Education Question 11

Do schools have a role in stopping youth violence?  If so, what should schools do, and how would you support their efforts?

Gery Chico: School is the where children form many of the habits they carry with them throughout their lives.  Violence in and around the schools is on the rise.  An environment plagued by bullying, violence, and a lack of discipline is not conducive to learning.  Students are unable to learn, teachers are not focused on teaching and parents are deterred from sending their kids to public schools. 

As President of the Chicago Board of Education, my initiatives dramatically increased security in the schools.  As Mayor of Chicago, I will ensure our schools are safe places teachers can teach and children can learn.  We must evaluate and assess student behavior to identify problems early before they endanger teachers and other students.   We must also identify over-age but underachieving students, and place them into special transitional settings to separate them from the younger children while providing them with more intensive age-appropriate educational support services.  I will create effectively functioning alternative schools for disruptive or at-risk students by contracting with private providers and soliciting alternative school charters.  One of the biggest issues has become bullying among students.  I will prevent bullying by initiating a proactive anti-bullying program in all CPS schools, coordinated with relevant LGBT organizations and other social service agencies. 

Our parents, teachers and students must feel safe.  I have committed to putting 2,000 additional police officers on the streets everyday, and police officers will be added in and around those schools in need.

Miguel del Valle: I believe in preventing crime and violence by supporting the effort to provide youth with opportunities to engage in positive activities and contribute to community life through after school programming, summer and after school jobs, and other investments.

It is also vital that the issue of youth violence be embedded in every school’s improvement plan. The students spend the majority of their day in schools. The role of the staff of the schools is to constantly provide inspiration, role modeling, and guidance to prevent youth violence. Each school community should decide how they will do that.

Despite good intentions, though, the reality remains that many youth will get caught up in the challenges of their environment and may get in trouble in their early years. As such, it is imperative to promote and help bring to scale programs that intervene and bring corrective action to get youth back on a productive path rather than simply emphasizing punitive measures that lead down a path to nowhere. I endorse programs like the Community Renewal Society High HOPES campaign, which focuses training and action of CPS officials around restorative justice practices.

Rahm Emanuel: Most youth violence happens during the hours after school when students are not in school but also not yet home with parents supervision. Combating youth violence by building a strong program of after-school opportunities – whether they be in the arts, athletics or academics – will not only keep kids safe, but have proven to also raise academic achievement. It’s a win-win, and I will work with teachers and non-profit organizations to find a way to build out a robust after-school program.

Carol Moseley Braun:
I believe the community needs to work in partnership with CPS and the city to address putting an end to youth violence.

Patrica Van Pelt-Watkins:
I believe that the schools have a very important role in stopping youth violence. 

I know all too well the tragic impact that generations of crime, violence and gunfire has had on Chicago, its communities and its children.  As a young girl, I dropped out of Fenger High School and got my GED because of fears for my safety in school.  And, as a mother, I recall the terror I felt the day my son came home from Lincoln Park High School with blood on his shirt and told me that there was a shooting at school and that he had been standing dangerously close to one of the victims.

The spread of violence throughout Chicago’s communities among young people has not only tragically taken the lives of too many young people and make murder the leading cause of death among Chicagoans under 35, but it also is destroying the futures of young people by undermining school performance and contribute to dropout rates. 

It has been reported that witnessing violence (60% to 80% of children in high crime neighborhoods) can result in a 10 point reading score drop, a 10 point IQ drop, acute stress disorder, difficulty concentrating, fear of going to school, low student and teacher attendance and higher dropout rates. 

In order to encourage more children to feel safe going to school, I support expansion of programs, such as the “Walking School Buses” program, which brings community members together to provide youth with safe access to and from high schools.  This program not only makes kids feel safe to go to school, but sends the message that residents are taking their communities back from crime and violence and allows stronger communication with law enforcement.

In addition, I believe that using the schools to identify at-risk kids as early as possible and to direct them to supportive services is essential.   I believe that the schools should expand their role in the identification of youth with mental health, drug addiction and other risk factors, and to help direct them to supportive services. In addition, I believe that more positive and productive activities that give young people higher goals and build self esteem should be developed within our schools.   There should be more after school opportunities offering these types of programs and keeping kids on the right track to a better future.

William "Doc" Walls, III: As it relates to curtailing youth violence, schools are the first line of defense. Much of the violence in Chicago is a direct result of children being forced to go to school across gang lines. Gang activity is a reality in many of the Chicago Public schools. The Chicago Board of Education must recognize the gravity of that disease and empower Principals and Teachers to take the actions necessary to safeguard the student population, change the culture, and eventually eliminate gang activity, on a school by school basis.

As Mayor, I would use the bully-pulpit of my office to highlight the problem, foster greater community awareness and encourage real solutions to this tremendous problem.