IT would be easy to leaf (or click) through The Oklahoman, pause for a minute at the sad stories of children and then move on. In fact, that's what happens every day.
But when we looked more closely, just in the past several days, here's what we found:
Last Saturday, The Associated Press detailed the horrific story of nine children removed from their home amid allegations of sexual abuse and educational neglect and that the children were living in unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
Sunday, we learned about Jake Hedger, who died at just 9 months old. Officials ruled his death a homicide; the father said a doctor compared the boy's head injury to “breaking up a bag of ice.” Edmond police haven't caught Jake's killer and haven't been particularly open about the case, including whether they're focusing on the parents or the boy's baby sitter.
Also Sunday, Midwest City police warned that the death of a 13-year-old boy two days earlier may have happened as the boy tried inhaling refrigerant from a neighbor's air conditioning unit. The boy's father said his son was as an athlete who wasn't a “druggie,” and urged parents to talk to their children about the risk of inhaling refrigerant and other substances.
Tuesday brought news that a 14-year-old girl told police a man raped her after she fell asleep at the house she was visiting.
Wednesday's front-page news was about a teacher — yes, a teacher — who resigned amid allegations she had some of her third-grade students to her home where she had them dress up in provocative underclothes and took their pictures and video as they performed a cheer dance.
Other stories published that day: A woman sentenced to prison for keeping her 5-year-old daughter in a closet and a grandfather accused of causing his 2-year-old grandson's death. At 19 pounds, the 5-year-old girl weighed less when a social worker discovered her than she did as a toddler and showed signs of physical abuse. In the other case, the grandfather is accused of injuring his grandson after the boy vomited in bed.
We could go on, but the reality is all too clear: The number of Oklahoma kids in harm's way is too high. Truth is we already knew it. Statistics on annual child welfare reports bear that out. But the children's lives detailed in our news pages on a regular basis aren't just statistics. They are real children whose lives were cut short or forever changed because those charged with protecting them didn't.
These stories don't have happy endings. Plenty of Oklahoma's children do, but what of those who don't? Their lives shouldn't be this hard.
There's no easy fix. But neither should any of us just pass these articles by with a sigh as another tragedy that happened to someone else and must be endured.
We have said before that Oklahoma — its people and its policymakers — has no more important work than protecting our children. That message can't be shared too often.