ELIZABETHTOWN, NC (WECT) - Four Bladen County mothers are part of a growing consensus demanding a stop to the violence among local teenagers.
Tuesday, a gang fight turned into a shooting on school grounds. Now, two West Bladen High School students are in jail. Another has a bullet inside him.
The violence stems from a long-time rivalry between communities. Less than a decade ago, the neighboring communities of Bladenboro, Tar Heel, and Dublin merged their students together at West Bladen High School. Parents, students, and school officials agree that students' refusals to blend together and get along are still causing problems years later.
Members of the community say the shooting that injured 17-year-old Robert Anthony Davis began with the same kind of gang rivalry that killed a young man last year in Elizabethtown after a high school basketball game.
While East Bladen High School has severe bullying problems, it's West Bladen that has the major gang problems among students from different communities. Parents from both ends of the county are worried that a stray bullet, on or off campus, will kill another student unless the rivalries stop.
"What happened at West Bladen could very well happen at East Bladen," said Ilka MacElvene, who has two daughters at East Bladen High School.
MacElvene is scared to send her daughters to school, but she's turning her fear into action by meeting with mothers from other communities within Bladen County.
MacElvene and her friends are heading up a new group called "Our Children's Keepers." It's composed of parents, friends, and students in the Clarkton and Elizabethtown areas that make up East Bladen High School.
MacElvene's group has the same goal as another group that's been active for awhile in the West Bladen High School Community. Mary Sherman King leads "Mothers That Refuse to Bury Their Children." On Thursday, both groups met in Elizabethtown to share their stories and work on ways to combine their two groups.
They're out to bring unity to a divided county that's turned too violent, and they're not blaming the schools, but pointing the finger at parents.
"It starts at home. You can't expect a child to go to school and abide by rules if they're at home and they have no rules," said MacElvene. The chorus of other moms agreed.
Together, they're merging their own social circles, hoping students will follow suit.
The bottom line: they have to start somewhere, because they refuse to see another group of children growing up in fear.
The Bladen County mothers are looking for other moms, dads, grandparents, and neighbors to meet with them and put a stop to the violence.
To contact "Our Children's Keepers," call Ilka MacElvene at 910-874-5584.
To contact "Mothers That Refuse to Bury Their Children," call one of the following:
Mary Shipman King - 910-991-2663
Gwen Ottley - 910-549-0410
Debbie Marshburn - 910-876-2882