Duncan, Holder talk violence in Chicago

October 7, 2009 8:47:22 PM PDT
Chicago received the promise of federal support in its efforts to stop the violence targeting the city's young people. Education secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took park in a violence summit prompted by the beating death of a Fenger High School student last month. They heard from parents and students of that school.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Complete youth violence news conference
READ THE STUDY: Children's Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey

Attorney General Holder says youth violence is not just Chicago's problem. He said we cannot stand for an epidemic of violence that robs our youth of their childhood.

Duncan said a line in the sand has been drawn, things have to get dramatically better and it's heartbreaking that capturing a death on video had to become a wake up call for this country.

Every morning 14-year-old Ameenah Haqque and thousands of students run a gauntlet passing rival schools and gang territory just to get to class.

"I just pray every day that she gets home from school safely," said Carla Lucious, mother.

In the last two years Chicago has lost the equivalent of an entire classroom to violence.

It was a video, which first aired on WFLD, showing the fatal beating of 16-year-old Fenger honor student Derrion Albert that prompted the visit of former Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

"Nearly two weeks ago this nation was shocked by a video showing scenes of such graphic violence they left an indelible mark in the mind of every American," said Holder.

Holder and Duncan spoke with Fenger High School students. Some placed blame on Mayor Daley's reform program which closed failing schools forcing some students outside their own neighborhoods.

Secretary Duncan says the students are victims of a society that has lost its way and doesn't value life.

"It's difficult to show love when you never had love. It's difficult to build a positive future if you do think you will live past 18. These are problems that can't be solved with money programs or pointing fingers or looking the other way we must engage our children starting young," said Duncan.

Mayor Daley defended his school reform plan saying it's going to take a community effort to stop the violence.

"I think people realize more than ever before they are taking the shield away and they realize this is much more serious," said Daley.

A million dollars in so-called emergency stabilization funds are being sent to Fenger High and surrounding schools.

Secretary Duncan says more after-school programs and more Saturday programs are needed.

When Secretary Duncan asked the students on Wednesday what they wanted most they said a good education, safe passage and mentors.


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