KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas City, Kansas, school district officials say 18 of their students have been killed since last school year. They don't know why they're seeing this devastating uptick, but they hope a new campaign will get people to say, "Enough."
Blue ribbons can be seen at KCK schools across the district. It's the start of a new campaign, Enough is Enough, or Ya Basta in Spanish, to start conversations about the violence impacting family after family.
"We want our community to know the lives of our students matter," Lisa Garcia Stewart, director of student services, said. "They're not who their circumstances are. We want to be able to shed light and make sure we're not only supporting our families, our staff, but also the community and their friends."
Eleven of the students lost to violence were shot and killed. Six of the students went to J.C. Harmon High School.
The constant grief and death take a tremendous toll on everyone at the school.
"It's pretty hard," Manuela Rizo said, in tears. Rizo is the school receptionist, an alumna and has kids at Harmon.
"I consider these kids my Harmon babies and it's hard to see them go. You talk to them every day and you think tomorrow you'll see them again, and you're not promised tomorrow," Rizo said.
The school district is working on ways to go beyond the blue ribbons by creating a list of actions to take. Those will be announced in the next several weeks.
"We need to do something differently, so we are looking at what resources internally we can provide both financial and otherwise," said Randy Lopez, president of the KCKPS Board of Education.
The district also is working with community organizations, the Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office and the KCK Police Department.
Building trust with students and families will be a major component to this campaign's success. If students feel that they can turn to an adult at school or even within the police department, maybe the community will see less violence, organizers say.
"The community cares," Rizo said. "We love you, we want you to prosper, we have your back. Talk to us."
Lopez said many students don't feel a sense of belonging, and that's what the program hopes to create.
"We have a crisis intervention team within the district that reaches out to the families to do some of that preventative work to talk to them about resources in the community and looking at what are some of the needs of our families," Lopez said.
You can take the pledge to prevent violence by going to the school district's website.
For jurisdictions that utilize the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline, anonymous tips can be made by calling 816-474-TIPS (8477), submitting the tip online or through the free mobile app at P3Tips.com.