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A life cut short, a graduation celebration canceled

By Katy Murphy
Friday, May 27th, 2011 at 10:14 am in crime, high schools, students, violence.

DITIYAN FRANKLINDitiyan Franklin would have graduated from Castlemont’s Leadership Preparatory High School next month. But on Wednesday afternoon, the Oakland teenager was shot and killed a couple of blocks from his house, near Arroyo Viejo park in East Oakland. Police said Thursday they had not determined a motive or identified a suspect.

Franklin is the second Castlemont senior in recent months to lose his life. His father said Chris Jones, a student at East Oakland School of the Arts who was fatally shot outside of his house Dec. 31, was a neighbor.

Yesterday, we talked to grieving family members and classmates about Franklin. You can find the story here.

MODERATOR’S NOTE: Please keep your comments respectful of those who knew and loved Ditiyan Franklin.

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  • Nextset

    Here we go again.

    I’ve said it before and I say it again. I don’t believe OUSD is doing a reasonably good job in training it’s students (as they age) to discuss, identify and articulate risk factors for all the problems in life they are expected to navigate – because of their race, their zip code, their sex, all of it. It’s not just the flying lead problem either.

    It’s not too early and it’s never too late to do this and manage your life with some insight to the live wires we are walking through.

    I know how “sensitive” some of the readers are about this discussion every time one more black boy in Oakland is killed. Too bad, these things need to be said in the contest of an education blog. Some schools have more than average risk of kids having DUIs and DUI fatalities. They work on that. Some schools have a really aberrant pregnancy rate. They work on that. OUSD (and probably Los Angeles USD) have a high risk of this( and other mortality/health problems). I don’t hear of much of anything done to work on training the kiddies to understand and manage risk.

    This morning I had a discussion with another attorney, a colleague. This person is doing something that is increasing the risk of being a serious crime victim. Seriously increasing the risk. We talked about it. The attorney is going to pursue this plan because it pleases the attorney to do so. Hopefully the spouse and child aren’t killed in the process. It’s a risk that person is going to take. I’d never do it – I don’t think it’s a faint risk at all I think it’s a very significant risk for someone getting criminally shot and/or killed. To each his own and they’re not children, even the children. They know what they’re facing.

    So even grown adults court murder and some of them like to hang glide and jump out of perfectly good planes also. I know them too.

    On another thread someone, Pepe I think, took the position that you cannot educate teens out of risky behavior. I was arguing that we should be teaching other “Social Values” such as the Penal Code rather than PC genderbending tolerance. I disagreed on that point taking the position that although coaching for risk management works less with certain people, it still can mitigate or reduce risky behavior and is worth doing. Besides, we owe it to the brights within every class to give them the best chances to wear better.

    An last point. I nearly would up dead a few weeks ago – got my first ambulance ride in my life. The care (IV drugs and epi) in the ambulance followed by lots more at the ER probably saved my life. 2 days later when I was discussing what happened with the specialist he mentioned that I’m black (it’s official now?) and that’s a risk factor for that problem when combined with a common blood pressure drug I take. Hmmm. Some internet research later – yes, it’s common knowledge that blacks on that class of drug tend to have that (lethal if not Emergency Treated) reaction more than any other group, the risk increases with age and other factors.

    Well you learn something new every day. I would have appreciated it being mentioned before now. We’ve blocked some of the dynamic risk factors now to get (completely) out of this risk pattern I didn’t realize I was running. I need to do my own reading on medicals now that I’m older.

    Sorry people Race is one of the single biggest risk factors for a lot of things more so when you start combining additive risk factors.

    And as far as these killings of black boys in Oakland and LA – these are no accidents. They never are.

    If we want these kids to wear in this Brave New World the black schools need to do a better job. I’m not buying that there’s nothing they can do about this pattern of high mortality stats OR the dropout stats.

    And As I said to Pepe. I’m not buying that the black students/teens can’t be trained to control and adjust risk factors. I don’t accept that the Irish teen mortality rate can be kept as acceptable levels for the Irish and the Black teen death rate has to look like this. It wasn’t like this before and it can be reduced buy better training/education. Regardless of the families.

  • jesse james

    Katy–please check all comments before posting on this particular story. It shouldn’t be a place for the above comments. There are other places for this type of commentary.
    Thanks.

    I wish the family peace and comfort at this difficult time.

  • Nextset

    An afterthought.. The Public Schools in the East Bay have dropped the swimming classes, the driver’s training classes in school autos, industrial arts such as Wood Shop,Print Shop and Auto Repair. I get it that things are being cut.

