The Chicago Public Schools are launching a major new effort to cut down on student shootings, going so far as to identify the 1,200 students most at risk of being shot and pairing them up with mentors, schools chief Ron Huberman said yesterday.
Huberman noted that not a single shooting incident in the last year happened on school grounds but called the number of students shot, more than 500 last year and three dozen killed, “unacceptable.”
“I have not gone more than three days without having to talk to a parent who has lost a kid,” Huberman said.
Huberman spoke at a City Club of Chicago luncheon that was attended by many CPS officials, as well as several aldermen and state politicians from Chicago.
To tackle the problem head-on, CPS will target the 1,200 students most at risk for being shot in the next two years, based on factors like attendance records, number of school disciplinary actions and students who are lagging behind in coursework. Of those, CPS calculates, 200 have a 20 percent chance of being shooting victims in the next two year.
Those 1,200 students will each get regular sessions with a paid mentor and all will be offered jobs, Huberman said.
“We’re going to try a lot of different things to get to these kids,” he said.
CPS found that 80 percent of last year’s violent incidents happened at just 38 high schools, so each of those will get extra attention. That could include more social workers and counselors, new policies for handling discipline and more money for security equipment and training – though not necessarily more security guards.
And the district is going to reach out to students who say they don‘t feel safe going to and from school. In some cases, the district found, that’s because students must cross rival gang territory lines walking from home to school. Those students might get bus rides instead.
“The kids who don’t feel safe go to school less often, do less well academically,” Huberman says. That, in turn, increases their risk of being shooting victims.
Marilyn Stewart, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, called some of Huberman’s proposals “very interesting” but took issue with the process, which she said left teachers out until the end.
“It still overwhelmingly sounded like a top-down management style where there’s very little input from the teachers,” she said.
And she said, shootings are also traumatic for teachers, a point that Huberman did not emphasize
“Not once did he mention the trauma and the stress the teacher goes through,” Stewart said.