The advent of Fall often brings about two inevitabilities in Chicago: the beginning of the school year and the drop-off in shootings from the summertime.
This week, as City of Chicago Public School students head back to class for another school year, it remains to be seen if they will be able to leave the violence behind in the warmer months after a pair of teenagers were shot on the first day of class on Sept. 5.
It’s no secret at this point that the city has been on an unfortunate string of shootings for several years now. The plague of gun violence has become a talking point for the bigots running Washington, but here in Chicago it’s a real threat that follows our youngest citizens both in and out of the classroom.
The latest victims of the city’s bloodlust are a 14-year-old boy shot in the stomach and arm at 5:02 on September 5 on the 8000 block of South Manistee Avenue and 15-year-old Antwon Green who was killed in North Lawndale the night before classes began, September 4.
Issues of violence have been exasperated by the widening funding gap that has continued to be an issue for CPS organizers who have dealt with continued budget vetos by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. In 2012, the biggest school closings in American history forced students across the city to unnecessarily cross gang boundaries to get to and from school, a fact that was underlined by concerned parents, teachers and principals in the wake of the decision to shutter over 50 schools before the 2013-14 school year. Now, five years later, the pattern of violence and neglect of the most basic foundations of communities have continued to undercut efforts by the likes of civic leaders, aldermen and community leaders like Chance The Rapper who have rallied to help aid the flailing school system.
In 2013, NPR’s ‘This American Life’ spent time with students and teachers at Harper High School in the city’s Englewood neighborhood. The school lost 27 students to gun violence in the 13 months leading up to NPR’s visit to the school, a flashpoint in the larger issues that are a scourge on the city’s youth. Looking back on the problems that organizers and teachers discussed throughout, it’s frustrating to look around and see little progress today.
As the school year kicks into gear, there will likely be more instances of students harmed or killed by the violence that has come to dictate the city’s larger image to the world. While politicians and those in power focus their attention on raising more cranes in the Loop to house the wealthy, they continue to do so at the physical harm to large swaths of our working-class and lower-income neighbors. If we can’t protect our children walking to school, then what is Chicago really?
Read our five-part series on CPS Here.