Who Cares About The Children of Chi Town?
Kids aren't safe in (or out) of school.
The city of Chicago is failing its children. This can be measured by the F grades teachers dole out on tests, but also in the sense that the city's adults are turning their backs on them.
All summer long we've heard countless horror stories of young children being gunned down with reckless abandon.
CBS News reports that by early July of this year, 275 people lost their lives due to gun violence in Chicago. According to Complex Magazine, of the 152 people gunned down from June to August, 38 of them were teenagers. That's not counting the tragic stories of 7-year-old Heaven Sutton who was shot dead while helping her mother sell candy outside their family home, and 10-year-old Kitanna Peterson who was gunned down while playing at a fire hydrant.
When you hear of tragedies like these, you can't help but think that, for children at least, gun violence statistics will take a dive when school starts. The weather will cool down, and so will people's hot tempers. Homework free kids won't be playing in the mean streets as much, thereby lowering the risk of getting struck by a stray bullet, as crazy as that sounds. But the truth is, school doesn't necessarily provide the peace of mind or safety parents and children crave.
Over the last three school years 260 Chicago public school students were killed by violence, including Derrion Albert, who was beaten to death during a school fight in 2009.
Today, kids in Chicago barely have a better-than-nothing school to attend.
This week, Chicago public school teachers went on strike for the first time in 25 years. The teachers are demanding more pay for longer work days. They are also upset over a new job evaluation process they claim is unfair and may result in over 6,000 teachers losing their job. Considering that test scores among school children dropped to record lows in 2011, some of them may need to lose their jobs.
The strike has essentially given 350,000 students a snow day. In any other situation, kids would rejoice over a day (or more) off from school–but not in Chicago.
As of 2010, the city's child poverty rate was over 30 percent, meaning that three in 10 children may have been depending on their school for a meal that day. When you add hunger to the devastating equation of violence that has made Chicago deadlier than the war in Afghanistan, that equals thousands of children trapped between a rock and a hard place.
"If the kids are not in school, they're out getting into some kind of trouble ... when they should be in school, learning," Shatara Scaggs told CNN. The mother of two children, one in kindergarten and the other in first grade, believes children "should be in school getting an education. I don't think the teachers should be on strike."
Scaggs isn't the only one who knows that kids out of school usually means kids in trouble. The police are well aware of this too. This would explain why the Chicago police department has taken officers off desk duty and put them out on patrol. And I'm sure we all know how friendly the Chicago police can be with teenagers.
On top of that, kids aren't made to feel very welcome in school to begin with. As the video clip documents, many Chicago students feel unsafe and targeted inside their schools. A study by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission revealed that there was a "school-to-prison" pipeline running rampant throughout the state, resulting in 40 percent of juveniles being held on parole violations for minor infractions like playing hooky and staying out too late.
So what do kids in Chicago have to look forward to? Here's a handy list:
Instead of academic awards, they can look forward to stray bullets in the street;
Instead of homeroom, they can look forward to no school at all; and
Instead of more teachers in the classroom, they can look forward to more police on the street.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Perhaps the biggest one since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.