Education Opinion


By Roslyn Johnson Smith, Ph.D. — March 16, 2008 3 min read
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Victim identified in Frenchmen St. killing
Saturday, March 15, 2008
From staff reports
The 17-year-old shot to death Wednesday night in the 1600 block of Frenchmen Street has been identified by the Orleans Parish coroner’s office as Lance Zarders of New Orleans.

Police officers sent to that location after getting a 9 p.m. call about a man shot there found Zarders lying in the street with multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency medical technicians, according to John Gagliano of the coroner’s office.

A dark-colored van was seen leaving the area after the shooting, police said.

Homicide detective Anthony Pardo is investigating.

Police asked anyone with information about the incident to call Crimestoppers at 822-1111 or toll-free at 1 (977) 903-7867. A caller could receive a cash reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the case.

This article appeared in our local newspaper this week. I had already received the terrible news about one of my former students from a teacher who taught him when we worked together at Haley School. It was really a shock to see him named as a “victim.” I’ve heard that it was a case of mistaken identity. He was in the wrong company or the wrong place at the wrong time. Who Knows? I was expecting to see him in church with his mother and father, just as I do most Sundays. He won’t be there this week. His funeral is scheduled for Thursday.

When we first met, Lance was a six-year old first grade student. He had been expelled from a neighborhood Catholic school for oppositional and obstinate behavior. He was that way as long as I knew him. You could not “make” Lance do what you wanted him to do unless he also wanted to do it. He was fearless. I remember that when he was in second grade he got into a fight with a fourth grader and won. He was small, but tough, and quickly developed a reputation as one you did not want to mess with.

However, his father had no trouble getting him to be obedient. It was obvious that he worshipped his dad and wanted to please him. “I’m going to call your father” was the one statement that was guaranteed to get Lance’s attention and a reaction. With a strong man to guide him and a loving mother, I wasn’t too worried about Lance. His was a story I thought would have a happy ending. I wanted to watch him go to college or become a carpenter. He could do whatever he put his mind to doing.

Lance was a very handsome boy with a mischievous streak, but he was also clever, funny, and bright. Unlike other children who got into trouble for silly things, Lance always knew what he was doing. He also knew right from wrong. As the years went by he settled in and became one of the more popular students. The girls liked him because he was cute. The boys liked him because he was a good athlete and very strong. Even the teachers liked him, once they got to know him. Everyone knew him by name. I don’t think he knew how much I liked him because I had to suspend him from school many times through the years in that school.

After Katrina, I joined a new church, Our Lady Star of the Sea. My old one, St Philip, was in a much damaged neighborhood in the Desire community. It was closed permanently by the Archbishop and will not be reopened. I saw Lance and his family at the new church. On his birthday, when he received the customary medal from Fr. Tony Ricard, the priest, I was proud of him. He was a student in high school, getting ready for the prom and his Confirmation. I learned today that my brother, Eric, was his Confirmation teacher in religion class. I don’t think his family knows that we are related. It’s a small world.

As I walked around the ASCD conference at the New Orleans Convention Center today, I tried to find innovative programs that we could buy for our school. Finally, I gave up and left for the day. My mind kept going back to Lance. I know some new “Lances” at McDonogh 42 Elementary Charter. They have many of the same traits as my deceased student. I wanted to see him grow into manhood. How hard can it be to raise a male child in this city? Lance was not a criminal. He wasn’t in the juvenile justice system. He was a young catholic boy who was not yet a man. But he died in the street. His family and the families of all of our students are in my prayers today. I pray that they live long enough to be men and women. Rest in peace, Lance.

The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.