Parents of Memphis boys at Cummings School center call for healing and forgiveness

October 6, 2021

Less than a week after a 13-year-old boy shot and killed another student in a stairwell at a Memphis school, the parents of the two children reunited, holding hands and praying for the healing of their sons and their city.

The victim, also 13, is recovering from her injuries and has since returned to school. The alleged shooter remains in custody.

The parents of the two boys met with Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray for about an hour on Tuesday at the Board of Education. The district declined to say who else attended the meeting. But Ray said Wednesday that the victim’s father, Emory Hammonds, initiated the meeting, adding that his compassion and desire to forgive was “so overwhelming.”

The shooting took place at Cummings K-8 Faculty School on September 30. The alleged shooter was charged with attempted first degree murder.

Her parents agreed to meet with the victim’s family, Ray said, and they discussed how to prevent gun violence in the community, making connections around the shared trauma of losing loved ones to the armed violence. During the conversation, the parents of the alleged shooter and the victim “recognized some things they could have done differently as parents,” Ray said.

Ray called the parents a “blessing in uplifting the community” and said they were an example to Memphis and beyond.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Ray said, “At the end of the day, these are my two students,” and sometimes students make mistakes. “So what I wanted to do is have both sets of parents and have a meaningful dialogue about healing to try to understand the root cause of the problem and really wrap our arms around the two students.”

With the case ongoing, the district declined to comment on the motive, although some parents took to social media to claim the alleged shooter was being bullied.

According to the police report, the students met in the hallway to fight, and the scuffle escalated into gunfire, leaving the victim shot in the stomach.

Shelby County Schools spokeswoman Jerica Phillips called Tuesday’s reunion between families a beautiful moment, in which parents spoke about choosing love and the power of reconciliation.

“It was really important to bring them together, and it was also a spirit of forgiveness on the part of the father, as you have seen, the young man who was injured.”

Ray said the district was determined to support both families and other members of the Cummings community in the aftermath of the shooting, noting: “This is the way – and the only way – that we will heal as a city.”

This press release was produced by Chalkbeat Tennessee. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

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