KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With a tone of sadness and frustration, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell said Wednesday that he was "tired" of violence in the community, one day after a teenager was killed on Central Academy of Excellence grounds.
“I’m tired. I’m just going to sit here and say this. I’m tired, because I’ve talked about this,” Bedell said at a press conference. “I’ve talked about the amount of crimes that have taken place and how it impacts a lot of the students and families that we serve.”
A 15-year-old girl was shot and killed outside the Central Academy building after she was involved in a disturbance with the suspect, another teenage girl, at the school’s basketball game. She has been identified by family as Anjanique Wright.
The suspect fled the scene in a light blue or gray minivan and has not been apprehended yet. On Wednesday afternoon, the Kansas City Police Department said it had received tips and were checking into some leads.
Bedell emphasized that the shooting Tuesday night was not a KCPS issue. He said that although the shooting happened on school grounds, the victim had not been a current student.
Bedell said he was at Central Academy with his 7-year-old watching the game just minutes before the shooting took place. He was at a stop light just down the block when he got the call.
Later, when he watched surveillance footage, he saw bullets strike the spot where his truck had just been parked.
He highlighted the dichotomy between the atmosphere at the basketball game and the violence that followed.
“I said to people that I spoke with in there, ‘It’s coming back. Look at the revitalization of this school district and this community. They are out here and they are excited, and they’re out here supporting our students,'” Bedell said. “And then to receive a phone call that someone had been shot in the parking lot right after I left, that had nothing to do with the venue — absolutely nothing to do with the venue — very disheartening as a superintendent.”
Bedell said that school district alone cannot solve larger problems such as gun violence.
“Gun violence is not a KCPS problem,” Bedell said. “Gun violence is a community illness that is impacting the ability of our public schools to improve and thrive.”
Bedell also spoke about strategies KCPS has implemented to combat the issue, including mentorship programs, an emphasis on extracurriculars to keep students “off the streets,” and partnerships with KCPD, churches and other faith-based organizations to help teach students how to approach conflicts without violence.
“We have made significant investments in time, talent and money in order to make our schools safe and secure havens for our students and to address the social and emotional challenges that make it more difficult for our students to learn,” Bedell said.
Wednesday afternoon Kansas City Mayor Sly James put out a statement in support of Bedell and echoed his comments that change must take place in the community.
Last night, our community lost another young person to gun violence, again at the hands of a young person who had no trouble acquiring a firearm. I’ve spoken with Dr. Bedell and Chief Smith, and both of them have my unequivocal support. But the reality is exactly what Dr. Bedell said today: We need help, and we cannot solve this problem alone. Until we elect leaders who have the political will to pass common sense laws that allow us to do what needs to be done to gets guns off the streets and keep them out of the hands of those who would do harm, nothing will change.
Bedell's full press conference can be viewed below: