High school in a war zone

President Obama condemned the wave of violence in Chicago in a speech at Hyde Park Career Academy. He said “the solution is not only more gun laws, but community intervention and economic opportunity in impoverished neighborhoods.” A few hours later, the sister of a student sitting behind Obama on the stage, was shot and killed in a North Chicago alley. Janay Mcfarlane, 18, had attended Hyde Park.

Last school year, 29 current and recent students at Chicago’s Harper High were shot; eight died. This American Life looks at the violence that surrounds the high school. More than 15 gangs operate in Harper’s attendance area, reports Linda Lutton. “Boys are nearly always assigned a gang affiliation, whether they want it or not, based on where they live,” says Lutton. Many gangs don’t sell drugs. They shoot each other over “girls, ‘he said-she said’ stuff, money owed, a fistfight.”

In one story, staff and students learn at a Homecoming pep rally that a recent student was just shot a few blocks away. Principal Leonetta Sanders struggles to decide if she’s going to hold two events – the football game and the dance – while everyone’s worried about retaliation.

When a boy is tall enough — he has “hard legs” — he’s a target says a gang member in the second episode.

Harper High’s “After Action Review” team — the principal, social workers, the football coach and others — tries to contain the damage after each incident, reports Slate. Chicago school officials picked up the AAR idea on a visit to Fort Leavenworth to study military training.