The senseless killing of young black men in Washington is getting out of control. Fifteen-year-old Sean Smith was recently shot and killed by another teen-ager over his own red ski jacket. A 17-year-old was shot by youths attempting to steal his radio. A 12-year-old was shot along with his dog. I guess it was only a matter of time before killings of black teen-agers in the District would begin to parallel the atrocious situation in Detroit.

As the mother of a 17-year-old male, I greatly empathize with the families of the slain youths. Like Sean Smith, my son works part time -- after school and on weekends -- to earn money to buy stylish clothes and other things he wants. Every time he leaves home, I fear that he might be preyed upon by one of his peers who value material things more than human life.

Aside from the violence some youths are frequently exposed to in the neighborhoods where they live, I think many impressionable adolescents have become desensitized to violence by the extreme violence depicted in movies and on television, and they subconsciously become part of the fantasy they witness on the screen by imitating gun-toting macho men whenever the opportunity presents itself. Furthermore, there are too many guns on the streets and in the hands of drug-crazed and psychotic youths.

Can't anything be done to teach the sanctity of life to young people before they develop a callous disregard for it?

Church is not the answer. Many young people don't go. Some of them don't attend school regularly either, but maybe school could be a means of conveying the message. Perhaps concerned community organizations could create some kind of "value life" program, using teen-age students -- peers -- as spokespersons and promoting the program in all D.C. schools.

I have no community clout, no political or media influence. I am only a concerned mother issuing a mother's plea that something be done to stop the shameful waste of lives and save our black youths from themselves.