Friday, 12 September 2008

Getting to school: a public safety issue (part 1)

Further to an earlier post of mine Dropouts: A Public Safety Issue, here's the other side of the coin – children being killed en route to and from school.

This week the Chicago Sun-Times ran a 4 part series called "Calming the Classrooms" (more of that in part 2 of my post a bit later today).

In it's intro to the series the paper says "...the Chicago Sun-Times is advocating for a radical rethinking in how the Chicago Public Schools deals with the social and emotional needs of its students. Too often these needs go unattended but not unnoticed -- distraught kids regularly disrupt class, drag down achievement, with many dropping out and some becoming violent."

The series is part of the Sun-Times' contribution to the "Stop the Killing" movement that began last year by local politicians, community groups, educators and the media. The final straw for them came in the Spring of 2008 when the killings, especially the shooting deaths of schoolchildren, reached war-zone proportions with examples like this:

CHICAGO April 21, 2008 – “The superintendent of the Chicago Police Department on Sunday blamed an excess of guns and gangs for a rash of 26 shootings over the weekend that killed and wounded victims from 13 to 65 years old”.

Chicago March 4, 2008 – “3 kids die, 5 hurt in rash of shootings -City schools chief cites 'heartbreaking' weekend. Marsh was one of eight public-school children -- including a 7-year-old -- shot over the weekend, according to Chicago Public schools chief Arne Duncan. Three of those students died,….”

In fact, during the 07 – 08 school year 24 public school children were murdered, (21 of them shot) and another ten died over the summer. The previous academic year there were year there were between 10 and 15.

The Sun Times launched its support of the campaign in late April 2008. On the 23rd they printed the below front page, with the headline reversed and, on April 25th, published the following editorial (in part):

"We can't stop trying.
The problem is guns. No, it's not about guns.
The problem is bad parents. No, we can't make bad parents good.
The problem is drugs. No, we can't stop the drugs.
The problem is jobs. No, we can't bring back the good jobs.
The problem is our schools. No, we can't ask our schools to solve all the problems that flow from broken families and broken neighborhoods.
But we can't stop trying.

In a dramatic gesture, Mayor Daley has called for a summit at City Hall today to search for solutions to the bloodbath of violence -- almost all of it involving guns -- that has swept across Chicago's neighborhoods in recent weeks.

Daley is calling in all corners of the city -- the cops, the teachers, the preachers and the parents -- to see what a determined and compassionate city can do.

A city like Chicago."

So, now comes 2008. How do you try to kick off a new school year with some neighbourhoods resembling a war zone ?

Part 2: how Chicago is tackling this school year will come Saturday and part 3: What about Winnipeg on Sunday.

Here are links to the individual articles that make up the 4 part Sun-Times series (free registration required):

Part 1: Schools Must Confront Root Causes of Violence
(Chicago Sun-Times, September 5, 2008)

Part 2: 'Everyone Should Have Someone to Go to'
(Chicago Sun-Times, September 5, 2008)

Part 3: 'I Know Why Kids Are Killing. They're Hurting'
(Chicago Sun-Times, September 5, 2008)

Part 4: Tackle What's Dragging Kids and Schools Down
Editorial (Chicago Sun-Times, September 5, 2008)

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