Rahm in Washington: Fenger High School reducing youth violence

SHARE Rahm in Washington: Fenger High School reducing youth violence
SHARE Rahm in Washington: Fenger High School reducing youth violence

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON–“Every morning I wake up to a report by Felicia,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel told a national forum on youth violence on Monday–a somber recap from first deputy chief of staff Felicia Davis of overnight shootings and homicides in Chicago.

Even as crime in some areas of Chicago remains pervasive, Emanuel attended the forum to report on progress in general during his tenure and at Fenger High School, 11220 S. Wallace, in particular.

The Department of Justice convened the “National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention,” a conference stemming from the 2009 murder of 16-year-old Derrion Albert, a Fenger senior. He was beaten to death by at least four teens a few blocks from the school.

In October, 2009–when Emanuel was President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff–Obama dispatched Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan–the former Chicago public schools chief–to Chicago to meet with local officials and students.

“The very school that was the original impetus behind this conference, has shown great progress,” Emanuel told the group, meeting in a hotel here. Emanuel took no questions–no presenter did– and departed shortly after he delivered his remarks, remaining as Davis did a powerpoint presentation on how city government relates to various private and public crime-fighting partners.

Fenger violence–even false fire alarms–decreased, as did suspensions and drop out rates, Emanuel said.

Programs that worked at Fenger–including much closer cooperation with police– have been expanded to 14 high schools in Chicago, the mayor said.

Emanuel also touched on taking 1,000 Chicago police out of offices and into the streets, implementing a new curfew policy, and adding money for youth summer programs–jobs and park district camps.

Government programs should be the last, not the first firewall when it comes to youth violence, Emanuel said–in a more perfect world.

“Give me a good parent, a good pastor, a good principal and good peers” and you “don’t need everything government is talking about.” Government is needed to “supplement” when family and civic resources are not in the picture, Emanuel said.

Much of Chicago’s gang violence occurs in Englewood and Garfield Park, Emanuel told the group.

The conference Emanuel attended, the National Forum on Youth Violence and Prevention, was organized by the Department of Justice and included the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Education.

Besides Chicago, representatives from Boston, Detroit, Memphis, Salina, Calif., and San Jose, Calif., were also at and spoke at the conference on their “best practices.”

Other participants from Chicago, according to the program, included Deborah Gorham-Smith, director of the Chicago Center for Youth Violence; Prof. David Henry, UIC; Jadine Chou, Chief Safety and Security Officer, Chicago Public Schools and Andrew Fernandez, the city’s Director of Youth Services.

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