Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Negligent parents, lawbreaking kids

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
August 22, 2013 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
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
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT