ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill. — The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently announced a new initiative in the wake of the recent killings of two black men in St. Paul, Minn., and Baton Rouge, La., and of five police officers in Dallas. The AAP will convene a group of pediatrician experts to identify new approaches to protect children, adolescents, and young adults from the epidemic of violence occurring in their everyday lives.
The initiative’s members, agenda, and goals will be shared in the coming days, and will address gun violence as well as the underlying contributors of racism, religious intolerance, homophobia, xenophobia, terrorism, or any other form of intolerance.
“This week, a 4-year-old girl sat in the back seat of a car as her mother’s fiancé was shot to death,” said AAP President Dr. Benard Dreyer. “Standing next to his mother at a press conference, a 15-year-old boy wept openly for his father, who was shot and killed while selling CDs. Five police officers protecting and supporting peaceful protestors were targeted and killed, and others were wounded. Today, it is not enough to issue another press statement expressing outrage and sadness, urging our national leaders to fix the broken systems that are failing our children and their families.
“The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile reflect a disturbing and systemic trend of racial discrimination and disproportionate use of force against people of color, leaving far too many children without parents, and siblings, and friends,” Dreyer added. “The killings of the five police officers in Dallas doing their job and protecting their community are also deplorable and cannot be tolerated. As pediatricians, we see first-hand the effects of violence in the lives of children and their families. Too often we are called upon to mend bodies punctured with bullets and heal hearts broken by loss.
“Today, we must act,” he went on. “As president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I am eager to convene our experts and think boldly about the role pediatricians and the AAP must play to confront the twin epidemics of violence and intolerance in the lives of children, adolescents, young adults, and their families.”
Karen Remley, AAP executive director and CEO, noted that the past year alone has seen high-profile acts of violence in Paris, Istanbul, Charleston, S.C., Dallas, San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando, Fla. “But the pervasive acts of daily gun violence — which don’t make media headlines — have also not abated. Every person involved was once a child. Children and members of their families and communities continue to be targeted for acts of discrimination and violence because of the color of their skin, the gender with which they identify, the people they love or the uniform they wear.
“Pediatricians may not be able to solve these problems — which leave in their wake fear and mistrust, confusion, anger, and deep sorrow — but pediatricians know children best,” Remley went on. “We care for children in the communities where violence erupts, and we talk to parents about how to keep their children healthy and safe. Pediatricians who work in urban and suburban pediatric practices, emergency rooms, and rural clinics can come together to understand what is happening and how to address it. Through this new effort, we will confront the violence in children’s lives and its root causes. We don’t yet know where this conversation will lead us, we just know we need to act. I look forward to beginning this work as soon as possible.”