    But when I think of how my schools “taught” us how to avoid getting run over by a Steam Roller or how not to get electrocuted or poisoned it wasn’t done in a specific class (thus it hasn’t been “cut”?) The concept of identifying risks – use of data, research and statistics – seems to have come from a variety of things during primary and secondary school. I can’t point easily to exactly which class or teacher taught specific points. They all did.

    They also taught us respect for authority, how to speak and act in public, and a ton of other things needed to get ahead in life and dodge the steamrollers at the same time. Other than that student who blew his hand off fooling around with explosives (he must have missed the safety lectures in Chemistry and Biology class about handling dangerous substances) we managed to graduate alive. The ones who failed to graduate were send down to continuation school and a few had summer school to graduate. Nobody got shot, though, just some hospitalizations for misadventures.

    But we did get safety lectures and movies shown in a variety of classes. I wonder if OUSD does any of this?

  • Katy Murphy

    As I mentioned in my moderator’s note, I encourage everyone posting to be respectful to the family and friends of Ditiyan Franklin. I’m also hopeful the thread will not turn into a back-and-forth that has played out on this blog after other tragedies.

  • Nextset

    Jesse James: What other places? Where else is OUSD policy discussed and debated? Isn’t this thread about two new fatalities of OUSD black teens? What is it going to take for the school district to do something more about this problem? Or and I wrong that this is any concern of the school district? When I was in school in the East Bay in the ’60s the schools reacted strongly if someone was hit by a car or had any such problems off campus. We were quickly subjected to lectures on cross-walking. Later when we got older and there were come car crashes we were all read the riot act about our driving. When a child at Orinda dies in a DUI I believe the school called a all student meeting and put on lectures and an exhibit of a wrecked car.

    So Jesse – you’re wrong about my comments. You just don’t want to deal with the issue. You don’t want debate as to what degree if any OUSD is or is not handling these murders. This isn’t the obit commentary. That’s elsewhere. No one is talking about any individual case or action. Don’t even know much about the individual cases. That’s not the issue.

    The issue is that when black children die the black schools handle things differently than the white schools – so it seems – and they do not turn up the “safety” lectures or whatever you call the white school response. The black schools throw a memorial and go right back to business as usual.

    Wonder why.

    Brave New World

  • jesse james

    I wish the family peace and comfort.

    Nextset, I am with you on #5. Please connect with OUSD’s Psychological Services as they are no doubt setting up a crisis team to deal with the aftermath at this time. Ask/demand for this to happen. You are right that there needs to be a strong school response. I had no idea about Orinda’s actions and I am glad you do. It does seem that local response is no response. I hope you put your words into action. As I am a friend of the school psychologist in charge of a crisis team, I will tell her about your response. I do hope you go to a school board meeting and demand that district response is not just a bulletin board, a hug and a prayer…. I appreciate your giving an actionable response. Now we’re talking! Thank you.

  • Nextset

    The Los Angeles Times runs a daily blog on homicides often with photos and map displays of the place of the murder. They always comment on the race, age and sex of the decedent and any suspects, as well as any known facts of the killing.

    The age, sex, racial data and locations of the murders are very illuminating. I don’t know if Detroit and Flint MI and other places similar to Oakland are doing the same.

    Here’s the link. These troubles are not just happening here.

    http://projects.latimes.com/homicide/blog/page/1/

    The LA Times has been criticised for disclosing the racial info by those who try to hide facts from the public for their own twisted purposes. The Times has made it’s position clear that the sex, race & age data is vital to publish.

  • Castlemont teach

    Sending love and support to this young man’s family along with so many young people in our community who have been affected by violence.

    A young man destined for greatness-at graduation castlemont will embrace both young brothers who were taken too soon in their life…

  • Gabby

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Ditiyan Franklin and Chris Jones. It is tragic when a life is cut short by senseless violence. I hope the families have what they need in terms of grief counseling and other support services.

    I agree that the schools should do much more to educate youth about the traps in life that they must avoid. Many teens fall victim to violence simply from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others join gangs out of fear and intimidation, or feeling that they have no choice but to join a gang for protection. Either way, the violence is beyond disturbing. This young man was college bound, which made him a far better candidate for being saved.

    I strongly feel that just as educators have an ethical obligation to counsel kids about doing what it takes to graduate high school and go to college, the same should be done to teach them the traps to avoid in order to stay alive. This includes the underage drinking, avoiding drugs, staying away from the corner, and teaching that many so called “friends” are not real friends at all.

    The problem with a lot of the kids (and I am not saying this about Ditiyan Franklin at all because I don’t know his case and he sounds like he was a good kid) is that the deep lack of self esteem, as well as the sense of hopelessness, prevents many of the students from hearing what positive steps to take to survive. Also, a lot of teens think that they have life all figured out at 15 or so, which is typical teen behavior. I have explained to teenagers the dangers of what happens to people who get involved in gangs, but it seems to fall on deaf ears. I have seen gang intervention specialists, people who used to be in that life, who have been shot, and are still walking around with the bullet inside of them, who have turned their lives around try to appeal to the teens, with a lot of blank stares in response. It is heartbreaking.

    I saw Nextset’s post with the link from the L.A. Times, and the demographics were deeply upsetting. Upsetting, but unfortunately, not surprising.

    Perhaps more peer counseling, better after school programs, and required attendance at after school programs like Youth Uprising or East Oakland Youth Development Center would help. I doubt that the education administration would sanction something like that, because of political correctness, appearing to force kids to do something they don’t want to do, etc. But maybe they need to be forced to do what they don’t want to do. These are desperate times, not the time to be politically correct. Too many young Latino, and especially Black lives are at stake.

  • Nextset

    Gabby: there is nothing senseless at all about these killings.

    We need to stop using that word. These killings are occurring for specific reasons. It’s our refusal to discuss and deal with the reasons that keep the status quo going.

    And low self esteem is not involved either. The players in these cases have lots of self esteem. Toxic levels of self esteem are normal for lower ses blacks. That high self esteem is exactly what prevents them from changing, from making progress in life.

    I am afraid it’s our ghetto schooling that creates the attitudes that results in the high mortality rates. The changes since 1965 is responsible for the higher death rates now. We’ve required seat belts so the car crashes aren’t killing teens now as much as before. But the nonsense we teach has black boys running around with sissors and a lollypop in their mouths with shoes untied. And we have these stats to measure what a great job we’ve done.

    Sometimes these deaths are evolution in action and we can’t stop them. Most of the time I say we can. There were times my friends and I could have been killed as teens. I see now that there was just enough safety protocols drummed into our heads that we lived. And we had a lot of people doing the drumming. Our middle school and high school instructors as well as our friends parents and our own. We had guns and ammo accessible 24/7 since age 5.. We had motorcycles (and yes, I was thrown from a bike once. Helmet saved me from serious injury). We blew a few things up. And we rode AC Transit a lot. We had whites cursing us as we walked home from grade school. There were racial issues in 1960 or so I will remember.

    I think the difference then was the level of controls and nose to nose “instruction” on how to act, dress & carry ourselves. As well as restrictions on when and where we were permitted to go. We all drove cars at 16. Could have been killed there also. Seat belts and time controls were applied.

    So what’s so different now that the black boys are catching flying lead?

    By the way, this issue is far worse in LA. I have a relative down there apron 20 that I don’t expect to survive. I think he’ll get shot in a senseless killing that is predictable. Other relatives agree and we don’t discuss our feelings with that branch of the family. Why? Because they cannot discuss these risks rationally. They think such a discussion is a personal attack on the boy and his “values/lifestyle”. They think we just don’t like the (gang) tattoos. (We don’t)

    So there you go..

    Risk factors. Learn them. Teach them. Whites and other ethnics do. Life is not about adolescents doing everything their way.

  • Cranky Teacher

    The word from students and teachers at Castlemont is, as reflected in the Tribune article, that the boy in question was a sweet, gentle kid who was killed because of a larger grudge war between two families. He was murdered because of who he was related to, not because of anything he did or didn’t do.

  • livegreen

    I have to say I wonder if there is some targeting going on. I understand there are gangs at some schools and, if Castlemont is one, I wonder if they’re targeting students who aren’t following their prescribed lifestyle or who are examples of good alternatives.

    Whatever the reasons, my condolences to the family of Ditiyan Franklin. It means something that he was a good kid, doing well.

  • Jenna

    I have two sons. My sons are mixed race; although not African American, but Latino and White. They have Hispanic surnames. We live in an area that is considered East Oakland, though not deep East Oakland. We are buying our home. We love our neighbors AND I would not hesitate to leave it all behind and move out of Oakland if I thought my sons were in danger of becoming involved in gangs or being targeted.

    If I could not find a job in my current profession where I moved I would scrub toilets, flip burgers or do whatever it took to keep my sons safe.This was the family agreement when we first moved to Oakland.

    If the families have a rivalry that includes murder, parents and/or grandparents know of the rivalry. I do not understand how anyone, man or woman, can bring a child – or by relation bring a grandchild – into this world and not sacrifice her or his own life, career, home or community to protect their own children. I do not understand.

    The liberals on this blog will talk about cycles of poverty, how hard it is to go, and so on, but a family on aid in Oakland (Alameda County) can move to another part of the county. Families can use crises centers. I just don’t understand parents and grandparents not protecting kids. It is as if the parent’s right to go on living their own lives are more important that the basic Maslow hierarchy of safety.

  • Nextset

    I have a close associate who’s black son is a football star at a nationally ranked college. They’ve made it clear to him that he’s not to come back home to hang around during breaks. They don’t feel he’s safe. He’s got plenty to do at college and there are plans and programs for him elsewhere during breaks.

    It’s really something to know you can’t sleep at night when the kids are out in cars in town. Even though you’re in a gated community with private guards. Your kids are the wrong color with the wrong friends for safety.

    And we all know what happened to Bill Cosby and his wife. Their son was murdered while off in the mother’s car.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ennis_Cosby

    Find A Death has more info:

    http://www.findadeath.com/Deceased/c/Ennis%20Cosby/ennis_cosby.htm

    The black professionals are no less aware of this flying lead syndrome and have to think about what cars we put our kids in and exactly where and with who they are allowed to circulate. All you can do is manage the risk and not court additional risk factors. Sometimes that means you keep the kids out of your town altogether. Or maybe you keep them home after 11pm.

    There is a black and mexican war going on in California and perhaps other states where the blacks are losing. Ethnic cleansing by bullets. You can be shot for being in the wrong neighborhood or street. Then you have the problems about the color clothes people wear. A teacher friend of mine said that an occupied school bus was shot at after some of the black students threw gang signs out the windows as they drove through a neighborhood. He is leaving that school system, by the way. Had enough of teaching.

    Black boys are an endangered species. It would help if there were more discussion and training on the risk factors for these so called “senseless killings”. You see, the killings made perfect sense to the person behind the trigger.

    Brave New World.

  • BobS

    Truly sad. My sincere condolonces.

  • Gabby

    To Livegreen: what you said about kids being targeted for setting good examples is indeed happening. I have witnessed poorly performing students deriding other students for taking the opportunity to make up quizzes, stay after school for additional help, etc. Never mind that the students who do the teasing are also given the same opportunity to make up work, but refuse. Believe me, I’ve made statements to praise the students who take initiative for making the smart choice. I’ve also told the other students that if they decide to keep their “F,” without making up the work, that is their choice, but they have absolutely NO right to try to prevent their classmates from improving themselves and their GPAs. I’ve also given students the numbers about expected salary for someone who drops out of high school, a high school graduate, someone who finishes college, and someone who gets an advanced degree. My point is that negative peer pressure is so prevalent. The kids tend to not think beyond today, much less tomorrow, or about real and long-term consequences for poor life choices.

    To Nextset: To piggyback on your point, I have a friend with a young driving-age African American son. She helped him get an old Volvo, just so he’d be safe. Those souped up Buicks with the huge rims and flashy paint jobs are nothing but moving targets. It’s strange how many of the youth want to drive the exact same car as their friends. They did that when I was their age too, come to think of it.

    In any case, there is at least some training about how to stay away from gangs, and there are some mentorship programs for African American boys (check out the AAMA Program for the latter). Many of the boys appear to be afraid of these programs, because they are teaching the reality of what happens to the kid who stays in the gang/thug life–prison and a criminal record or an early death. Since the kids are afraid, I feel that these programs should be mandated by the school districts as a condition of being enrolled in a Title I school. I know that’s probably “unlawful,” or “discriminatory,” but then again unjust or even outright silly laws have always been on the books, so I’m thinking why not give it a try, especially if a law like this one might save lives.

    One more thing: The low-income Black and Mexican girls are in big trouble also. Many of them are pressured to join girl-gangs, and their achievement rates are dismal. I’m going to research programs that can provide guidance for those specific populations.

  • Gabby

    I almost forgot the great part: two of the students who were teasing the student who wanted to make up work have made some real effort recently to try to improve. I hope it sticks, because I’ve seen students make great effort for 4 weeks or so, then fall back into old negative behavior traps. I just wanted to report that positive note.

  • http://sites.google.com/site/abernethymath/home Rori Abernethy

    I have his brother in my Geometry class. Devastating and very sad.