Did fresh start lead to fresh violence?

Teachers claim school reform killed 16-year-old honor student Derrion Albert, who was beaten and kicked to death by other teenagers on his way to the bus stop after leaving Fenger High School. As a low-scoring “turnaround” school, Fenger started the year with a completely new staff.  This was “the deadliest reform of all,” writes Deborah Lynch, a Gage Park High teacher and past president of the Chicago Teachers Union, in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Contrary to popular belief, teachers and staff in schools such as Fenger and Gage Park and other neglected neighborhood high schools love their students and (usually) love their jobs. We have relationships with kids who may not even have another adult in their homes, or their lives. It’s called human capital. We know brothers and sisters and, in some cases, have taught their parents. . . . Oh yes, and we teach them. Yet you have to have a relationship with these kids in order to teach them. No, they are not all perfect, but most teachers would say that 90 percent of our students are great kids who want to learn.

No one at Fenger this year has known their kids for more than three weeks.

. . . (Experienced) staff members draw on their relationships with kids to urge restraint, to urge calm and peace, to try to talk things out rather than fight things out. Those are the times when a seasoned staff can identify strategies and resources to address and prevent further problems.

Four teens have been arrested for Albert’s death.

Violence is nothing new at Fenger, the Chicago Tribune reports. Students from different neighborhoods have been fighting there for years.

“Before I even got to Fenger I heard about the fights they had,” said Devanta Howell, 17, a junior who was suspended for 10 days because of the brawl Thursday. “It’s a fight almost every day.”

Other turnaround high schools, Harper and Orr Academy, “saw significant drops in school violence their first year,” reports the Tribune.

In the Chicago Tribune: Fenger kids tell why they fight. But they don’t really explain it. What’s so horrible about going to school with kids from another neighborhood? My high school served students from three communities: middle-class (mostly) Jewish, working-class Italian and Army brats. There weren’t many friendships across those lines, but there weren’t fights either.

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  1. Some look at the staff as the problem. In many cases, however, they’re the only thing holding the place together at all.

  2. How disgusting to take this crime and use it to score political points for the Chicago Teachers Union. Ms. Lynch deserves rebuke and scorn.

  3. Allison beat me to it. Prostitution of the worst sort.

  4. This whole incident is symptomatic of much deeper problems in Chicago: http://kriley19.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/two-chicagos/

  5. Margo/Mom says:

    I am absolutely with Allison. I recall a similar situation in my neighborhood. A young man was killed in a fight in an empty lot. A member of the local home-owners’ association made a statement laying blame on the property owner who had torn down the house that formerly stood on the lot. Some people will exploit anything. To do so in a case such as this, when a young man has died and a family grieving does not speak to understanding and strength of relationship, but the opposite. I cringe every time a teacher claims to be the only adult in a child’s life–because I live outside the school, in the neighborhood, and walk the streets. I just don’t run into very many teachers out here.

  6. Everyone’s at fault, apparently, except for the people who actually did the killing. Disgusting.

  7. It’s always someone elses fault.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Gang fights all over the US.
    They’re apparently hushed up in our neighborhood.
    What a moron.