This is a MissLori.TV look-back. This post was originally published by Miss Lori on CHICAGOMOMSBLOG October 2009.
I am a big supporter of getting kids activated. Experts across the boards are recommending that kids walk to school more often to increase their level of activity and improve their overall health. For some kids though, walking to school is not a luxury of exercise, it’s a necessity for transportation. More notably, for these children forced by circumstance to walk the streets of Chicago to get to school, the walk is not making them healthier, in fact, it’s killing them.
On Sept 24 a walking tragedy recently took place in Chicago. Derrion Albert, a Fenger High School student, was beaten to death about a half a mile away from his school, right on the street. Derrion wasn’t a gang banger, or a trouble maker. He wasn’t brandishing a weapon or seeking mischief. He was just walking home from school and got swept up in a war. A war of poverty and desperation that is overtaking our city streets and swallowing our youth whole.
October 7th was the International walk to school day. It was also the day that Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary, (and former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools), Arne Duncan, are coming to town to have breakfast with Chicago’s Mayor Daley, current CPS CEO Ron Huberman, and select school, community and religious leaders. They addressed the problem of the violence on the paths that lead to our schools, that is killing our students. As you might have guessed they were met with considerably less hoopla and press coverage than we saw here covering the failed 2016 Olympic Bid. Yet we are at war here in Chicago, and it is escalating. Before 2006 about 10-15 students were shot and killed each school year. In the 2006-07 school year that number grew to 24 fatal shootings. In 2007-08 there were 23 deaths and 211 shootings. And last year there were 290 shootings, and 34 Chicago Public School children were murdered in cold blood. 34! That’s almost 1 a week during the school year!
CPS is the first to proudly tell you that no children have been shot in school this year or last. That children are actually safest IN school. But the problem is they have to walk a mine field just to get there, and we the general public are just sitting idly by doing nothing to change this volatile situation. Derrion Albert was not a problem kid, he was a student who wanted to go to school and learn. An inalienable right, education is, for Americans. But so is safety.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman has a plan, and now President Obama intends to give him approximately $25 million dollars in stimulus money to put it into action. (Although the exact amount is not truly known yet.) Out of the 400,000 students in the Chicago Public School System, Mr. Huberman has identified 1200 of the highest risk school children. Under his plan, those 1200 high risk, potential victims are going to receive one on one mentoring, job placement and encouragement, to help keep them safe. Some money also will pay for more security guards and to provide safe passage for students forced to travel through areas with active street gangs. In fact, Attorney General Holder and Education Secretary Duncan were the bearers of good news at the Four Seasons today. Fenger High School, where Derrion Albert attended school, is to receive $500,000 in emergency grant money to help pay for counselors, and additional safety measure to aid their current situation.
Now, I don’t want to knock anything down before seeing it begin, especially when I don’t have all of the facts. And I am happy to hear that Fenger will receive some help in their current time of need. However, I and many others in the community, are concerned about the limited focus of Huberman’s plan. Just because we take one kid out of harm’s way doesn’t mean we have removed harm altogether. And isn’t that what we really need to focus on, the harm? Why are children violent? Why are they taking their frustrations out on each other? Why do they feel that there is nothing worth living for, and so much worth dying for? Why are our children unable to express their frustrations without using violence? And then, even if they can verbally communicate their frustrations, do they have someone to share those frustrations with, or a safe place to go to discuss them? We need to answer these questions, and by doing so take a hard look at our culpability as a society in the creation of this war.
That means our political leaders too. Mayor Daley four years ago pushed his Renaissance 2010 plan forward. The plan was to improve the delivery of education by forming smaller charter schools to replace ill-fated schools. Many community leaders surmise that by closing so many of the bigger, albeit under performing South side schools, we have forced a mixing of gang influences. thus cultivating an overly stressful environment ripe with potential for violence. However, four years later that violence is not just a potential, it has become a constant reality, as the horrific video of the beating death of Derrion Albert clearly demonstrates.
Whether our children die a quick death at the hands of violence on the street, or a slow death due to lack of enrichment, encouragement and enlightenment, either way they are still “dead children walking.”
What are YOU willing to do about it?
Miss Lori can be found Musing from her Minivan at MissLori.TV , Wearetherealdeal.com , YoungChicagonista ,ChicagoMomsBlog , and ChicagoMoms.com. You can also see her Activating to Be Great at Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter , TOUT and LinkedIn.