The brutal beating death of a Chicago teenager in September has left us all wondering how best to combat youth violence. The incident is especially poignant for the pupil transportation community, as 16-year-old honors student Derrion Albert was headed to his school bus for the ride home when he was attacked by fellow students.
News outlets reported
that the incident was part of a violent brawl between rival groups of students from different neighborhoods and was tied to a shooting a few days earlier. The beating was captured in video on a bystander’s cell phone and quickly spread to news stations across the country. Three teens have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Last week, President Obama dispatched Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to his hometown to announce the administration’s plans
to respond to the incident and develop preventive measures against youth violence.
Holder and Duncan met with community leaders, parents and students at Christian Fenger Academy High School, where Albert attended, and called for a national conversation focusing on the prevention of this type of violence.
The president is requesting $25 million in next year’s federal budget for community-based crime prevention programs, and an emergency grant of $500,000 is being made to Fenger High School for counselors, teacher training and other programs, the attorney general said.
As many Chicagoans have noted in recent weeks, solving this problem will come from within the communities that experience youth violence. A community group in Crestwood, Ill., completed its second annual Stop the Violence Walk last month, with the goal of raising awareness and urging students to stay in school.
(Drivers, Attendants, Parents and Schools Against Violence) was founded by school bus driver Cynthia Johnson in response to her experience with violent incidents on the job. Her school bus was once caught in the line of gunfire between rival gangs.
This year’s 3.5-mile walk, organized entirely by school bus drivers, featured an unheard-of alliance between two local rival football teams, who faced off in a game the night before. The next day, the teams’ coaches and players all walked the route together.
Annette Holt, mother of a Chicago Public Schools student who was shot on a city bus two years ago, had perhaps the most pointed comment in the wake of Albert’s death: "Someone said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said. "No, he wasn't. He was in the right place. He was coming from school."
| posted on Monday, October 12, 2009 3:46 PM