More than 300 Nashville teens gathered this week at the Mayor’s Youth Summit to brainstorm improvements for the city. And while they identified a broad range of challenges in their schools and communities, the most dire topic on many minds was teen violence — especially with so many in attendance whose classmates have been killed.
Juvenile homicides saw a large spike in 2015, only to have that number surpassed in 2017.
So in one summit session, when students were asked to stand and group themselves based on the most pressing issue, the first and loudest word to ring out was “guns!”
Several groups talked through the personal impact of gun violence, including attendees from Glencliff High School, where tragedy struck earlier this month.
Police and school officials say 16-year-old Jose Gutierrez, a soccer player with a promising future, was fatally shot by another teen while carrying out a string of car burglaries. Jazmine Wheeler, also 16, was charged with criminal homicide.
“A lot of people think that owning a gun is safe, like, ‘It’ll keep me safe and I can protect myself.’ But it’s also just like, what could happen — there’s misfires, there’s gun altercations,” said Glencliff sophomore Hayman Yasin.
“It’s just so much violence for no reason.”
In Yasin’s small group, the students also tried to come up with solutions. For example, they discussed whether more schools could imitate Glencliff’s “Peace Team,” which mediates disputes, and other ideas like mentoring and anger management.
Colts + other @MetroSchools high school students at Mayor’s Youth Summit 2018 currently brainstorming and sharing out about the issues that matter most to them as Nashville youth. #mys2018 #youthvoice @MayorMeganBarry @NashvilleON @oasisnashville pic.twitter.com/cATHMBiXfw
— Glencliff Colts (@GlencliffColts) January 22, 2018
But they’re not naïve. Bella Doston, a junior at Hume Fogg, challenged her peers to recognize violence in all of its forms.
“People, when they think teen violence, they definitely first go to guns. So I think it’s very important that we think about, like, ‘Hey, there’s not only gun violence in schools and at homes, there’s a whole category.’ ”
Sexual assault and verbal abuse are on her list. And Dotson said too much emphasis is put on counseling after something bad happens, instead of prevention.
The students’ suggestions will be among those delivered to the mayor and other officials.