personal responsibility where we can.

I am tired of seeing "sorry" being used to cloak negligent parents.

Sorry won't bring back Christopher Lane or James Craig Anderson.

And they, too, were each somebody's "angel."

If sorry is not good enough to protect a bartender who serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who drives and kills someone, why is sorry good enough for parents who, through negligence, are culpable for the crimes their undisciplined children commit?

If my son goes out and breaks the neighbor's window, I have to pay for it. Why is a window more sacred than another human life?

We need to hold parents more accountable, both culturally and legally, for the actions of their children. Maybe then more parents will be more engaged in the lives of their children on the front end, rather than the back end, in front of a judge. Society has avenues for juveniles who refuse to obey their parents. But where are the safeguards for society when parents decide not to use those avenues?

I'm tired of hearing how good the kids who commit heinous crimes are. Maybe we should start putting parents on the witness stand so they can tell us exactly what they did to raise such perfect children.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
updated 8:32 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
updated 7:19 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
updated 8:12 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The Swedes will find sitting on the fence to be increasingly uncomfortable with Putin as next door neighbor, writes Gary Schmitt
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The Ottawa shooting pre-empted Malala's appearances in Canada, but her message to young people needs to be spread, writes Frida Ghitis
updated 9:48 PM EDT, Sat October 25, 2014
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT