Finding purpose through pain, the mother of Saniyah Nicholson, the 9-year-old girl killed by a wayward bullet earlier this summer, is working with the newly-formed Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County to draft legislation that would hold parents accountable for the actions of their children.
The proposed legislation, dubbed "Saniyah’s Law", could leave parents financially and legally liable if their children commit a crime.
Nicholson, an honor roll student, was sitting in her mother’s car near Lee Road and Cloverside Avenue on June 20th when she was mortally wounded by a stray bullet.
Dozens of rounds were fired by several men who were involved in a running gun battle in broad daylight. A total of six males were charged in connection with Saniyah’s death. Three of them were juveniles.
As part of the proposal introduced Saturday morning, the parents of a child that commits a crime would be held accountable with a possible penalty of jail time.
The proposal would also subject those same parents to the financial burdens of crime, including paying for crime scene clean up, property damage and losses, medical bills, funeral expenses and counseling. Additionally, children ages 13 and up that commit murder would be bonded over as adults immediately under the proposal.
“Babies killed my baby. They were 16 and 17-year-olds, outside of the adults,” said Marshawnette Daniels, Saniyah’s mother.
“When do parents become parents? Parents are not parenting their children. I was parenting mine. I was with all three. This still happened. Their children commit murder? Well, they should go to jail. You should. I believe something like that will help parents become more accountable for their children," she said.
Daniels also talked about the long days and sleepless nights after her daughter’s tragic and senseless killing. The tragedy has severely impacted the lives of Saniya’s siblings as well.
“You guys can’t begin to understand what I’m going through as her mom. I’m broken. I’m devastated. I’m torn. Ever since June 20th, I don’t know who I am anymore,” Daniels said. “These six gentlemen have taken everything from me. Everything.”
The unveiling of the proposed legislation also served as the launch of the Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County, a social advocacy group comprised of women of color. Members of the BWCCC include several influential women of color including Mayor Annette Blackwell of Maple Heights.
“We’re not the ones going out there to say ‘no justice, no peace.’ We’re not them,” said Kimberly Brown. “We’re the ones to say, ‘you know what, if you’re not going to invite us to the table, we’ll bring our own table and chair.’ One thing we do know is a fight is a fight. Just because we may get scratched a couple times. We may get knocked down. That doesn’t mean we lose because we’re definitely going to win.”
Brown, a former social worker, understands the proposal of holding parents accountable for the actions of their children may face a difficult path to becoming law but it does not deter her, she said.
In her experience, sometimes the best antidote to absentee parenting is through the pocketbook, she said.
“When our kids go awkward, that’s your responsibility to put them back into order immediately,” Brown said. “My entire community has been traumatized and they are still traumatized.”
The BWCCC has also collected signatures from people living in Ward 1 to add a secondary name to Cloverside Avenue in honor of Saniyah. Brown hopes the proposal will be introduced at the next city council meeting. The proposal has already been submitted.
If it isn’t introduced, Brown said the BWCCC is prepared to mobilize and bring the community together to demand that it be.
“It’s the least [city officials] could do for me. Will it bring her back? No,” Daniels said. “[The city] needs a constant reminder every day of what happened here.”