CPS, White House working to stop violence

October 1, 2009 (WASHINGTON) "Nothing is more critical to the Chicago Public School System than the safety of our kids," said Ron Huberman, Chicago Public Schools CEO, speaking about a multi-million dollar program aimed at stopping youth violence that has impacted so many students.

President Obama is also sending two cabinet members to Chicago next week to talk about the problem.

Another Chicago Public School student was beaten Wednesday night in the Edgewater neighborhood on the city's North Side. Police are still looking for three suspects.

The 14-year-old victim is a 9th grader at Mather High School.

Police Superintendent Jody Weis says the attack was gang related.

Area residents say they generally feel safe in their community, but worry about what's going on with young people all over the city.

"Young kids, they just need to stop with all this shooting and jumping on people and mind their business, if they'd find things to do to occupy their time, they wouldn't be going thru all of this," said Clifford James, Edgewater resident.

The White House is looking for ways to stop youth violence here in Chicago and across the country. President Obama is sending Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Chicago next Wednesday to talk with residents, school officials and students about school violence.

Last week's beating death of 16-year-old Derrion Albert has raised the awareness of violence nationwide.

"This isn't a Chicago problem. This is, violence, youth violence is a problem throughout our country. The President is concerned and has asked that next Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder travel to Chicago," said Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary.

The Obama administration has also made stimulus money available, which the Chicago Public School system will use to implement a violence prevention program.

Ron Huberman is using $30 million of federal stimulus money to launch a plan he began working on when he was first hired last January.

It's aimed at saving kids most likely to be victims or commit crimes.

The plan involves working with police and community groups as well as providing mentors and social workers for over a thousand students.

Alex Arellano, Gregory Robinson, Ruben Ivy and Albert all were Chicago Public High School students killed during the past year. While a videotape of Albert's gruesome beating, which first aired on WFLD, made the death national news this week, Huberman says his efforts to combat violence began months ago.

"For the past seven months we have been deeply focused on developing a plan that we believe will make a difference in students' lives and reduce level of violence," Huberman said.

The plan is based on research and statistics, which Huberman calls his safety and security strategy. It's divided in 3 components. The first is identifying students who are at the highest risk of becoming victims of violence or victimizing others.

"We went back for the last five years and looked at every one of our students who have been hurt, either shot or killed, and we studied each of those cases with the goal of trying to predict those students who are most in harm's way," Huberman said.

Chicago Public Schools has identified 10,000 high-risk students, 1,200 being the highest risk, who will need one-on-one help for at least 15-20 hours a week outside of school.

"We are working with all those kids to understand what is going on in their home so we can improve what's going on there. Is their drug and alcohol abuse at home? Is there domestic violence at home? Is there even a home to go to?" Huberman said.

He says CPS will also offer the highest risk kids jobs.

The second component of the plan is to create culture of calm in school.

"We're taking the principals who have really achieved this culture of calm in their school and co-training them with a principal that's struggling with this issue," Huberman said.

The last part of the plan is to work with police, CTA and community groups to make sure kids get to school safely, as many students are forced to cross several different gang lines.

"If we can reduce the number of students who are victimized, I guarantee this will be a program that we continue to fund," Huberman said.

Huberman says the stimulus money will fund the plan for two years. He believes if the plan works, he will come up with local money to keep it going.

Huberman also pointed out that the safest place to be is inside a Chicago Public School. Last year, not one student was shot inside a school or on school grounds.

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