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Youth Violence Hits Charter School Hard

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Twenty-four Chicago Public Schools students have died violently since fall. The bloodshed has hit a small high school in the North Lawndale neighborhood especially hard. We report from our West Side bureau.

A charter school called CSW Community Christian Alternative Academy has lost two students to gun violence over the last six weeks. Eighteen-year-old Channon Taylor died March 8. Seventeen-year-old Marcus Greer died Tuesday night.

ambi: ‘Beth, Ms. Sampson is calling.’

On Wednesday the school held spring parent-teacher conferences. And Principal Myra Sampson prepared for the school’s 185 students to return Thursday morning.

SAMPSON: I suspect that they will be saying, ‘I’m next. I’m next.’ I expect for them to be physically ill, for tempers to flair. You know, they see somebody on the street shot, blood running from the body, and then somehow we expect the kid to walk in and take a math test the next day.

The school district, meanwhile, is now working with a violence-intervention group called Ceasefire. They want to sit down some of the West Side’s toughest kids with ex-offenders who know the consequences of gang activity. But district CEO Arne Duncan says he doesn’t want the gathering in a school.

DUNCAN: There are certain challenges to having -- folks who work in our schools have to have background checks. So this is where we need to be creative. So, whether we do something at school, or whether they do it at the park district across the street or at the church across the street, creative minds can figure this one out.

SAMPSON: My fear is the summer.

That’s Principal Sampson again.

SAMPSON: What happens when we let all of these kids out of school and when there are no jobs for them, and they’re on the streets all day and all night?

Sampson says the school district is sending in social workers and crisis counselors Thursday morning.

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