Julian H.S. Students Say Violence Still Present

December 24, 2007

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We've been following the impact of youth violence in the Chicago area. The death of Julian High School student Blair Holt last spring reignited massive public concern around the issue. Blair died on his way to work at his grandparents' store when a gunman fired shots on a CTA bus. But as public school students begin their two-week holiday break today we wondered whether the anti-violence outcry that followed Holt's death has changed anything at Julian High School.

I'm sitting in the van with five Julian High School students. Tupac is on the radio. Two wear buttons with Blair's picture. All were his friends.

They're not in class because someone pulled a fire alarm. And then a fight broke out. This is a normal occurrence, they say.

JACKSON: The violence going on in the school is out of control and we need to do something about it.

That's Junior Spurgeon Jackson.

School lets out shortly and the teenagers notice some classmates in changed attire.

STUDENTS: Those ones ditched schools and came back up here. You see jogging pants and gym shoes and hair wrapped up? They're about to fight.

Just two weeks ago major fights broke out at the school, and the police had to intervene.

Blair's father, Ronald Holt, has been a public face against violence since his son's death. He sits on Julian's Local School Council, speaks at numerous events and believes some positive steps have been taken with the creation of a new at-risk prevention program at the school.

He also helped form a new group for parents of slain children called Purpose Over Pain.

HOLT: We can educate the public on gun violence, better parenting skills, how to care for your children and pay attention to you children when you think they're at risk, even when they're not.

Holt says despite continued trouble at Julian, he thinks these efforts will eventually make a dent in youth violence.

I'm Natalie Moore, Chicago Public Radio.